Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Dissertation


Students--Social conditions; Student counselors--Attitudes;


The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine the extent to which students' social class origins influence guidance counselors' judgments about students’ potential for college work. Forty experienced practicing high school guidance counselors from a Midwestern state participated. Each participant read nine vignettes each describing a fictitious eleventh grade boy and containing information regarding his social class, achievement, career interest, and stated desire to attain college or postsecondary education. (Half the participants received vignettes indicating that advisees desired college education; the others received vignettes indicating advisees' more general desire to attain postsecondary education.) Three of the nine advisees were presented as upper class (one a high achiever, one an average achiever, and one a low achiever). Three were presented as middle class and three as lower class with the same distribution according to achievement. After reading each vignette, participants checked off the post-high school activity (vocational school, apprenticeship, community college, military, four-year college, on-the-job training, or other) they considered reflective of the boy's best interests. Participants were interviewed individually regarding their judgments. Interviews were tape recorded, transcribed, and analyzed along with participants' check-off recommendations. Results revealed that 26 (65%) participants gave differential recommendations in cases where academic achievement was comparable but social class differed. Thirty-two (80%) participants expressed class-influenced assumptions about students and/or their parents. The researcher concluded that social class could not be considered a quiescent factor; however, its influence on participants’ judgments was generally subtle, unconscious, and unintentional. The researcher discovered that participants employed multiple (and sometimes conflicting) criteria rather than any single standard set of criteria to assess students’ college potential. Lack of standard professional criteria was particularly evident in participants’ reliance upon stereotyping and reenactment in judging college potential and their (usually unwitting) inclusion of social class as a criterion in this judgment. Several typically American beliefs influenced participants as they formulated recommendations. The most important of these included belief in individual opportunity; a meritocratic system; and desirability of upward socioeconomic movement (or at least stability). Recommendations were only slightly influenced by students’ stated desires to attain college versus postsecondary education.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Educational Administration and Counseling

First Advisor

Ann Vernon

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vii, 176 pages)



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