At the University, the staff are guiding and counselling students with various goals. Students receive guidance e.g. in issues pertaining to learning, graduation work, postgraduate studies, career paths, promotion of well-being and employment, practice periods, and orientation toward internationalisation or entrepreneurship, writes Senior Specialist Leena Penttinen from Student and Academic Services at the University of Jyväskylä.

To support the staff in their guidance and counselling work, JYU is launching this autumn a new training programme on the basics of guidance and counselling at university. The programme starts at the end of October and lasts for the academic year. It is provided as a response to the developmental needs of this competence area and discussion on the essence of guidance and counselling at university work.

At the University, personnel with different job titles give guidance and counselling as part of their other work: teaching, research or study administration.

Therefore, it is not sensible even to try to force the guidance and counselling activities of different actors into the same format. It is more essential to help the staff recognise their own role and tasks in guidance and counselling, develop appropriate work practices, and organise relevant cooperation both within and outside the University. At university, perceiving the limits of one’s own guidance work seems particularly important.

Guidance and counselling can be defined, for example, as collaboration to promote different learning, growth and work processes of the advisees so that their personal agency is enhanced. Thus, the premises for this include personal processes and the individual’s own agency, activeness and involvement in their own study and work career. This definition directs the counsellors to aim their efforts at supporting the processes, activeness and responsibility of the advisee.

Counselling expertise is broad-based understanding

Hence, counselling expertise is not only about pedagogical tools. For example, when it comes to guidance for study plans, it is important to understand what kind of questions the student is pondering as well as what kind of factors affect study orientation, engagement in studies, learning skills and motivation. When we understand the need for personal support and the processes involved, it is easier to provide appropriate guidance and counselling to activate the student and enhance their agency. Thus, counselling expertise is not only about methodological knowledge, but also about a broad and research-based understanding of the diverse processes of university studies.

Discussions about the guidance and counselling of university students show increasing and genuine interest in, and holistic caring about, students’ learning, learning capacity, well-being and employment. Encounters between an individual counsellor and a student often also bring up factors related to the student’s life situation, which define how a meaningful study path is constructed.

Often in counselling settings, the counsellor may start to ruminate the whole sphere of the student’s life.

In many cases, counsellors would like to help more than is possible in terms of their post or expertise. In such instances, it is good to recognise that a counsellor is not alone in helping the student on the study path; the University has many guidance and counselling experts in different posts.

The upcoming training programme also outlines the overall provision of guidance and counselling services of the University. It helps the staff focus on developing their own guidance and counselling expertise to optimally support those student processes that are most relevant for their own work tasks within the joint efforts to promote students’ successful progress on their respective study paths. The development of guidance expertise challenges counsellors to engage in collegial collaboration, analysing the limits and meaningfulness of their own work. Moreover, a counsellor who feels well has better resources to meet the students.

Leena Penttinen

Writer is Senior Specialist from Student and Academic Services at the University of Jyväskylä.


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