Activity Guide

The Importance of the Principal-Counselor Relationship

Studies confirm that principals and counselors value a healthy principal-counselor relationship and recognize its importance in improving student outcomes. This activity gives counselors/guidance staff and the principal/administrative team an opportunity to take a closer look at their current relationship and discuss how that relationship might be strengthened to foster student achievement and reach school goals.

Reading: “Respondents’ Principal-Counselor Relationships,” A Closer Look at the Principal-Counselor Relationship, 2009, pp. 5–8.


Pre-Reading Activity

Taking One Step Forward: A Self-Assessment Tool

The goal of this activity is for principals and counselors to gain a clear sense of each team member’s view of the principal-counselor relationship, recognize the importance of the characteristics of an effective relationship, and identify gaps and areas that require attention.

As self-reflective practitioners, team members assess the team’s ability to address issues of school reform, solve problems, engage in strategic planning, introduce new initiatives, address resistance to change, and handle crises and other issues that affect student achievement.

(Note: Due to the sensitive nature of the information, it might be helpful to have principals and counselors complete the worksheet separately and then have a third party tabulate the results.)

Ask the principal/administrative team and the counselor(s) to rate the importance of each characteristic on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “not important” and 5 being “very important.” Next, ask them to do the same for the extent to which the characteristic is present in your relationship, with 1 being “not present” and 5 being “extremely present.” After rating each characteristic, note the difference between the level of importance and the level of presence in the “Gap” column.

After the team members have completed the self-assessment tool, examine where the greatest “gaps” appear from the perspective of your practice and from the comparisons of administrator and guidance personnel. How do you measure up?

Ask participants to read and highlight “Respondents’ Principal-Counselor Relationships.” Spend time looking at the survey results in Table 2 on p. 6. What are the three areas with the biggest “gap” for principals? What are the three areas with the biggest “gap” for counselors? Is there overlap and agreement? How do your “gaps” compare with those from the national survey?

Extend and Apply

How do you close the “gaps” in your school and strengthen the principal-counselor relationship?

  • First, review the principal and counselor comments from your reading selection, “Improving the Relationship” and discuss how the Key Findings may inform more effective ways to improve the principal-counselor relationships at your school.
  • Next, reexamine the assessment to determine the areas with the “greatest gap.” Each item in the survey is represented in one of the four sections of Enhancing the Principal-School Counselor Relationship: Toolkit: Communications, Trust and Respect, Collaborative Planning, and Leadership. Use the key below to help determine Areas for Focus in using the toolkit.

Areas for Focus

High “gap” scores on the various items correspond to Enhancing the Principal-School Counselor Relationship: Toolkit sections below:

  • Communication: Items 1 & 3
  • Trust & Respect: Items 6 & 8
  • Collaborative Planning: Items 2, 7 & 10
  • Leadership: Items 4, 5 & 9
  • Advanced Practice: Items 1–1

Each section will help you strengthen the principal-counselor relationship to better achieve the goals for each of the critical issues you have identified using your school’s data. The last section of the toolkit includes advanced practice and solution-finding that all principals and counselors will find helpful as they test the collaborative strength of their relationship.