Using sand tray with at-risk students to impact school success



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Texas Tech University


Few school counseling interventions have been proven to increase achievement on the high-stakes tests that are required to meet accountability standards set by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and virtually no quantitative studies evaluating a sand tray intervention in the school setting have been conducted. This study was conducted to fill this gap in the school counseling outcomes research by implementing a sand tray intervention in the school setting with the intent of impacting at-risk junior high students' academic achievement, school satisfaction, behavior, and attendance rate.

One hundred 8th-grade students were divided into 3 groups; 47 were in a sand tray intervention, 26 were in a mathematics art group, and 27 were in a control group. The sand tray group received a 10-week sand tray intervention based on Lowenfeld's World Technique and Kalff's Sandplay. The math art group received a 10-week intervention based on mathematics art projects. The school counselor implemented both interventions. The control group received no treatment.

This study used a quasi-experimental randomized pretest-posttest design. MANCOVA was used to test for significant differences between measures for academic achievement, school satisfaction, and behavior, while ANCOVA was used to test for significant differences in attendance rates. The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS): Grades 7 and 8 Mathematics and Reading and Semester I and II grade point average (GPA) were used to measure academic achievement; Goodenow's Psychological Sense of School Membership (PSSM) was used to measure the change in students' sense of school satisfaction and belonging; Reynolds' and Kamphaus' Behavior Assessment System for Children–Second Edition Teacher Rating Scale–Adolescent (BASC–2 TRS–A) was used to measure teachers' perceptions of students' behaviors; and, Semester I and II attendance rates were calculated. Results of the study indicated significant differences on the TAKS: Mathematics scale scores and the PSSM scores for both the sand tray and mathematics art groups. Although positive change did occur, no significant differences were found for GPA, TAKS: Reading, behavior, or the attendance rate.

The results of this study provide scientifically based research that adds to the body of school counseling outcomes research that both the American School Counselor Association and NCLB Act has recommended in order to validate school counseling programs that impact student achievement. Further, since two interventions yielded significant results, this study lends credence to previous findings that common factors between counseling interventions are the effective ingredients for successful therapeutic intervention. This study also provides a guideline for implementing a sand tray intervention at the classroom level with the intent of narrowing the achievement gap between students. A comparison of results of this study with previous research, recommendations for future research, and implications for practice are provided.