The Role of Counseling Faculty in a Guided Pathways Redesign

ASCCC Guided Pathways Task Force Lead, East Los Angeles College
ASCCC Guided Pathways Task Force Lead, San Bernardino Valley College

Successful implementation of a guided pathways framework in the California community colleges will entail transformation of institutions and processes with the students’ goals in mind. This undertaking will have significant implications for several academic and professional matters under academic senate purview, not least of which are “standards or policies regarding student preparation and success.” [1] Regarding these issues, academic senates and district governing boards are required to consult collegially. Local academic senates will benefit from affording counseling faculty a central voice in supporting the institutional redesign undertaken by the implementation of a guided pathways framework.

The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) has long recognized the significance of counseling faculty. In spring 1995, when it adopted the paper titled The Role of Counseling Faculty in the California Community Colleges, the ASCCC noted that higher expectations and lack of funding by the state were undermining the capacity for counseling faculty to fully meet their charge. [2] The ASCCC paper reviewed how minimum qualifications for counseling faculty were essential to the functions of a counseling program as defined by California Education Code, while at the same time clarifying the appropriately limited support role of paraprofessionals and the role of faculty advisors.

Two years later, the ASCCC went further when it adopted Standards of Practice for California Community College Counseling Programs. [3] Drawing from California Education Code and the American Counseling Association, the spring 1997 paper delineated universal standards for counseling in six broad areas: core functions, ethical standards, organization and administration, human resources, physical facilities, and new technologies.

In the years that followed, the ASCCC continued to publish papers, documents, and articles clarifying and reaffirming the essential role and practices of counseling faculty in support of student success. In spring 2003, the ASCCC adopted the Report from the Consultation Council Task Force on Counseling in which the ASCCC recommended additional funding to make progress toward a counselor/student ratio of 1:370. [4] In fall 2008, the ASCCC adopted Standards of Practice for California Community College Counseling Faculty and Programs, which, notably, presented additional principles for extending counseling practices through new technology. [5] In spring 2012, the ASCCC adopted The Role of Counseling Faculty and Delivery of Counseling Services in the California Community Colleges, which included modifications following the 2011 Board of Governors Student Success Task Force recommendations, delved into benefits of the student education plan, and further elaborated on technological tools and online counseling. [6]

These past ASCCC publications were developed to clarify the important work of counseling faculty during instances in which the California community college system was experiencing substantial change. Moments of system change will often necessitate that the ASCCC and local senates unequivocally sustain the faculty voice. As the article “The Transformation of Counseling Along Guided Pathways Sidelines” in the October 2018 Rostrum noted, guided pathways redesign is leading to transformative change that will have significant implications for counseling faculty. [7]

Guided pathways helps to reduce the sink or swim mentality perceived by students when they are navigating the community college system. Reorganizing the way colleges operate for the betterment of students is necessary to support student success; offering a seamless experience is the core virtue of guided pathways. Guided pathways outline the role of the counseling in each pillar. The role of counseling, as the first faculty contact with students, is to assist students in entering the paths to their goals through intrusive wraparound counseling services. Students work with counseling in discovering their best academic options to meet their desired careers of choice. In guided pathways, counselors provide more targeted services, advising students on setting goals, developing comprehensive education plans, and career development while helping students connect with academic, financial, and social resources.
Consequently, local academic senates must ensure that counselors play an active role in deliberations on guided pathways inquiry, design, and implementation. The academic senate is the voice of the entire faculty in regard to academic and professional matters, both instructional and non-instructional; moreover, as the ASCCC has long recognized, counselors are uniquely qualified to help all faculty collaborate and align with student service resources, concerns, and objectives.