Peer counselling in schools : an experimental study of human relations training in an A.C.T. high school

  • Ann Simic

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    The main purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of a human relations programme for high school students in Years 7, 8 iii and 9. The programme, based on the course devised by Varenhorst (1976; Appendix B), was run as a non-assessable option for one semester in an A.C.T. high school by the author, who was the counsellor at the school, and a volunteer teacher. Humanistic, behavioural and cognitive methods of implementation were used. As well as trying to achieve more effective interpersonal relations between students, so that they could more successfully relate and resolve differences, a secondary aim was to try to make the counsellor’s role a more preventative rather than a largely remedial and crisis-laden one. Twenty-eight students enrolled for the course. Fourteen were assigned to the experimental group and experienced the human relations programme; the fourteen in the control group undertook a variety of other options they had chosen. Both groups completed pre- and postquestionnaires from which quantitative data was gathered. As a check on these quantitative results, post-study qualitative data were also gathered from the experimental group. The course taught verbal and non-verbal communication skills, decision-making and problem-solving skills, particularly in relation to such areas as the peer group, the family and the school. The ethics of helping others experiencing problems in any of these areas was an integral part of the course. The study showed that human relations skills can be taught, although the findings were interpreted cautiously because of design and methodological difficulties. The lack of randomisation and reported, rather than behavioural, change per se are two areas which restrict the generalisability of the results. It is suggested that, to achieve more widespread gains, such a course could be incorporated into the existing pastoral care programme of the school in which all teachers and students took part. It is further suggested that, for optimal effectiveness, parents and teachers, as well as students, would need to be aware of, and know how to put into practice, the skills taught in this programme and relate them to interaction generally. A first step was made by the experimenter towards widening the role of the school counsellor away from crisis cases towards. prevention of problems. Ideally, the programme could be expanded to include teachers and parents who could, in turn, become human relations educators, thus serving the whole student population. The teaching, learning and practising of skill became the main focus of the programme . Although some peer counselling was involved in assignments, time precluded an experimental study of effectiveness in this applied area. All students but one wanted to proceed with this practical work.
    Date of Award1982
    Original languageEnglish

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