Engaged learning in the Department of Human Service Studies
In most introductory counseling courses, students are required to practice their counseling skills through role play activities in the classroom and demonstrating their learning through mock counseling sessions in class or on video or audiotapes. These role play activities, while helpful in providing practical experience, often lack the authenticity of a real client-helper exchange.
An alternative method for students to gain practical experience while minimizing client risk is to have actors serve as clients. Levitov, Fall & Jennings (1999) noted several benefits of employing actors as clients. Esposito (2009) found that her students described their sessions with actors as being much more authentic, but that they often felt overwhelmed and under-prepared for these seemingly real client interactions. To address this issue, Judy Esposito and Phil Miller developed a new virtual client program that is being introduced in Elon counseling classes this semester.
With this program, students can explore possible questions and responses for a client, choose a response and see how the client reacts to each choice. This program is a logical step in the progression from role-playing with classmates to working with the actor in a mock session.
The client is an Elon performing arts student for whom Esposito and Miller developed a script. the program was piloted in February 2011 in classes and was presented at the 2011 North Carolina Counseling Association Annual Conference. Both students and counselor educators have responded favorably to this program, as it provides a safe way for students gain more practice with their basic counseling skills, explore possible courses of action with a client, and discuss why one question or response would be more effective than another.
Community Action Project: Food Accessibility
In HSS 213: Working with Groups and Communities, students are reading about theories related to community change and rolling up their sleeves to put their studies to work. The focus of the spring course is food accessibility. All students have been volunteering on Saturday farm days at Peace Haven Farm in Whitsett, N.C.
They are also beginning to work on their team community action projects. The food related projects include: 1) working with Aramark to increase local food on campus 2) working with Interfaith Food Shuttle and the Boys and Girls Club of Burlington to facilitate cooking workshops for kids on healthy eating/healthy meal production and 3) working with the new Elon Campus Kitchen program to begin targeted recruitment of student organizations in donating food items for meal production. The class is planning large food drive this semester and also working to establish a more sustainable way for students to donate to Campus Kitchen.