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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Paradigm Shift

We believe that much of the existing struggle in moving forward and expanding our practice roles from “what is” in our current practice to “what should be” is a result of the difficulties we face as we try to step away from traditional roles that have now become institutionalized. In essence, what has traditionally or historically dominated our practice roles (i.e., traditional diagnostic and refer-test-place tasks) has become our expected. Others (teachers, administrators, parents, etc.) have come to know the school psychologist as one whose primary and most visible function has been the psychoeducational assessment and diagnosis of children to determine their eligibility for special education and/or related services (Fagan, 1995; Lentz & Shapiro, 1985).

However, eligibility is not determined by the school psychologist alone. The implementation of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) brought about the need for an IEP team to conjunctively evaluate whether a child meets the criteria to be placed in a special education program (Jacob & Hartshorne, 2007).
How can we as school psychologists work more effectively with other members of the IEP team in order to ensure that students’ needs are being met? As future school psychologists, how do you see your role in relation to other members of the IEP team?

For many of us preparing to enter the field or have been in the field are inundated with “what is” our role as a school psychologist. How do we shift roles to “what should be” our function as a school psychologist? According to Merrell et al., 2006), we believe it is essential that school psychologists: (1) critically examine current practice and recognize the need to move beyond our traditional roles; (2) gain a thorough understanding of the shortcomings of the traditional roles (understand why we need to try alternative approaches); (3) establish a clear vision of our role as a data-driven problem solver and implement this role in practice; and (4) carefully evaluate the utility of any alternative practice that we implement.

The current practice to use a problem-solving approach has been effective and gives the school psychologist a more proactive stance in the school. However, despite advocacy for this approach and advances in problem-solving methodologies, and evidenced-based practices, schools do not readily adopt evidenced-based practices (Abbott, Walton, Tapia, & Greenwood, 1999; Carnine 1997, 1999; Fornes, 2003a; Friedma, 2003, Hunter, 2003).

How do we make effective practices an accepted and necessary approach in the school?

Would this approach help us to identify issues earlier, and offer more
opportunities for early intervention?

This blog was created by Mark Newman and Anel DeJesus.


Rebeccca said...

I think that it would be very hard for us to make people (teachers)except our practices or beliefs. However to do so would be helpful.

I think a good practice that is slowly being put into place is RTI which is helping kids earlier but we can not force teachers and others to get on board. This is more of an administrator job but we can do all we can to help by speeking highly of it, showing how it helps for early intervention and so forth.

I am not sure if that answers your questions but I blieve RTI is a start

Ana said...

Teachers certainly depend on school psychologists for assessments and diagnostic issues. They view school psychologists this way because they have no training or background with working with children with special needs. I am not sure how to make this approach accepted in schools but I do believe that teachers and other administrators need to have some training in special education and/or related services. Hopefully, with training they can assist school psychologists, instead of solely depending on them.

Prattima Kaulessar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Prattima Kaulessar said...

I agree with you, Ana. All teachers would most certainly benefit from special education training that is more in-depth than just an occasional professional development workshop given by the district. By making teachers aware of the intellectual diversity within the classroom, we are giving educators differentiated instructional tools and approaches which can be utilized in an effort to assist the child struggling with academic or behavioral issues before special education evaluation is sought.

Mark said...

If all students can benefit from differentiated instruction and prevention services like RTI, this can be a school psychologists opportunity to become more integrated in the school environment and define our role among teachers and administrators.

Rebeccca said...

Because RTI is a strategy that involves every student I think it should begin to be taught to teachers at the undergrad level. We can't expect teachers to love the idea if they have no training.

In addition, perhaps during inservices we can take it on ourselves to propose teaching it to students sicne we are being educated on it.

Danielle Muhammad said...

I believe that our roles will be determined by the school districts in which we work. Some districts allow you to have freedom and others dictate to you what should be done. We can only be absolutely sure of one thing--we will administer cognitive assessments. We are the only professionals in the school system certified to administer these tests.

As far as working with the IEP team, I believe the most important detail is RESPECT. We must respect the other members in the meeting and always remain professional.

Alaafia said...

Since no student can be classified by only one assessment, and for students' needs to be met, as school psychologists there is no way we can "do it alone." Collaboration is an important aspect of our job, and if this is missing, then we can as well forget about having the child's best interests at heart. As Danielle said, respect is paramount to get anything done.

Danielle Allegra said...

As we said in class, it seems only logical that teachers should have a requirement for taking special education courses, this way not only will they stop sending every single child to the school psychologist but it might also be useful in early intervention strategies.

Rebeccca said...

In addition I think all teachers should learn about special education beucase I don't think there is a teacher out there who has not worked with a special ed student. I find this to be especially true at the high school level. I beleive educating all individuals invovled in education in special ed would make collaboration easier and more effective.

Mark said...

It would seem just like we discussed in class that educators should have a differentiated instruction approach regardless of who is in the class. We are so focused on teaching to pass state tests instead of integrating knowledge and making it interesting. I feel that if you are just trying to pass are you really learning and enjoying the learning process.

Alarys said...

Mark brings up a good point the politics has permeated the classroom so that teachers are more concerned about passing the standardized tests than teaching for the love of learning. This might be one area, if it can be helped, that might need large scale intervention from organizations such as NASP. We might have to fight to change this policy first, so teachers are more at ease and more open to learning special education strategies.

AmandaBish said...

As a school psychologist I think my role in relation to the other IEP team members to be the foundation. I feel like we will lay the ground work, lead the meetings, and organize everything. But without the rest of the pieces (teachers, parents, etc.) the plan will just crumble. I think openness is key in really finding out what is best for the student. If you hold back from really saying how you feel to the other members, you could be doing them a huge disservice. But like Danielle said, it has to be done respectfully.

My previous understanding about implementing problem-solving approaches was that it had to be evidence-based in order for anything to be used in school. In a previous project, I interviewed two teachers and asked their opinion on this. They both stated that in their classrooms, they feel they know what is best for their children, and if they want to try an approach they think will work even if there's no evidence for it yet, they should be able to.

Anel said...

I agree with Amanda in that our role is definitely one in which we will be expected to lead meetings, and help the team see how all the components fit together. In addition to respect for other members of the IEP, it is important that each person if fully aware of everyone else's roles. I don't mean in a general sense, but to really know the details. This will help foster a greater sense of appreciation for what each member is contributing.

Denise said...

I agree with Anel and Amanda.... If everyone is on board and knowledgeable about what each member of the team is supposed to contribute it may turn out to be a more collaborate and understanding experience.

Rebeccca said...

Mark, I think you are correct about only teaching to pass the test and not about real learning. Instead of doing hands on projects or writing papers, students seem to be taking practice test after practice test and not really learning skills.

My little brother is a junior in high school and is taking AP English. Every week they spend one class period taking a sample AP test where they have to read a passage and answer questions. This takes up 1/5 of their total class time so they are not learning new concepts rather practicing taking a test. Furthermore, the teacher does not understand how the test was normed so that AP students still only get about a 60% which would give them a 4 on the AP test which is really good. However, the teacher is missing this concept and everytime gives the kids a 60% (failing) grade.

Something has really been lost in translation.

Rebeccca said...

Anel, Amanda, and Denise you are correct. All individuals who are part of the school need to know what each other do and are responsible for so they can utilise each otehr's talents effectively and not waste time asking the wrong person.

This also seems to be coming up more and more with budget cuts where people are passing blame because they are not really aware of what each other does.

In my district they are cutting about 11 teachers and one said in the conference room the other day they should cut the school psych becuase all he does is sit in his office and everyone already has an IEP written so he has nothing to do.

Clearly this is an example of not knowing each others roles.

Mike said...

In addition to our role as facilitators of the problem-solving method, it is also crucial that we become advocates for change in the school psychologists' position. Many districts, administrators, and school psychologists were schooled, trained, and worked in the system prior to the introduction of IDEA and the implementation of IEP's. While we can't change the entire system by ourselves, it is important to push for changes so that we can better serve the students, teachers, and parents who greatly depend on us.