Students’ Expectations of Postgraduate Counseling Course Compared to the Actuality: Perspectives of Current Students

Results

Category

Sub-Categories

Expectations are met

Goals of Self-Development

Development of Self-Awareness

Development of Group Work

Expectations are not Justified

Fear of Public Speech

Rejection of Being Assessed by Peers

Reluctance to Provide Oral/Written Reviews to Peers

Difficulties with Self-Expression

Diversity of Demographics

Table 1. The Difference Between Students’ Expectations and Actual Experience While Taking the Postgraduate Counseling Course.

 
 

Expectations are met

Goals of Self-Development

Eye-to-eye interview with the current students of the postgraduate counseling course reveals that the envisaged academic performance is strongly oriented towards personal growth of students. In this regard, the sample indicates that the present course sufficiently meets the goals of self-development. Specifically, the  a number of diverse strategies, such as constant and excessive self-reflections, group work, individual projects, and in-depth analysis of faced academic and non-academic situations foster the advancement of emotional and cognitive abilities.

Development of Self-Awareness

The obtained results depict that the students are aware of the merits and necessity of mastering the capacity to consciously participate in academic work and other activities. This approach involves the ability to detect the prime-causes of personal stances. In addition, it presupposes being capable of identifying the underlying reasons of behavior of other individuals. In this regard, self-awareness strongly correlates with emotional intelligence, which is essential for counselors. The interviewed students point out that the course completely meets their expectations concerning personal growth. According to their statements, the development of self-awareness is the focal point of the course. Despite the fact that sometimes the strategies of mastering self-awareness exceed the expectations of students, the sample approves of this focus.

Development of Group Work

Students expect to engage in the collaboration with peers. Furthermore, having certain background knowledge of  counseling, they are capable of identifying and understanding the patterns of group development. Besides, they acknowledge the merits of this approach. The participants of this study claim that their previous experience of working in groups and building the stages of group evolvement is enough to function effectively in the diverse academic activities suggested by the present course. Therefore, it is possible to state that the course has met the expectations of peer-interactions.

Expectations are not Justified

Fear of Public Speech

The necessity to be in the center of group’s attention a during public presentation is one of the important challenges that hinder the process of personal growth. Students report that they do not feel comfortable giving speeches, which means that this process is rather unpleasant and, thus, ineffective. In other words, enrolling to this course, individuals do not expect  to experience significant difficulties with this academic activity.

This finding is rather surprising because enrollees have already given public presentations many times while studying at school and college. Consequently, it is natural to suggest that what they are afraid of/not expect to happen is the absence of sufficient coping mechanisms that can help develop the skills of feeling comfortable in public. In addition, poorly evolved mechanics of making public presentations and giving speeches - the shortcoming that can be attributed to academic lapses - may cause this unpleasant situation.

Rejection of Being Assessed by Peers

This study reveals that the students perceive peers’ reviews in a negative way. In particular, the sample indicates that peers’ assessment causes distress and anxiety. The interviewed students do not find it to be an effective means of studying or personal interaction. Instead, the students believe this approach to be distressing in terms of developing personal relations with peers that is also imprinted in the process of group development.

On the other hand, it is obvious that the process of peers’ appraisal is a significant part of academic performance present at different educational stages. Therefore, students are to be quite professional in providing and considering peers’ assessment and recommendations when they enter a postgraduate course. Consequently, one may rightfully suggest that the identified gap in the expectations relates rather to students’ readiness for further education than a drawback of this course. Hence, since the goal is to provide current and future counselors with the remedies of constant self-improvement, this peculiarity should be considered to reduce students’ unmet expectations. In this case, considering peers’ reviews would help become more effective and encouraging in terms of personal growth.

Reluctance to Provide Oral/Written Reviews to Peers

A related failed expectation identified during the interviews is the reluctance to access peers. Undoubtedly, these two processes are interdependent. Most likely, students who are averse to  giving reviews to peers, feel the same anxiety when appraised by the latter . This is also a matter of academic readiness and, naturally, the course expectations towards the enrollees are high. The study reveals a considerable gap between academic expectations towards students and their actual abilities and readiness for advancement.

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Scrutinizing the nature of this sub-category, it is reasonable to assume that the students experience a strong need for affiliation. The process of criticizing academic performance of their peers is stressful since they do not want to be rejected because of the assessment they provide. This premise may be applicable to the other detected issues of failed expectations, such as the above-discussed fear of public speech and reluctance to be appraised by peers.

Difficulties with Self-Expression

The sample reports that writing self-reflections is an important part of the students' academic activities during the postgraduate counseling course. The students inform that they are not completely ready for excessive self-reflections; therefore, this task is rather challenging. In other words, they did not expect t self-expression  to be a critical part of the course. What is more, they did not anticipate their negative feelings, such as frustration and confusion connected with the discomfort caused by the need for constant self-expression.

Diversity of Demographics

The obtained results imply that the students perform in terms of considerable diversity of their peers’ demographics. In particular, the interviewed individuals claim that the diversity of age, previous education, and students’ origin (cultural differences) are all significant objectives to study and consider while working with peers. At the same time, these diversities complicate collaboration because the individuals possess distant views and mental accentuations. Thus, their approaches towards making group projects and problem-solving vary considerably.

Without a doubt, this situation is greatly beneficial for developing cultural sensitivity and tolerance. Moreover, it fastens the process of personal growth by encouraging the students to increase self-expression as well as teaches them to listen to the peers’ advice. Hence, the problem is that this challenge is rather unexpected for the students. That is why, academic environment may become overwhelming, which reduces the ability to learn and grow personally and professionally.

Summary of Findings

The acquired results depict that the students of the postgraduate counseling course suffer from the gap between their academic readiness and expectations set by this educational program. Despite the fact that the negative outcomes of the gap in expectations are stronger than the positive ones, it is necessary to stress that this study identifies the objectives that indicate the positive implications of the underestimated expectations. In particular, the respondents point out that the present course provides possibilities for personal growth, development of self-awareness, and group work that exceed the expectations of enrollees.

Simultaneously, the findings reveal that the methods of achieving the above-mentioned positive educational objectives are often rather challenging and overwhelming for the students. In this regard, it is possible to conclude that even though the course totally meets the academic goals of self-development, the remedies stipulate the emergence of a gap in the students’ expectations. As a result, they have to put much time and effort to decrease the gap between the course expectations and their academic readiness. Given this insight, one may deduce that the nature of the students’ negative experiences stems from their insufficient readiness for academic activities.

Specifically, the postgraduate counseling course comprises significant difficulties in self-expression, providing reviews to peers and being criticized by other students as well as addressing demographic and cultural diversity. The sample reports that these academic activities are unexpectedly challenging. Moreover, the critical finding is that the students experience the lack of coping mechanisms needed for mitigating the adverse effects of the identified challenges. Therefore, to decrease the gap between the students' expectations towards the course and their anticipation for taking the present course, it is necessary to focus on strengthening individuals’ coping mechanisms.

Besides, it is appropriate to stress that the gap in expectations is stipulated by the lack of academic readiness. This finding implies that the unmet anticipation does not stem from any shortcomings of the curriculum. Instead, students should be better prepared for postgraduate academic performance suggested by this course. Considering this idea, it is necessary to provide stronger assistance to new students with the purpose of detecting gaps in the knowledge and personal characteristics that may intervene with academic excellence. In this regard, assigning several students to one mentor could be a good idea to deliver personalized and sufficient help to enrollees. Furthermore, taking into consideration students’ confessions regarding the difficulties with self-expression, mutual criticism and appraisal as well as demographic tolerance, the obtained results imply that individuals’ self-awareness should be developed prior to the ability of providing sufficient self-reflections. In addition, the interview reveals that teaching self-reflection should precede peer-reviewing.  

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Overall, the results of the interviewing suggest that the students are determined to learn coping with the above-identified difficulties. Hence, they lack o self-confidence and, thus, many individuals may have concerns regarding their capability to manage academic challenges. In these terms, having background in counseling is useful for understanding that hardships and mistakes also have a strong educational value. Indeed, a challenging environment in the academic setting is beneficial for their practice since real-life circumstances are often quite demanding. Both respondents agree with this idea, which indicates that their self-awareness and personal growth occur in accordance with the course curriculum.

Revealing the time variable, one should accentuate that at the beginning of course the gap in expectations is the strongest, but it decreases over time. This insight is another argument, which proves that personal growth reduces the gap in expectations, and the present course provides good opportunities for counselors to master their personal and professional skills. This result means that the postgraduate counseling course should be altered to address more thoroughly the needs of students during the first several weeks of studying.

What is more, the sample informs that the enrollees do not link unmet expectations with the premise that the course program may be defective. Instead, they tend to take full responsibility when the gap in expectations occurs. In other words, the students expect their academic perspectives to remain unjustified. Nevertheless, they may struggle to identify their cognitive and emotional weaknesses. This inability makes it impossible to anticipate and eliminate the plausible issues linked with failed course expectations. At the same time, the negative outcomes of the gap in expectations do not significantly affect the students’ satisfaction. For instance, the respondents claim that they are ready to recommend the postgraduate counseling course to an individual who interested in personal and/or professional advancement. In general, the positive reputation of the university is not negatively affected by the unmet students’ expectations. Hence, to maintain student- and learning-centered perspective, the postgraduate counseling course must be changed in accordance with the aforementioned findings.

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