TEACHER EDUCATION STUDENTS' EXPERIENCES IN THE COURSE ON COUNSELING THEORY AND PRACTICE

The purpose of this study was to describe the experiences of learning and consequent development of twenty-seven students enrolled in a Teacher Education Program. The students' ages ranged from 21 to 27 years. Participants described their learning experiences one month after taking a two-credit semester-long course on counseling theory and practice. An experiential learning theory served as the framework of reference, and a qualitative method of phenomenology was adopted. Results revealed participant growth in four areas of improving understanding about the counseling profession; gaining better self-understanding, expanding a comprehension of the complexity of human nature and human problems, and enhancing professional competence as a teacher. Finally, implications for research, education/training, and clinical practice were discussed. Key word: experiential learning, counseling theory and practice, teacher education student.






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Publication: College Student Journal
Author: Lin, Yii-Nii
Date published: June 1, 2011

Counseling training is an effective method of enhancing trainees' helping skills. Teachers could employ counseling skills in communicating with students, building trust with students, and assisting students cope with the challenges of learning. Students enrolled in a teacher education program could take counseling training to sharpen their communication and helping skills, and enhance their ability of guidance to assist students in their future career.

Limited research focused on teachers learning counseling theories and skills. Cummings, Murray, and Martin (1989) investigated teachers who took counseling training, learning self-evaluation in dealing with personal problems and employing strategies for solving interpersonal problems. These teachers reported that they enhanced their problem-solving skills after taking counseling training (Cummings et al., 1989). In another study, teachers enhanced their interpersonal relationships, interactive skills, and group leadership skills after completing a counseling training course (Ryan, Jackson, & Levinson, 1986). Also, teachers in an early childhood education program received training of reflective skills which proved increase their guidance ability effectively (Chang, 2000).

Even limited studies support the effectiveness for teachers taking counseling training, the process of learning, transformation, and development is left unexplored. Thus, this study focuses on students who are in a teacher education program describing their learning experiences and consequent growth after taking a course on counseling theory and practice. Experiential learning is one of the most effective methods in counseling education and training (Furr & Carrol, 2003; Hicks, 1996; Tyler & Guth, 1999), so this study adopts experiential learning as the framework of student learning counseling theory and practice.

Adults learn from life experiences. They make sense and make meaning through experiential learning in their daily lives. Adult students could apply experiential learning to facilitate development, transform life experiences, take on new social roles, complete tasks, and encounter life events and transitions throughout their career in higher education. Adults transfer life experiences into meaningful content (Jarvis, 1992). Boud and Miller (1996) propose a model consisting of three stages of experiential learning: (1) returning to and replaying the experience, (2) attending to the feelings that the experience provoked, and (3) reevaluating the experience. In the r??valuation stage, individuals employ their experiences as a way of getting ready for new experiences, and thus new learning. Human beings continually recycle their past experiences and gradually make sense and/or make meaning of them (Bateson, 1994).

Also, KoIb (1984) conceptualizes learning from experience as: (1) an openness and willingness to involve oneself in new experiences; (2) observational and reflective skills so these new experiences can be viewed from a variety of perspectives; (3) analytical abilities so that integrative ideas and concepts can be created from observations; and (4) decision-making and problem-solving skills so these new ideas and concepts can be used in actual practice. Adults' experiential learning starts with the concrete experience and then moves through reflective observation and abstract conceptualization to active experimentation. Whatever action is taken in the final phase becomes another set of concrete experiences , which in turn can begin the experiential learning cycle again (KoIb, 1984). Moreover, Merriam and Heuer (1996) assert that adults extract meaning from complex life-altering transitions. When an adult encounters a poor fit between the event and his current meaning system or his fundamental assumptions, beliefs, or values are challenged, he/she engages himself/herself cognitively, affectively, and even physically in the experience to extract deeper and more expanded learning.

Experiential learning has been widely applied to counselor training (Pope-Davis, Breaux, & Liu, 1997). For instance, multicultural counseling educators employ experiential activities to assist students deepen cognitive and affective learning (Wolf & Richard, 2003). Through experiential methods used in service learning, trainees enhance their professional consultation competency (Schneider, Piotrowski, & Kass, 2007). Trainees learn through real life experiences to explore meaning and problem-solving practices, to understand their own desires and goals, and to construct a knowledge framework for their self-identity (Pizzolato & Ozaki, 2007). In addition, simulation and role play help trainees experience behaviors through activities in a classroom context similar to real world (Hertel & Sterling, 2002). Reflection is a meaning-making process that integrates concepts and thoughts into rational connections (Mezirow, 2000) and moves a learner from one experience into the next with deeper understanding of its relationships with and connections to other experiences and ideas (Rodgers, 2002). Briefly, experiential activities enhance students' learning more than didactic learning in the classroom (Furr & Carroll, 2003).

Counselor educators employ videos, TV programs, novels, and stories in media to provide storied and experienced opportunities to students. Counselor trainees observe and grasp the role experiences in media, and retrospect and think through the details into cognitive schema to promote their development (Tyler & Guth, 1999). Students in counseling program could participate in discussions with peers and educators, reflect on these experiences, deepen and widen awareness, challenge limitations and correct prejudices, and strengthen counseling abilities. Thus, experiential learning is employed as the frame for the instructor to teaching counseling course to facilitate students' learning. Because students' learning experiences can be viewed as holistic, complex, comprehensive, and context-bound occurrences, a qualitative method of phenomenology was adopted to serve as the method of this study.

Method

Phenomenology provides a way of exploring lived experience-the actuality of experience from the inside (Osborne, 1994). This study adopts a qualitative method of phenomenology as a way of exploring students' retrospection and introspection of learning experiences.

Participants

Of 39 students enrolled in a course on counseling theory and practice, 27 students were willing to participate in the study. The participants included 15 female and 12 male students, with ages ranging between 21 and 27 years old and an average age of 23.50. Ten of the students were in Master's level programs, and of the remaining 17 students, 7 were seniors, 6 were juniors and 4 were sophomores. After completion of the course, the students were invited to participate in an in-depth interview and describe their learning experiences and consequent development. All of the participants were in the teacher education program and were preparing themselves to become middle-school teachers.

Interviewer

The interviewer held a Master's degree in counseling, and had completed courses in qualitative research, interview skills, counseling theory, and research methodology. She conducted several pilot studies to hone her interview skills before initiating the interview. She built trustful relationships with the participants, and kept a genuine and nonjudgmental manner during the interviews.

Content and Format of Curriculum

The instructor designed the curriculum to address the following topics: introduction to counseling, ethics of counseling, and various counseling approaches including psychodynamic, Adlerian, clientcentered, existential, behavioral, cognitive, gestalt, reality, rational-emotive behavioral, feminist, family systems, solution-focused, and eclectic counseling. The time length for each topic was two hours. The first hour consisted of didactic teaching, the next twenty to thirty minutes was for role play or experiential activities, and the remaining time was for discussion and sharing of observations. Students were required to seek help from the UCC and complete at least one counseling session. Also, they had to conduct a simulation of serving as a counselor by inviting a person to be his/her client out of the classroom.

Data Collection

The interviewer used telephone or email to contact all of the students enrolled in the selected course, reminding them that their decision to participate would not affect their grades, as grades had already been submitted. Each interviewee participated in one 90 to 120-minute interview. Sample questions included: Please describe impressive experiences during this course. Please describe your changes, growth and development during taking or after completing this course. All of the interviews were completed in the two weeks after the course ended, and participants were encouraged to express their experiences, feelings, and thoughts about their learning in the course.

Data Analysis

Procedures of data analysis (Creswell, 2009) adopted by the author who served as the analyst. The analyst (1) organized and prepared the data for analysis which involved transcribing interviews, optically scanning material, typing up field notes, and sorting the data into different types of information sources, (2) read through all the data to obtain a general sense of the information, reflect on its overall meaning, write notes and start recording general thoughts about the data, (3) began detailed analysis with a coding process by organizing the material into segments of text, (4) used the coding process to generate a description as well as categories or themes which involved a detailed rendering of information about people, places, or events in a setting, (5) built additional layers of complex analysis and shaped themes into a general description, (6) went beyond description and theme identification into complex theme connections, and (7) made an interpretation to capture the essence of the data.

Criteria of credibility, dependability, confirmability and transferability proposed by Lincoln and Guba (1985) were adopted. The analyst, who employed strategies proposed by Gibbs (2007), (1) documented each procedure, and set up a detailed protocol and database; and (2) verified transcripts to ensure accuracy during transcription, constantly compared data with codes and wrote memos about the codes and their definitions. Strategies proposed by Creswell and Miller (2000) were also utilized. The analyst (1) triangulated different data sources by examining evidence from the sources and using it to build a coherent justification for themes; (2) employed member-checking to determine the accuracy of the findings through taking the report, specific descriptions or themes back to participants and determining whether the content was accurate; (3) used rich description to describe the setting, convey the findings, and offer many perspectives about a theme; (4) initiated self-reflection to create a narrative and to contemplate how the interpretation of the findings was influenced by her own background; (5) presented negative or contradictory information; and (6) spent prolonged time in the field, developed an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon, and conveyed details about the site and the people that led credibility to the narrative account. In addition, a peer debriefer was invited to review and ask questions, and an external auditor was employed to review the entire project.

Results

Three themes emerged from data analysis, and excerpts of participants were quoted to better illustrate relative themes.

Improving Understanding about The Counseling Profession

Participants experienced dramatic changes in their perception towards the counseling profession after taking the course. Their earlier perception of counseling came mostly from their ideas of the counseling centers (UCCs) and counselors in junior or senior high schools, or stereotypes of psychologists portrayed in the movies.

Originally I thought counselors were just like what I experienced in junior or senior high.... I did not really know what a guidance teacher was, or what counseling was for, because I did not really know what this profession was all about before taking the course!

Before taking the course, most participants viewed counseling as easy, relaxing, and cozy. They regarded counselors as someone to chat with. In the past, they felt only people with very serious problems would seek help at UCCs, such as those suffering from severe depression, suicidal ideations, and delinquency. The participants regarded these issues were too severe to be solved nonprofessionally, and that's why these people ended up seeking help at UCCs.

I always felt only those with psychiatric or psychological issues would need to talk to a counselor ... Most people would perceive seeing a counselor as the last resort when issues were too big to be solved!

After taking the course, participants understood that counselors could listen to clients' emotional disturbances even when they were not severe, and that seeking help at UCC was not at all shameful. Individuals who sought help needed not be stigmatized because people encountered problems in daily life from time to time.

In the past, I was afraid of being spotted by other people walking in and out of the counseling room. I would be afraid that people would think I might have psychiatric issues. I would be so scared that people saw me around the UCC. But not any more, after taking the course, I understood psychological issues were the right term to use, and everyone might have psychological issues!

The course requirements included asking participants to visit UCC and to participate in at least one counseling session. Participants got first-hand experience regarding the friendly, caring, empathetic, and respectful attitudes of counselors, and the bright, spacious, warm, and cozy environment of the UCC . They had a very good impression about the counselors and the UCC, and as a result, their previous worries, biases, and stereotypes vanished.

Before stepping into the UCC, I perceived counselors as a group of scary characters. ...After visiting there, I felt that they were not scary at all! The decoration there was warm and the counselors were very friendly! They just wanted to help me, and they knew I was not problematic. This attitude definitely helped me loosen up and open up.

Before taking the course, many participants worried that the counselors might not be able to keep sessions confidential, so they were doubtful or hesitant to utilize counseling services. After having counseling sessions at the UCC, they realized that an informed consent form would be signed between the counselor and client before initiating counseling, so they had greater confidence in counselors and counseling. Unless there was a crisis, counselors had to keep information confidential. Therefore, clients could share anything in counseling sessions without any worries.

I was not sure whether the counselor would keep my secrets confidential, whether the counselor would share my secrets with others, whether the counselor would think I was weird. But after taking the course, I knew much more about the counseling profession. I no longer worried about counselors spreading my secrets around, because I was aware that a counselor had to keep everything confidential!

Participants understood it was impossible for counselors to miraculously solve clients' problems overnight. Bottlenecks were encountered during the process, and counselors themselves had their own struggles and anxieties. Students were now aware that counselors were cautious in their words and behaviors, maintained a stable mood, concentrated on listening to clients and their problems during sessions, and worked closely with clients to confront challenges, so that they could exert positive influence on their clients.

Participants understood that the aim of a counseling session was not to provide answers to counselors' questions. Instead, it was a process to help clients identify, clarify, and explore issues. Through candid discussions between the two parties, clients were made aware of their problems, and through discussion and support, they were gradually able to clarify the issues and develop strategies to cope with situations.

In the past, I expected counselors to tell me what to do. After taking the course, I understood it was actually the client and the counselor who partnered together to find a better solution, and the two found ways to meet the goal. The counselor and the client were one integrated team to identify issues. After all, the client knew best what the more appropriate solution was! Counseling was a tool for the client to find a solution.

After taking the course, participants understood that counselors were able to utilize theories and techniques from different approaches of thought in the counseling sessions. Counselors had to apply various theories, adjust their techniques, develop plans, and implement treatment based on the characteristics of each client. So the seemingly relaxed counseling sessions were actually very difficult to facilitate.

I was quite surprised at there were so many different counseling approaches. A session of chatting (counseling) was deceivingly simple, and there were so many motives behind the chats (conversation). There were so many theories involved and all the practical training in the classroom. Counseling was really a very difficult profession!

After taking the course, participants clarified their misunderstanding and got to know the functions of a counselor, and the process, ethics codes, theories, and techniques of counseling. Students realized that the counseling process should not be hurried, and problems would rarely be solved after only one or two counseling sessions . Often times , it took a longer period of time for clients and counselors to work together to observe progress and growth.

I used to think after one or two counseling sessions, all problems could be solved effectively. After taking the course, I knew some issues had to be overcome gradually, step by step, through my own experiences. Sometimes, I could only face my real issue after a dozen of counseling sessions to find a way to solve the issue.

Participants recognized that UCCs were an important mechanism to safeguard the mental health of campus members. Counselors played the role of facilitator and caregiver with their friendly, caring, inclusive, and respectful attitudes and provided constant caring and assistance to campus members.

I knew at this university, even if I was abandoned by friends, the counselor would always be therefor me. The counselor would not mind if I was abandoned by friends or I was a lousy person. The counselor would always help me. When I needed help, I could always get a friendly smile from counselors. This was pivotal to me. This was really important for me.

In summary, participants were able to reflect and apply counseling theories and techniques to real life experiences. Through simulated or actual counseling sessions, and discussions with peer students or teachers, participants recognized that this course was able to effectively introduce them to the counseling profession, the role of counselors, and the difficulty and complexity of counseling services. Meanwhile, they recognized the practicality and effectiveness of this course.

Gaining Better Self-understanding

Participants utilized counseling theories to better understand themselves, explore their experiences of growing up, relationships with parents or significant others, life events, multi-generational relationships. They learned about the impact of family of origin and looked back at events in the past to enhance self-understanding.

After taking the course, I knew much more about myself. I knew much more about the influence my family had on me. I was bothered by some personal issues and I couldn 't see those issues clearly before taking this course. However, after taking the course, I started to know more about myself.

The participants leveraged counseling knowledge learned in the course to examine their mood and behaviors, understand themselves, and enhance self-awareness so that they could be more sensitive about themselves and able to function better in their daily lives.

I started to observe myself, listen to myself, and understand myself after taking the course. I learned to listen to my inner voice, feel my inner self, and sense my emotions. I would ask myself why I was so emotional.

When participants faced problems or issues, they began to utilize counseling techniques to find solutions to their problems . They carefully observed their internal and external states, and continuously encouraged themselves to stabilize their emotions, relieve stress, and eventually solve problems.

Certain counseling techniques were quite helpful to me! Sometimes when I was tired of studying, I would talk to myself and listen to my inner voice. This self-talk technique really helped a lot!

Briefly, participants were able to apply counseling theories and skills to uplift selfunderstanding. They were able to observe their own behaviors, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and values so as to raise their selfawareness and to solve their own problems.

Expanding A Comprehension of The Complexity of Human Nature and Human Problems

Participants expanded their cognitive depth and broadness, and inspired diverse thinking through learning about counseling. Before taking the course, they did not spend time exploring human behaviors, motives, intentions, beliefs, and values, nor did they think about human nature or issues. After taking the course, they often applied what they learned to analyzing the mental state of characters in movies, novels, or real life. This course provided students' systematic conceptual structure to help them better understand the mental processes of human beings, and expand diverse and in-depth thinking about human nature.

In the past, after watching movies or reading novels, I felt they were touching, and that was it! ... However, after taking the course, I was able to analyze the plots and the characters with counseling theories and concepts. This was an interesting change to me!

Participants were more alarmed about their own and other people's issues, and they were aware of their own reactions, and thought about the psychological factors of other people's behaviors. They understood that psychological issues should be dealt with before they grew into severe problems so as to exert negative impact on physical and mental health.

When I took the course, I sometimes would be very curious about certain people, so I would observe them and started to analyze them with counseling theories.... Were there frustrations in their past? What kind of people were they? I started to observe people and think more after taking the course.

Participants leveraged what they learned in the classroom to deal with real life issues, adjust their thinking, control their emotions, and modify their behaviors. They were also better able to systematically think about interactions with other people, observe the emotions, intentions, and thoughts of themselves and others, and realize the bilateral impact between explicit behaviors and implicitly psychological state.

I learned how to solve small issues with counseling techniques.. ..I used to have some troubles with my roommate. One day I practiced the solution-focused counseling in class. I had a role play session, and I realized that I should not look back on things that already happened, instead, I should think about ways to solve the problem.

Students employed what they learned to improve communication with people in their daily lives, including demonstrating an attitude of caring, respect, acceptance, and inclusion; and utilizing communicative techniques of listening, eye contact, focusing, and clarification. They were also able to put themselves in other people's shoes.

The course has taught me to be more sincere, more empathie, and patient! Now when I am listening to other people, I am more patient and empathie. . . J learn from the course how to better communicate with people, listen to people, and put myself in their shoes.

Briefly, participants were able to analyze human nature and behaviors with diverse points of view to explore the complexity of interactions between people and surroundings.

Enhancing Professional Competence as A Teacher

Participants utilized what they learned from the counseling course to work with their students. With an attitude of empathy, patience, respect, and care, participants were able to enhance their tutoring students' confidence in learning. Participants applied counseling theories and techniques to better understand about tutoring students' learning barriers, and to assist them overcome obstacles in learning.

After taking the course, I was able to be more patient and empathetic in teaching my (tutoring) students. I utilized counseling techniques and started to look at things from my students ' viewpoints. I tried to lead my students to solutions and possible improvements, and to help them to rebuild confidence . I tried my best to apply my counseling knowledge to teaching, so the course was not only helpful to me but to my students!

In summary, participants were able to correct their original stereotypes and misunderstandings about the counseling profession. They applied what they learned to deal with their real life issues, enhanced self-understanding and improved their own teaching.

Discussion

Students recognized the effectiveness of experiential learning, and the fact that counseling could be taught in both classrooms and informal settings. They were able to transfer what they learned in the course to their daily lives. They identified that real life experiences could stimulate and facilitate their counseling learning experiences. Life incidents such as conflicts with family or roommates were occasions that they could relate to their counseling knowledge. These results echoed the fact that life experiences were often the starting point for adult learning (Tyler & Guth, 1999) and a quick way to get the essence of learning (Mezirow, 2000). Students recognized that learning was not just limited to knowledge and skills learned in the classroom, but that experiences outside of the classroom were crucial to continuously transforming theories and skills into practical practices. The findings echoed that adult learning was quite often triggered by daily life incidents (Merriam & Clark, 1991). Results of this study responded that experiential learning was one of the most effective approaches to be applied to counseling training (Furr & Carroll, 2003) and an effective tool for individual development (Merriam & Clark, 2006)

Students expanded their cognitive depth, enhanced their self-awareness, and keenly observed interactions with other people through role playing counselors/clients, visiting UCCs and talking with counselors, inviting friends to simulate counseling, watching films in the classroom, and discussing characters in films and news events. Students absorbed counseling theories and concepts through discussion and brainstorming in the classroom. They transformed counseling knowledge, broke through their stereotypes, transcended their prejudices, corrected their misunderstanding of the counseling profession, and established a comprehensive and accurate cognitive architecture of counseling.

The results of this study echoed die findings of previous studies. For instance, role-play was helpful in assisting students to experience the mental and behavioral process of the characters; students deepened and expanded self-awareness and strengthened professional capabilities through role-plays (Tyler & Guth, 1999); media were beneficial in providing experiential learning of counseling (Hertel & Sterling, 2002); students were able to experience life, access deeper cognition, and reach a broader mental state through different roles, events, or tasks (Merriam & Clark, 2006). Students utilized their newly obtained counseling theories and techniques to role play with peers, and receive feedback from peers and teachers in the classroom within a supportive and challenging atmosphere. It responded to what Wong-Wylie (2007) claimed that students were more confident and willing to take risks within the supportive learning environment after establishing trustful relationships with peers and teachers, and as a result, they could grow professionally through reflection and introspection effectively.

When the students applied their newly learned knowledge to interpersonal interactions, they became more sensitive about other people's reactions, and were stimulated to retrospect and inspect their thoughts, beliefs, and viewpoints. It echoed that experiential learning inspired students' new comprehension and integrated it with their individual experiences to shape new cognitive sch?mas (Merriam& Caffarella, 1999). While participants applied what they learned from the course to their life experiences, they began to reflect upon their past and transform their knowledge to develop breakthrough viewpoints. This correlated to what KoIb (1984) claimed that the findings that learners would evaluate new evidence, inspect alternative viewpoints and rationales, formulate temporary judgments through diverse experiences, evolve existing experiences to new ones, integrate and connect new thoughts, and generate new meanings. Students in this study learned to observe other people's interpersonal interactions with a systematic approach, integrated diverse thinking, and generated new meanings through introspection of learning experiences.

Students' learning experiences made them re-evaluate and compare the existing experiences with new ones. And through visiting UCCs and participating counseling sessions, students recognized the newly obtained information and formulated new understanding of counseling. They corrected their stereotypes and biases towards counseling and developed a sense of trust for counseling. This echoed the fact that students were able to utilize their existing experiences, realize new experiences, proceed with new learning processes, become aware of feelings triggered from experiences, and start the important process of re-evaluating their existing experiences (Mezirow, 2000; Rodgers,2002).

Students taking the course opened themselves up, embraced the new learning experience, and processed these new viewpoints systematically. They applied counseling theories and techniques to role playing and simulation situations, and verified these newly learned concepts in their daily lives to solve real-life problems. Students broadened their knowledge base and learned to think about human problems from different angles. After taking this course, they paid attention to the psychological intentions of themselves and others, and enhanced the awareness while interacting with others.

After taking the course, students were able to transform their original views into new cognitive sch?mas which were more inclusive, distinctive, and accommodating to counseling profession. They were stimulated to generate new beliefs and views, and these new beliefs and views were examined and implemented. Students continued to think about and recognize counseling services, engage in their original meaning systems, and ponder the hypotheses, beliefs and viewpoints of their theoretical foundation. When the students' original viewpoints were challenged by the newly learned knowledge, they would struggle about adjusting their old theoretical foundation to generate new meaning system.

The research results supported learning as a transformative process of viewpoints (Mezirow, 1991); and adults were able to embrace new experiences, people, conditions, and issues with an open attitude to gradually adjust cognitive sch?mas and generate new meaning systems through retrospection and transformation (Merriam & Heuer, 1996; Mezirow, 2000). When applying what they learned from the course to the handling of their own problems and interaction with others, they were able to facilitate the capability of integrating multiple experiences.

After taking this course, students were able to break their misunderstandings and stereotypes of counseling, understand the nature of and build trust in counseling profession, and utilize or recommend counseling to others. This mirrored the findings that the level of understanding of counseling was an important factor for students in utilizing counseling services (Mai, Wang, & Chang, 2002). When students understood more about counseling services, they were better able to recognize the effectiveness of counseling (Wang, 2008), increase their trust in counselors and counseling services, and be willing to seek help from counselors (Hsia, 2000; Mai et al., 2002).

Before taking the course, students believed only those with very severe issues such as psychosis, or those with severe self-harm or suicidal intention should visit a counselor. This result corresponded to the fact that students' level of disturbance which affected their utilization of mental health resources (Mai, et al., 2002). Before taking the course, the students' reactions towards counseling were quite consistent with the findings of previous studies: the majority of the students would only seek counseling when problems became severe, they were not used to discussing personal issues with strangers, they did not know the location of UCCs and the content of counseling services, they were ashamed of seeking help from counselors, and they worried if other people would look at them differently when they sought help from counselors (Lin, 2001; 2002; Mai et al.).

In summary, students compare the theories they learn with their actual life experiences, and enhance awareness, stimulate thinking, and expand cognition through counseling learning. Students start to challenge existing conceptual sch?mas and then reflect, organize, and transform the structures into new ones. They are able to turn these new experiences into further retrospection and are able to look at their life experiences from diverse angles, and so are aware of their own changes and growth. Moreover, students recognized that teachers had to be as inclusive, patient, and empathetic as counselors so that they could better understand their students. They were able to understand their students' traits and problems with patience and empathy. They were able to stimulate students ' motivation in learning through listening, encouragement and support. Students recognized this course was useful in developing their abilities to help others and to improve their communication skills. They not only applied what they learned to provide help to others but also referred people in need to counselors. Learning counseling was helpful to improve their teaching techniques and to enhance their competence in teaching and guidance.

Implication

Counseling educators should design curriculum employing components of experiential learning to meet specific needs of non-counseling helping professionals and to assist students in effectively integrating counseling knowledge and skills into their helping practice. Future studies could focus on the result of non-counseling helping professionals learning specific counseling theories or skills, and explore the process of transforming their initial doubts towards applying what they learn into their daily lives, and to their own helping practice. Moreover, counseling clinicians in the school setting need to enhance students' understanding of the counseling profession, the role of counselors, and the procedures and functions of counseling services to enhance students' trust with and utilization of counseling services.

Limitation

Only 27 of 39 students in the course participated in the interviews. Participants who were willing to participate in this study might be open-mined and active in learning. Also, the characteristics of the sample in this study might differ from the traits of other students/trainees in other programs or universities which might limit the transferability of the findings.

Conclusion

Students in the teacher education program took a counseling course via experiential learning and gained enhanced development through the course. They understood the counseling profession, and learned the essence of counseling interventions and counseling profession. Their scope of cognition was broadened, and self-understanding and self-awareness were enhanced. These students utilized what they learned from the course in their teaching and in their daily lives to improve interactions with people. They actively transformed their knowledge of counseling into actions and recognized the value and effectiveness of counseling.

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Acknowledgements

This study is sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning Development, Office of Academic Affairs , National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan.

Author affiliation:

YN-NN LIN

Center for Teacher Education

National Tsing Hua University

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