I just returned home from a conference, where I was supporting my “other half” with his emerging research presentation. The Association of Leadership Educators annual conference was held in exciting New Orleans, following the 4th of July holiday. Not only do I enjoy the networking and various social events that occur at conferences, but I also enjoy the learning that occurs once you leave a multi-day experience and begin to process what you have seen and heard. In reflecting upon this experience, what stands out most in my mind was a keynote presentation by Ted Thomas. He has spent much of his career working for the military. Currently, he is in charge of developing and supervising leadership curriculum to nearly 1,300 civilian and active-duty students.
Much of Mr. Thomas’ message focused on the theme of training versus education. As he described his view on these distinctions, I began to process this and think to myself how well his message parallels with counseling. Given that I am currently pursuing a doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision, I thought about these concepts through the lens of a future counselor educator—As a counselor educator, are we educating or training students? It is important to understand our role is in both educating AND training future counselors.
My perspective on education is as follows: A graduate student is currently enrolled in a school counseling course that is addressing students with behavioral issues. As a counselor educator, I would be teaching students the framework and theoretical background as a means for providing the knowledge to consider “If I ______, then” and allow for the student to utilize their critical thinking skills. One’s education is a way to provide the necessary foundation to operate in some fashion.
On the other hand, I see training with this perspective: “If _____, then _____.” With this way of thinking, I can train a student to proceed in a particular situation in a particular way. For example, I can train a graduate student to administer an assessment, such as the BASC or Conner’s Rating scale. The task of administering the exam does not require critical thinking. However, the interpretation of the assessment and providing recommendations for a child may require critical thinking skills.
One way that I plan to allow for both of these is to conduct my classroom with a variety of experiences including case study analysis, role plays, and problem-based learning activities. I firmly believe that integration into the curriculum is key. The role of a professional counselor relies on education for the foundation, but it is one’s training and experience that allows them to become competent.
When I look at the importance of these two unique responsibilities, a third word comes to mind that bridges these: Commitment. Education, training, and commitment are crucial components to the work of a counselor educator. I see these three components as my own pillars, similar to how school utilize the six pillars of character education. I look forward to the day when I am employed in a university setting and able to demonstrate my commitment to educating and training our future counselor practitioners.
Sandi Logan is school counselor and currently a doctoral student in the Counselor Education and Supervision program at University of Florida. Prior to pursuing further studies, she worked as an elementary and middle school counselor in Southern California.