15I am sure many guidance counsellors seek to improve their practice in ways similar to the above and who may be doing so without realising they are using an action research methodology. However, explicitly knowing about and using action research not only improves practice but strengthens it and its claim to professionalism. With employers and other bodies emphasising and placing a premium on independent thinking, self-directed learning and problem-solving skills, action research is a methodology guidance counsellors might usefully encourage senior students to use when it comes to making choices regarding their education and future careers. However, in order to effectively do this guidance counsellors must first be familiar with action research themselves and be convinced of its benefits.There is no mystery about action research and when guidance counsellors meet either at branch meetings, career events or at conferences they often share concerns they may have around various issues because they want to improve what they are doing in their schools and they communicate to others what they have found works well. In an informal way this encapsulates a community of practitioners gathering and disseminating the findings of their action research - even if they are unaware that they are doing it!A final point regarding action research, but one which I believe to be most important, is that it locates the researcher as the person who knows most about their school and their students in the context of their concerns or research question. I believe this to be important because in an era where so much educational change is coming from outside schools it is important to acknowledge that guidance counsellors hold a unique position in schools affording them a detailed knowledge of the their students and their schools - they are the experts in their schools. Action research helps to legitimise this expertise and to share it with others. By engaging in action research and by sharing it, guidance counsellors are giving a voice not only to their profession and expertise but also to their students and schools. In times of change such a voice may be more important than ever.'AuthorPeter Hyde works as a guidance counsellor in Kinsale Community School. He attended the University of Limerick where he obtained his qualification in guidance counselling in 2007. In UL course leader Tom Geary introduced the guidance class to action research by having Professor Jean McNiff give a presentation on the topic. Peter also holds a MEd from the University of Hull and was recently awarded a Post Graduate Diploma in Educational Leadership from NUI Maynooth. Post PrimaryAction Research - Why Bother? continuedNCGE NEWS Winter 2011
16NCGE NEWS Winter 2011Post PrimaryModule 1 from a CFE PerspectiveIn 2010 NCGE was invited by City of Dublin VEC (CDVEC) to tailor and deliver Module 1 of the Whole School Guidance Planning programme to guidance counsellors working in the Colleges of Further Education (CFE). Initially, in the spring of 2010, NCGE delivered a workshop on guidance planning to guidance counsellors employed by the CDVEC. The workshop was well received and it was agreed that a Module 1 centre be established in early 2011 specifically for guidance counsellors working in the CFE sector. The following article has been written by Anne O'Brien, a participant from that centre, which highlights her experience of Module 1: Reviewing Whole School Guidance.'As a guidance counsellor in Waterford College of Further Education (WCFE), I was keen to participate in the programme because I had many unanswered questions about Part 2 (areas for development) of the guidance plan.Programme StructureThree one-day workshops were held in Dublin during the second and third terms of 2011. The workshops were facilitated by Ann Tuffy, Máire Ni Choileán, and Professor Jean McNiff, a recognised leader in the field of action research. In each workshop there was a focus on one activity such as convening a staff group and undertaking a review and needs analysis. The workshops were supported by meetings in Second Life, an online virtual world. These meetings gave participants the opportunity to report on work to date and to discuss assignments. It took some time to become used to the technology and to using an avatar. However, I found it to be an extremely useful support. We also had access to an online library of materials and readings. In terms of assessment, a Learner Portfolio had to be submitted. This included two progress reports, a final report and learning journal. The workload was greater than I anticipated with readings, assignments and working on the guidance plan in college. I certainly had to fine tune my time-management skills.Teaching and LearningA number of pedagogies were used such as group work and reflection based activities, but the primary focus was teaching us how to do action research. The action research cycle was described and explained by Jean McNiff and then each participant had the opportunity to put the theory into practice and to improve his/her professional practice by doing research in the workplace.