Using Data to Set School Counseling Goals & Objectives

Instructor: Susan Graziano

Susan has taught high school English and has worked as a school administrator. She has a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

In this lesson, you will learn how to identify and evaluate appropriate data sources to create and evaluate goals and objectives for school counseling programs.

Students at the Center

Picture a school as a giant jigsaw puzzle. There are so many pieces to this puzzle, including students, staff, families, community members, programs, resources, and facilities. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does provide a context from which we can understand and appreciate the complexity and unique nature of any school. The one common connection in all of these puzzle pieces is the students. The students are central to all school decisions, especially those relating to school programs. Today, you will learn how to make informed decisions when you are setting goals and objectives for your counseling program.

A school is like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces
Jigsaw Puzzle

What Is Data-Driven Decision Making?

If you have been working in the schools for decades or recently graduated from an education program, you have likely been involved in a great many conversations about data-driven decision-making. Data-driven decision-making is exactly what it sounds like: making decisions based on your interpretation of the data to which you have access. The term 'data', however, can be confusing to some. Data is broadly defined as facts or statistics collected for interpretation and/or analysis. Almost any information you can collect could be used as data. This information does not always have to be in the form of numbers.

Student standardized test scores are often referenced when making programmatic decisions. If a large majority of students are not performing well in Mathematics, for example, the leadership team may decide to take actionable steps to improve these scores. Other frequently referenced pieces of data include demographic data, student grade point averages, behavioral assessments, teacher assessments, and attendance. In schools, demographic data most often refers to information relating to gender, race, ethnic status, and socioeconomic status. Data can also be obtained through observations. If, for example, a teacher observes that a student is frequently falling asleep in class, this information may signify that there is a more significant issue than lack of sleep.

Setting Counseling Goals and Objectives

Goals are broad, long-term desired results. For example, a goal for a school guidance program may be: To provide resources and information about college and career readiness to students and their families. Objectives are essentially the steps through which you will achieve your goal. For example, an objective for the previously stated goal may be: Develop and implement an information series for parents looking for resources about planning for college. You will most often set several objectives under one goal.

Goal and objective setting is part of the continuous improvement process. The continuous improvement process consists of a series of steps during which you are planning, taking, and evaluating action steps (represented in the image below). This process begins with analyzing the available data to identify a problem that you wish to solve.

Continuous inprovement process
Continuous Improvement Process

So, how do you decide which data to obtain, and how do you obtain it? As a counselor, you have access to a great deal of data, ranging from student test scores to graduation rates. You can also use surveys as a way to solicit feedback from students, parents, colleagues, and potentially, other schools. Today, there are many tools, including Google Forms and Survey Monkey that allow you to easily send out digital surveys. These programs will even analyze the results for you.

To continue with our example, the counselor established a goal to provide resources and information about college and career readiness to students and their families. The counselor could have used a number of data sources to develop this goal. He/she could have sent out a survey to students and/or parents indicating their perceived level of preparedness for college. He/she could have also analyzed students' post-secondary placements in order to identify the need.

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