Empowerment: Learning to Take Action in School Settings


All of the steps listed above in developing a TE program may sound intensive, overly optimistic and way beyond the role of the school consultant depending on how one views the scope of the role of a consultant.

School consultants have historically stayed away from advocacy. But it may be important that they not push their own agenda but instead, as Pearrow and Pollack (2009) state, empower through the use of their experience and knowledge (as guides) towards the ones who need to be empowered to take the initiative and accountability in their school and community (bull by the horns so to speak) and correct injustices.

Conde-Frazir (2006) supports the idea of scholars pursing knowledge while being “educated by struggling people” (p. 322).

Knowledge is not some generic marker (a degree or passing grade) of intelligence but rather the implementation of information gained for the betterment of not just the self but the community as well.

School consultants can be avenues of directing action-oriented steps not to just help the individual (students) but rather as Cosgrove and McHugh (2000) share “so that research be designed and carried out so that social systems and not just individuals are problematized and asked to change” (p. 832).

Participatory Action Research

Pearrow and Pollock (2009) discuss the power of the individual and group by style of research called Participatory Action Research that emphasizes direct shareholder involvement in those being helped and seeks to minimize the degradation of the effort into pressing of communities into some external agenda.

Psychologists are being called to examine the larger socio cultural context that underlie individual problems and use interventions that facilitate social action and empowerment with participatory strategies. (p. 55)

The authors suggest potential drawbacks of PAR; one must know the local power structure and the issues at hand and should be reserved for situations where the external agent (school consultant) is aware of the potential damage for themselves and more importantly to the disempowered in the community (in other words, pay backs are hell).

Rennie and Sing (1996) share that PAR works best when “the external agency has a clear status and relationship with the community and can secure resources for long-term commitment” (pp. 13-14).

Lastly, Pearrow and Pollock (2009) discuss the need for school consultants to play critical roles in constructing multi systemic change to create schools that operate in a socially just manner.

To empower youth to take charge and create actions for social change takes more than flowery stated statements but rather strong core values and ideals that give the youth the ability to continually be able to deal with hierarchical structure in the school environment, which they may forever be finding (racism, sexism etc…) during their educational process.

It is critical for the school consultant to assist school personnel as they become receptive to the changes for youth empowerment and “in altering the banking concept of education, wherein students are passive, compliant vessels, this effort in social justice breaks the patterns of oppression to create full participation in the education process” (p. 56).

In the end, school consultants can only do so much. It is really up to the community and students to implement the changes formulated. Consultants must not forget that though they bring unique abilities, skills and life experiences to the table they are “much more likely to accomplish goals when they treat community citizens as participants and masters of their own fate rather than “patients” or even “clients” (p. 47).

The latter is important for all of us to remember in any endeavor of counseling. It is only when the individual changes his/her heart and mind that real change will happen. For that, we as clinicians can only suggest not possess.


Empowerment: Learning to Take Action in School Settings