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balancing the rights of students in training programs

Students in an educational or training program have a right to know how their performance will be evaluated. However, in seeking to honor all of the stakeholders impacted, training institutions often find that they face a dilemma and double responsibility in balancing competing interests between their group members and the individual students that they admit. On the one side, institutions have an ethical responsibility to protect group members and the public from incompetent certificate holders. But on the other side, institutions are morally responsible to honor their individual commitments to the students they admit, and have a duty to monitor, acknowledge, and manage impairment among the students. The dilemma this poses to training programs could be simply stated as one of balancing the rights of students to pursue career interests and personal goals versus the rights of their future clients and well-being of group members. In drawing the final lines of responsibility, faculty of the training program should be held to a stricter standard by taking the initiative to develop clear, objective definitions and evaluative criteria for assessing clinical and interpersonal fitness of trainees. To determine candidacy for the final capstone, at front and center should be an assessment of knowledge, skill, and ability domains as they inter lap with key variables of interpersonal style, ability to relate to clients, and willingness to introspect. Beneficially, when training programs can verify that the students are actively participating and responding to periodic evaluative procedures, students are put into a better attitudinal position for program satisfaction, active participation, group solidarity, and graduation.

“Faculty should make clear to incoming students that becoming a competent counselor involves more than acquiring knowledge and skills; a critical variable of effective counseling is the ability of trainees to establish a working alliance with their clients, which depends largely on their own personality characteristics and behavioral attributes. Ongoing discussion of these issues throughout the training program is necessary to prepare trainees for potentially difficult conversations pertaining to their own professional competence (Jacobs et al., 2011).”

In order to protect all of the stakeholders, all admission candidates should be required to give verbal/written authorization that informed consent procedures were administered before final admission decisions are granted, and the information contained in the informed consent should document: applicant selection criteria and successful completion criteria of the program, program schedule by the hour, criteria for dismissal, remediatory and due process procedures. Informed consent requires clear statements about what constitutes ground for concerns, including when and why students may be terminated from a program (Wilkerson, 2006). Written policies and procedures should be made available as part of the student orientation.

Here is a sample of a student qualifying evaluation form:

1. Academic: includes attendance and punctuality, material comprehension, class participation, verbal and written communication skills, critical thinking, creativity, etc.
2. Clinical: includes ability to maintain appropriate professional boundaries and manage personal stress in such a way that it does not interfere with professional functioning, and the student’s demonstration of receptivity to clinical supervision, compliance with professional ethical standards and developmentally appropriate demonstration of clinical intervention skills.
3. Interpersonal: includes ability to relate with faculty and peers, respect towards others, leadership abilities, ability to work collaboratively and independently, empathy, assertiveness, self-awareness, demonstration of multicultural awareness, etc.

Overall Rating:
Exhibits Strengths (Special Commendation)
Meets Expectations
Meets Expectations with Identified Growth Areas
Not Meeting Expectations with Significant Concern (See attached Student Remediation Plan)

Source: Student Qualifying Evaluation form, Richmont Graduate University
Issues and Ethics in the Helping Profession, Corey and Corey