Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Jack McKay

Second Advisor

Dr. Laura Schulte

Third Advisor

Dr. Neal Topp

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Larry Dlugosh


This study described the common lived experience of 10 first year school counselors. This study explored the experiences within four areas: relationships with staff and students, graduate program training, skills implementation, and relationships with building and district administration. The phenomenology relied on an initial structured interview after eight weeks on the job as the main data source. Other data sources included participant journal entries, non-participant observations, veteran counselor contact logs, and a follow-up interview at the end of the school year. The data triangulation and constant comparative analysis resulted in common themes that described the essence of the common lived experience. There was a level of thoughtful processing and intentional behavior, requiring energy and effort, used to build relationships with staff. The congruence of the counselors' vision of the role with student expectations provided rich opportunities to meet students' needs. The graduate program provided a solid level of preparedness, but could not simulate the reality of the job. The participants identified a wide variety of counseling skills needed in the role and believed they were prepared. The counselors recognized the importance of the principals' understanding and support of the comprehensive guidance program for implementation. The participants appreciated a high level of support and accessibility from several sources for responses to their questions, information, and a sense of “being on the right track.” The generalization of the described common lived experience of these participants is not the expectation of a phenomenological study. A further limitation may be the size of the district studied and the utilization of a comprehensive guidance program. The dual role of researcher as supervisor may have influenced the responses of participants, although the member check suggested that the study captured the essence of their experience. Recommendations for practice included structured support for the novice counselor, the opportunity for an informal reflection process with the guidance supervisor, and well-defined program communication. Further research could enable other districts to determine the common lived experience of first year school counselors and add to the body of literature.


A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education

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