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Monday, December 2, 2013

Going Beyond Data...

We have learned how useful evidence-based data can be to a School Psychologist. This chapter discusses how the School Psychologist plays an essential role in assisting other school staff in understanding and using that data. School Psychologists are described as “knowledge brokers” (Schaughency, 548) because they communicate information about evidence-based assessments.

Data based decision making is key to improving outcomes and it is essential to the RTI model. Evaluation data supports delivery of services and decision making by aiding with communication to parents and teachers, known as internal stakeholders, as well as administrators, known as external stakeholders.. To evaluate evidence-based competence-building practices summative and formative evaluations are used. Summative evaluations are used after the intervention to answer the question “was the intervention effective?” Formative Evaluations are conducted during the intervention to evaluate if the intervention is having the desired effect so that plan can be adapted to accomplish the outcome.

The interpretation of the data is essential. The person presenting the information needs to be cognizant of the audience who will be presented with the data. When explaining data it is important to remember that basic statisticial concepts known to psycholigists may not be easily understood by other school personell or parents. The information should be conveyed in a way that is understood by all involved. It is suggested that the school psychologist eliminate jargon and utlize graphs to convey information.

While data can be very useful, it is only useful if it is readily available. The availability of data at the time of decision making is essential. The authors cite the example of a student's achievement tests being sent out for processing and not returning until after the school year has ended, rendering the data useless.

During your practicum experience you have probably witnessed decisions having to be made quickly. How does the fast-paced atmosphere of a school (including demanding teachers and parents) allow for evaluation data? What is the likelihood of the data being available when you need it? Is the majority of decision making that you've seen in your practicum been based on evidence-based data?

There are two major foundational elements that underlie implementation of the problem-solving model; the problem solving methods and the problem-solving framework. In the problem solving method, four main questions posed are: 1. “what is the problem?” which involves exploring the discrepancy between what is expected of the student and what is occurring, 2. “Why is the problem occurring?” which is referred to as the problem analysis, 3. “What should be done about the problem?” relating to reducing problem magnitude, and 4. “Is what we are doing working?” which examines data on the student’s progress over time and the degree to which the problem has lessened over time. Out of these questions, which do you think is the most important/influential in the process? Do you think that there is any one question, that without, the problem-solving model would not be able to function efficiently?

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, a problem-solving framework used was called The Heartland approach. This approach had no specific rules for students to move from one phase to the next, and the problem-solving logic was applied to individual cases, based on the student’s educational environment (Tilly III, Niebling, Rahn-Blakeslee, p.583). This model had limitations; it was reactive rather than proactive, teachers had trouble implementing a large number of individual plans while also teaching a class, and teachers viewed the model as a way to place students into special education. The new framework that supports the problem-solving method is systems framework, the model we are all familiar with, RTI. The systems framework encourages psychologists to hold five assumptions, which are: 1. the scientific method guides decision making, 2. direct, functional assessments provide the best information for decision- making, 3. learning is an interaction between curriculum, instruction, and the environment, 4. all students can learn, and 5. effective interventions are matched to unique student needs. After reading about Heartland approach and the systems framework and encouraged assumptions, do you think there are any positives that the Heartland approach exhibited that you would like to see implemented into the systems framework/RTI approach? In your practicum experiences, have you seen a model with characteristic of the Heartland approach implemented, or does the school psychologist stick more closely to the RTI method?

Daly, E.J., Ervin, R.A., Merrell, K.W., & Peacock, G.G. (2010). Practical Handbook of School Psychology. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

This Blog was created by: Alison Stratthaus & Jessica Maneri

Crunching Numbers

This blog describes the school psychologist’s role in using data collection and interpretation to support the implementation and evaluation of interventions. For example, why data should be used, what data should be used, and how data should be gathered and utilized. Important to note is that idea that simply gathering the data is not sufficient. Interpreting the data and determining how it should be presented and used is the focal point. Specifically, two types of data should be collected: data related to “student’s functioning in the academic or social domain of interest and, the instructional or socialization contexts relevant to those domains” (p. 551). Technology can be used to gather data either at an individual, group, or school-wide level. For example, databases containing student’s data be updated as soon as the data becomes available so that data-based decisions can be made in a time efficient manner. Teachers, principals, parents, and other stakeholders may not have a heavy statistical background and therefore it is the job of the school psychologist to present that data in a way that is easy to understand. This allows all team members to be more likely to support the data-based decision to implement an intervention.

In addition to collecting and interpreting data, as always, the school psychologist is responsible for understanding the different team members involved in the intervention. The characteristics of the user and the context of the intervention must not be overlooked; “professional development and support for implementation should be integrated into the organization” and “school psychologists can facilitate organizational development via activities such as educative and skill-building professional development, problem and systems analysis, and team development” (p. 556). However, other’s willingness to embrace such training depends on their individual experiences with interventions, the school climate, and their own responsibilities. In general, once the data has been collected and interpreted, the psychologist’s “challenge is to maintain focus on the relationships between indices of student performance, strategies implemented to target performance, and systems and routines for examining these data in problem solving” (p.562).

Given the information presented in the chapter the following questions arose in our minds and we would like to get your thoughts:
1.) Do you think it is fair or even feasible to task the school psychologist with gathering, interpreting, and presenting data and also getting everyone onboard with using the date to make decisions?

2.) How do you think a school psychologist should approach a situation in which one or more teachers are not willing to participate in professional development workshops?

3.) Do you think the school is making a good decision by putting all the responsibility on one person to interpret data?

The problem-solving method gives psychologists a data based framework when identifying problems and solutions. The problem-solving framework promotes the application of the problem-solving method. The problem-solving method is driven by answering a set of four questions;
1) What is the problem?
2) Why is the problem occurring?
3) What should be done about the problem?
4) Is what we are doing working? The point of the problem-solving framework is to reinforce problem-solving behaviors.

Problem solving cannot be successful without basic skills. Psychologists need to be trained in both tool skills and the thinking process, be knowledgeable in the use of data from not only students but staff skills as well, and lastly, it is recommended that the school psychologist have an ongoing support system for implementation.

There are two frameworks; a framework that is very effective for individual cases and a framework that is helpful in larger, school wide cases. The second framework can also be geared towards individual cases but also can be a preventative method. There are pros and cons to each of these frameworks. Can you think of a situation where you might use one over the other?

Daly, E.J., Ervin, R.A., Merrell, K.W., & Peacock, G.G. (2010). Practical Handbook of School Psychology. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

This Blog was created by: Alicia Marie Balkjy & Olivia Mounet