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Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Interventions to Positively Impact Academic Achievement in Middle School Students Brett Zyromski Southern Illinois University Carbondale Arline Edwards Joseph North Carolina State University
Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Abstract
Empirical research suggests a correlation between Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) interventions and increased academic achievement of students in middle schools. An argument was presented for utilizing CBT intervention within the delivery system of comprehensive school counseling programs in middle schools; specifically in individual counseling, small group counseling, and classroom guidance lessons. Practical examples and resources were provided to assist school counselors in implementing CBT interventions to help students control cognitive thought processes and positively impact academic achievement.
The purpose of this paper is to propose middle schools counselors’ meet that mission through the implementation of cognitive-behavioral interventions in individual. However. how each individual school counselor meets that mission is flexible within the comprehensive framework (ASCA). This delivery system is composed of (a) School Guidance Curriculum. 11) and “supports the school’s academic mission” (p. (c) Responsive Services. The comprehensive school counseling proposed by ASCA (2005) suggests school counselors meet the needs of their students through a four-pronged delivery system. small group. The American School Counseling Association (ASCA) (2005) recommends school counselors implement a comprehensive school counseling program that “leads to increased student(s) achievement” (p. (b) Individual Student Planning. 15). The CBT interventions proposed in this paper would be delivered as part of the School . Literature correlating CBT interventions with increased academic achievement will be reviewed and practical CBT resources will be provided so that current middle school counselors may easily incorporate CBT interventions within their current delivery system. and (d) System Support (ASCA). and classroom guidance curriculums of the comprehensive school counseling delivery system. 15) by calling attention “to situations within the schools that defeat. 2005).Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Interventions to Positively Impact Academic Achievement in Middle School Students 3 A professional school counselors’ role is to remove barriers to students’ success. enhancing students’ learning environments and supporting students’ academic achievement (American School Counseling Association. frustrate and hinder students’ academic success” (p.
then consequently symptoms of emotional distress and dysfunctional behaviors will be reduced. At the heart of the classroom. give homework for the students to work on between sessions or groups. the psycho-educational aspects of the . Cognitive behavioral therapies can be defined as those interventions with the core assumptions that what individuals think directly impacts how they feel and what they do (Graham. Middle school counselors can directly impact student learning through classroom guidance and small group activities (Sink. hence. or individual school counseling experience is the positive relationship the school counselor builds with the student(s). It will be 4 argued in this paper that CBT interventions utilized within classroom guidance and small group meetings are the most logical and educationally applicable interventions school counselors can use to impact academic achievement. 2005). 2005). place emphasis on the present. group. a greater use of behavioral interventions may be appropriate with students under the age of eight or nine years old (Graham). If a school counselor can re-educate students to confront their dysfunctional thoughts. and assess the efficacy of the intervention to make changes as the relationship progresses (Graham). Interventions utilizing CBT are dependent upon an appropriate cognitive developmental level. School counselors utilizing CBT give strong significance to the conscious thought processes of their students. as well as through individual counseling and small groups. which may occur during Individual Student Planning and/or Responsive Services. Some of the aspects of CBT which make it appropriate for use in schools are the relatively small number of sessions needed for counseling.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Guidance Curriculum through classroom guidance.
2004.1998. & Steer. & Foa. Barrett. Graham. Foundationally important to the discussion of what theoretically based 5 interventions would be applicable within the comprehensive school counseling program is the empirically based research supporting the effectiveness of the intervention. 1996. Franklin. Kendall. therefore. research specifically connecting CBT interventions with an increase in academic achievement in middle school is sparse. 2001. Mannarino. 57). Holland. supporting the effectiveness of varied approaches with adolescent or children clients (Braswell & Kendall. empirical research suggests that CBT interventions have shown effectiveness as therapeutic interventions for children in the past. Dadds. Wild. Barrett & Spence. Bir. Merry. 2004). 2005). Laurens. “cognitive behavior therapies are those best supported by the evidence” (p. 2000. Graham (2005) suggested in his analysis of cognitive behavioral therapies for children. Cashman. Deblinger. Rheingold. Mullins. drug and alcohol abuse. & Cunliffe. Kozak. The foundational tenets of this broad research base. 2005. parental divorce or separation.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral counseling relationship. chronic fatigue. psychotic disorders. Dadds. In other words. & Rapee. 1994. obsessive-compulsive disorders. However. helping youth produce positive change and a problem solving attitude through utilizing CBT . 1999. Cognitive behavioral therapies have been shown to be effective interventions for children struggling with anxiety disorders. Cohen. and depression (Barrett. social skills deficits. McDowell. The topic of utilizing CBT interventions with youth has experienced an increasingly diverse research base. Flannery-Schroeder & Kendall. and the transparency of the treatment plan between school counselor and student. Coles. Graham. post-traumatic stress disorder. this research has traditionally taken place in the clinical setting. 1998.
2003. Webb.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral interventions (Braswell & Kendall. Brown & Trusty.000 6 statistical findings showing reasonable consensus on significant influences on learning. positively impacting academic achievement. Among these 28 categories. 2005. how they can take control of these thought patterns and how they can apply interventions to effect behavior change (Hall & Hughes. & Campbell. Recently. Strobel & Quihuis. 2005a. Haertel and Walberg (1994) created a knowledge base of 11. they found that metacognitive processes had the second most powerful effect on student learning. 75). 1997. if necessary. The Correlation Between CBT and Student Learning Wang. This is due. Metacognitive processes were defined as the “student’s capacity to plan. They identified 28 categories of influences that impact student learning. 2005). re-plan learning strategies” (p. behind only classroom management. school counselors have been particularly aware of how their interventions contribute to the increase of student academic achievement (Brigman & Campbell. to the increased focus on justifying school counseling itself through its . Brigman. 2005b. Other researchers have linked cognitive processes with motivation. therefore. a major building block for student academic achievement (Young. Using cognitive behavioral interventions to intervene and help students control cognitive thought processes would directly impact these metacognitive influences on student learning. in part. 2002). 1989). and. are foundational tenets of the current school based CBT research as well. monitor. Sink. Roeser. Graham). Sink. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy interventions in middle school would mainly be concerned with helping students realize three things: how their thought patterns affect their behavior.
ASCA reinforces the idea that school counselors focus on promoting and enhancing student learning. Ergene. Mizelle & 7 Hart. Richards. 1994. and competence beliefs that directly create the motivation or . (b) Does the task align with their self-defined goals and beliefs. Thomas. 1993. Masia-Warner. 1997). 1993. Strobel. persist in the task and master the task (Roeser. these beliefs are then constructed as academic values. goals. French. as well as the level of anxiety students experience at school (Barabasz & Barabasz. Pintrich & De Groot. 2003). Bond. 2004. 1990). Young.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral impact on academic achievement in students and other evidence based practice called for by the ASCA National School Counseling Model (2005). Pintrich and De Groot (1990) propose three aspects which impact student motivation: (a) Do the students believe they have the ability to perform the required task. 2004. Keogh. & Klein. 2002. Angold. Throughout the model. Phillips. and apply self-regulating learning processes to academic tasks (Mizelle & Hart. & Costello. & Davis. and (c) Do students have an emotional response to the task? These three processes help define for the students if they are able to do the task and if they believe they are responsible for the task. This is especially appropriate in light of the fact that most adolescents who receive mental health services do so at school (Farmer. Baker. Further. 1990. Academic Achievement Academic achievement in students can be connected to the motivation of the students. & Quihuis. Pintrich & De Groot. Roeser. Students must be motivated to use learning strategies. 2003. be engaged in learning. & Quihuis). Kiselica. 1981. Strobel. Fisher. Burns. & Reedy. The students’ beliefs that they have the ability to perform the task seems directly related to how they approach a task.
Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral lack of motivation within the student. since the emotional response to anxiety has been shown to negatively impact academic achievement in middle school students. Richards. 1999. Ergene. The SSS intervention directly targets middle school students’ improvement of these self-efficacy beliefs and achievement beliefs. depression. 1981. The third aspect impacting motivation involved is students’ emotional response to a task. Thomas. Bond. peer popularity. problem solving. Thomas & Reedy). These interventions included role playing. Anxieties have a direct impact on students’ motivation to complete a task. Kiselica. & Davis. & Klein. based on the success of the SSS intervention. Kiselica. and their relation to academic values. and loneliness as well as other behavioral and relational issues (Barabasz & Barabasz. stress and anxiety reduction programs have shown promise in managing the negative effects of these 8 emotional responses (Credit & Garcia. test performance. teacher led relaxation . 1994). as it affects the way they feel about the task and if they feel they can accomplish the task. 2004. In clinical settings. Baker. & Reedy. The Student Success Skills (SSS) intervention. that will be discussed later. 2004. French. Anxieties are an example of a barrier to academic success. 2003. utilizing cognitive behavioral strategies to directly target self-efficacy beliefs. was the only empirically supported school-based cognitive behavioral intervention study to directly impact academic achievement. goals and competency beliefs. Keogh. Barriers to Academic Success Anxiety in adolescents has been shown to impact academic achievement. Therefore. stress logs. Fisher. Baker. it seems an appropriate direction would be for school counselors to use classroom guidance sessions. Masia-Warner. attention deficits.
CBT has been shown to be effective in clinical environments to reduce anxiety in young people (Barrett. it would seem logical that students’ academic achievement and test performance would increase. including middle school students (Miranda. & Peloso. & Peloso. 1995). 2007. 2003. If school counselors can utilize the interventions mentioned above to reduce anxiety in students. Brigman. Sapp & Farrell. Specifically. 1996. 1995. parent newsletters. 2000. 1998. Webb. Flannery-Schroeder & Kendall. 1999. not only do the CBT interventions reported above show the effectiveness of CBT in reducing anxiety. 2007. . A research gap exists pertaining to application of specific CBT interventions in schools. Webb. Dadds et al. while equipping students with the skills to manage the negative effects of anxiety. & Rapee. Kendall.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral exercises. Sapp. 1994. while improving academic self-concept by teaching study and test taking skills. Brigman & Campbell. The intervention resulted in improved grade point averages. 2005). and a stress management program (Braswell & Kendall. 1994). this research found CBT interventions had a significant effect on improving the self-concept and academic achievement of at-risk African American and Latino students. Sapp (1994) and Sapp and Farrell (1995) used cognitive behavioral interventions in both individual counseling sessions and within classroom guidance lessons to reduce anxiety and stress surrounding academics. Brigman. Miranda. and improved the academic selfesteem of the participants. 9 2001). Sapp. In addition. reduced the number of school days missed or tardy. Sapp & Farrell. Barrett. 1994.. but other CBT research illustrates the effectiveness of CBT for improving students’ self-concept and positively affecting academic achievement (Brigman & Campbell. Dadds. specifically test taking. However. Webb.
Webb. in short. school counselors and teachers can collaborate in presenting classroom guidance lessons. Another main strength is the implication that because the SSS program is based on CBT. therefore. Webb & 10 Brigman. Brigman. Campbell & Brigman. 2006. 2003. Brigman. focusing on meta-cognitive and self-management education. Brigman & Campbell. 2007). it impacts academic achievement across ethnic lines (Miranda. social skills. 2006. In past studies. & Campbell. the SSS intervention is given in small groups that meet once a week . Webb.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral The Student Success Skills Program The Student Success Skills (SSS) cognitive behavioral intervention targets metacognitive skills. The SSS intervention utilizes small groups and classroom guidance to specifically target and teach metacognitive processes and skills to enhance academic achievement in math and increase positive student behaviors in the classroom. 2007. & Campbell. 2005). Campbell & Brigman. 2005. 2001. 2005. Brigman. However. 2005) and. Brigman. Webb. 2005). 2005. & Peluso. Webb & Brigman. 2003. 2007. The SSS program is a CBT based intervention that has been effective in closing the achievement gap in mid to low range achieving students (Brigman & Campbell. Brigman & Campbell. Webb. 2007. Campbell & Brigman. One of the main strengths of the SSS program is the collaborative design. Webb. Webb. Webb. 2003. while school counselors implement structured small groups. Webb & Brigman. 2006. Brigman & Campbell. The details and protocol for delivery of the SSS program have been detailed in past studies and books (Brigman & Campbell. Brigman & Goodman. & Campbell. will not be presented here. students showed significant academic progress as a result of the CBT intervention. and self-management skills (Brigman & Campbell.
2007. Campbell & Brigman. seventy-two percent of the students improved in their ability to apply academic. Positive results were found as a result of the SSS intervention. 2003). 2005. 2005). . 408). and self-management skills (Webb. p. while achieving statistically significant gains in math scores (Brigman. 2005). In one study. The SSS intervention uses strategies aimed at helping students develop academic. social. focusing on conflict resolution skills and team work. Brigman & Campbell. students respond to a seven-item checklist geared to the three success skills that anchor the group program: academic. Another study showed significant gains in mathematical and reading scores for those in the treatment group (Brigman & Campbell. 2005). Classroom guidance lessons focused on three main topics: (a) helping students increase cognitive skills. Brigman. 2005. “A particular strength of this model is the relevance of the content to the students' own lives and needs” (Webb. & Campbell. & Campbell. & Campbell. The booster sessions are designed to reinforce skills and motive students (Webb. Four "booster" sessions (45 minutes each) 11 are provided to students the following semester. social. 2003). and selfmanagement skills.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral for 45 minutes. 2005). social. such as memory. goal setting and self-monitoring progress. Brigman. During each session of the intervention. Webb. and self-management skills to increase success (Webb. In replications of the SSS program. (b) increasing social skills. such as career awareness (Brigman & Campbell. with students receiving the treatment doing better in math than students not receiving the treatment. and (c) selfmanagement skills. Brigman & Campbell. Brigman & Campbell. over an eight-week period. Webb. students significantly improved in their behavior.
enhance organizational and learning skills. group counseling sessions. Sapp & Farrell. teach students strategies for controlling and changing personal-social behaviors. and self-regulation during the transition from adolescence into adulthood (Sink). He warns that students are at risk of losing motivation. (c) students’ . to learn information gathering skills. and to be able to plan and organize their school and home life. Webb. Sapp. thereby increasing academic achievement in students (Brigman & Campbell. 1994. Brigman. and teach students strategies to overcome anxiety and other barriers to success. to practice and use memory strategies. CBT interventions are psycho-educational. These psycho-educational lessons are best presented through large and small group activities. it is clear CBT interventions have been implemented successfully in individual counseling sessions. 1995. It seems logical that if we. as school counselors. 2007. Webb. Brigman & Campbell. & Peloso. School Counseling Applications Sink (2005) suggests school counselors should focus on improving students’ performance in academic-educational skill areas and emphasizes interventions affecting student cognition and metacognitions.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral 12 Due to the success of the SSS program. positively affect cognitive and metacognitive functioning. 2005). and classroom guidance to help control negative emotions and directly impact metacognitive processes. (b) students’ beliefs about their ability to perform tasks. Sink goes on to offer that students need to learn how to organize their learning strategies. focus. should apply any ability we may have to utilize a theoretical and intervention framework which directly impacts (a) student motivation. These interventions and suggestions can be categorized as CBT interventions. according to Sink. Miranda. 2003.
and anger management. recognizing and labeling emotions. 2002). Thomas. which negatively impact peer popularity. practical intervention designs which specifically target metacognitive processes. goals and competence beliefs (Pintrich & De Groot. 2003. Bond. Utilizing cognitive behavioral interventions in middle schools may not only positively affect academic achievement. Kiselica. 2001) to help the practicing school counselor learn the theoretical foundation and applications of cognitive behavioral therapy. such as units pertaining to problem solving training. It is important to keep in mind the developmental level of the student. & Quihuis. Masia-Warner. & Klein. The delivery method needs to be age- . and exacerbate attention deficits and loneliness (Barabasz & Barabasz. Cormier & Nurius. Strobel. brief applications. 2004. Fisher. & Davis. and (d) the students’ academic values. Since individual counseling sessions in school are by necessity brief. French. as well as the communication and delivery method of the school counselor and the manner in which the student best receives information. & Reedy. Ergene.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral ability to control and redirect emotional responses to tasks. increase depression. to name a few (Braswell & Kendall. Numerous resources exist (Burns. school counselors can easily streamline cognitive behavioral theoretical beliefs into practical. Roeser. 1990. Baker. relaxation training. 2004. self regulation approaches. 1994). 13 such as anxiety and stress. Students’ emotional responses to tasks are often expressed through negative outlets. Keogh. Dobson. Utilizing theoretical foundations of cognitive behavioral therapy within a solution focused counseling framework can also be helpful in designing brief. 1999. targeted. 2003. 2003). and specifically the crystallization of these three beliefs. but also reduce stress and anxiety. Richards. 1981. 2001: Cormier & Nurius.
having problems controlling their behavior in the classroom. Interventions attempt to replace the irrational thoughts with rational. pgs. shyness or phobias. struggling with substance abuse. and the person that experiences mood swings. 2007. and the social context and reasons for student referral need to be in the forefront of the school counselors mind as they determine intervention possibilities in collaboration with the student (Braswell & Kendall). Sapp & Farrell. struggling with homework. CBT interventions are especially useful for their ability to be individually applied to specific student issues. the school counselor interested in 14 utilizing CBT in individual counseling sessions should envision themselves as a “coach” to help the young person “develop a world view that is characterized by a constructive problem-solving attitude” (p. 580-638) can be utilized to assist the student who is struggling with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. or perceives him/herself as inadequate or a failure. 247). & Peloso. self-as-a-model. Previous research has shown that these interventions do positively affect academic self concept while reducing test anxieties among students (Miranda. caving to social pressures. Brigman. or dealing with anxieties. . self-reward. 1994. Burns (1999) proposes numerous CBT strategies to assist the depressed person. self-monitoring interventions (see Cormier & Nurius. For example.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral appropriate. 1995). and self efficacy interventions can all increase or decrease desired behaviors through practice and homework. Self monitoring interventions such as stimulus control. anger management issues. 2003. Webb. Sapp. Individual Counseling According to Braswell and Kendall (2001). hoping to lose weight. Interventions target automatic thoughts and the irrational consequential thoughts that follow.
or could also involve stress inoculation techniques. the need to feel accepted. These interventions could involve problem solving. or provide interventions to physiologically help deal with the stress. and perfectionism. healthy thoughts while at the same time breathing through the nose and out the mouth while tensing and relaxing various muscle groups. depression. exercise. Sapp (1994) and Sapp and Farrell (1995) have shown such interventions to be effective strategies to help students reduce academic related stress. pgs. Replacing the irrational thoughts helps the person fight through depression and formulate a healthy mental attitude. (2003). or cognitive reframing and cognitive restructuring exercises. Burns utilizes numerous helpful 15 scales. provide a buffer to the stressful stimulus. pgs. and worksheets the school counselor can easily translate into their own practice with students struggling from peer pressure. 260-261) to help students prepare for testing or other stressful events. . An example of stress and anxiety management techniques might be working with students to interrupt negative thought processes.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral healthy thoughts. teaching breathing techniques. (2001). Other CBT interventions that would be appropriate and brief for a school counseling environment might include stress and anxiety management techniques (see Cormier & Nurius. stress coping techniques. Again. Cormier and Nurius (2003) suggest that stress and anxiety interventions can target the antecedents of stress. muscle relaxation and other physical skill building such as meditation or muscle relaxation. 467-504 and Braswell & Kendall. replace those thought processes with rational.
which . Brigman & Campbell. Campbell & Brigman. Webb. Brigman & Campbell. Webb. 2005). 2003). Webb & Brigman. 2003. School counselors could utilize modeling and role playing when using CBT interventions in individual counseling as well. and other academic issues. CBT interventions could be applied to help students deal with numerous issues. 2005. Self-monitoring training seemed to be especially promising for use within a classroom to help students control their behavior and positively impact their academic environment (Cormier & Nurius. such as social anxiety. 2006. Brigman. peer pressure. problem solving. 2007. Specific examples of CBT classroom guidance lessons are provided in the SSS literature presented above. This is evident in the SSS intervention.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Small Groups 16 Each of the CBT interventions detailed above could be utilized in small groups or classroom guidance as well. 2005) provides specific structured small group lessons that can be implemented as part of a comprehensive school counseling delivery system. depression. Modeling and role playing allows students to learn what self control looks like and enables the student to apply the learned skills in real life situations. & Campbell. Role playing is another common CBT training tool which can easily be transferred to small group or classroom environments. test anxiety. The SSS program literature (Brigman & Campbell. Groups of students can practice the desired behavior and then model that successful behavior for each other. Classroom Guidance The SSS intervention is the main example in the current literature that utilizes classroom guidance lessons as interventions to help students develop self-management skills to increase their academic success (Webb.
however. social. School counselors choose assorted programs and interventions to fulfill the purpose of the comprehensive school counseling program. Programs such as the SSS . Previous research clearly illustrates the effectiveness of CBT interventions with children and adolescents. The literature review was limited by the number of studies using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy interventions solely with middle school students in a school setting. especially in light of the success of the SSS program and the focus on evidence based practice in ASCA’s National School Counseling Model. School counselors should utilize research supported. numerous studies showed the effectiveness of utilizing CBT interventions with students. School counselors would benefit from further investigation into cognitive behavioral therapies in middle school settings. The comprehensive program is presented to students through the delivery system of the school guidance curriculum. & Campbell). and selfmanagement skills after receiving small group CBT interventions (Webb. Brigman. Studies that did focus solely on middle school students and CBT interventions in the school setting found that CBT interventions delivered through small groups and classroom guidance were very effective. individual planning and responsive services (ASCA). empirically based theoretical intervention strategies. such as cognitive behavioral theory.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral showed students improved in their ability to apply academic. Conclusion The American School Counseling Association (ASCA) (2005) recommends 17 school counselors implement a comprehensive school counseling program focused on removing barriers to student success and focused on increasing student’s academic achievement.
. The overall benefit and effectiveness of cognitive behavioral interventions in school settings was clearly illustrated. stress inoculation training. such as anxiety and stress. Often the intervention positively affected academic achievement by controlling cognitive inhibitors to academic achievement. and stress while improving self-management skills. and at-risk student interventions were effective in helping to reduce or control social anxiety. Since Specific resources and interventions were identified to help school counselors learn and apply CBT interventions in their schools. Further studies replicating these existing studies in other middle schools and new studies examining the effectiveness of different cognitive behavioral interventions on academic achievement are needed.Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral 18 Intervention. test anxiety.
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