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Monday, December 2, 2013

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


Rifka Zacharia said...

In my practicum experience and from the literature, amongst the many responsibilities of the school psychologist, another is being the bridge that communicates between the many relevant people in each case. Often times, it is the school psychologist who sets the I&RS or CST meetings, making sure that the parents and the school-based teams are properly communicated with. If there is a need for out-of-district appointments, it is the school psychologist who must marshal the resources to make sure that the meeting is successful and relevant. The school psychologist is the advocate for the child, their family, and the school. It is an interesting position to be in. They must work in the best interest of the child and their family while maintaining the policies set forth by the district and state that employs them. There will be times when the best interest of the child will conflict with the statements made by teachers, parents and administration, it is the responsibility of the school psychologist to make the responsible decision that best suits the child’s educational and emotional needs. I believe that the school psychologist, by the nature of the rapport they establish in the school system earns the respect of their peers and is able to work through difficult situations with teachers and administration as they arise.

Florencia Torres said...

When I think of the school psychologist as the one person responsible to gather, interpret, and present data, this thought becomes quickly an overwhelming one.
However, I think it is necessary to realize that school psychologists perform their roles as part of a team. Work in schools is often conducted by teams, and school based teams are commonly used in initiatives to implement data-based decision making in multi-tiered service delivery (p.559). The role of the school psychologist within a system is to be effective system consultants contributing and assisting in team formation. This involves determining who is going to do what in the team and how members are going to interact in the task of managing and using data for problem solving at a systems level. I visited an elementary school today where the teachers were in charge of gathering data for the students. Each student has a folder that contains reading, writing, and math test results, copies of e-mails with the parents, as well as any other piece of information that may affect the child’s academics. When a student is identified to be at risk these data is passed on to the I&RS for further evaluation and intervention design. I think the function of the school psychologist in this situation would be to provide teachers with the support and the tools necessary to collect data in an efficient and unbiased manner, and to assist and guide the I&RS to develop data driven interventions. I don’t think it is the school psychologists sole responsibility to gather, interpret, and present data. I think their responsibilities include to act as consultants to aid in the training and development of team members so they can also perform these tasks.
One of the main tasks of the school psychologist is to train school personnel to be able to function within the RTI problem solving framework. If certain school personnel refuses to attend to professional development workshops I would try to design a framework that encourage them and motivate them to participate. Below are some ideas:
1- The workshops need to be relevant to the problematic teachers or other school personnel are likely to experience, or have been experiencing, in the classroom. It’s important to make them see the connection between skill acquisition and job effectiveness where, through skill acquisition, they will not only gain control over the classroom but they will also be able to better contribute to the academic development of the students.
2- Create a point system where each workshop allows the participants (educators) to earn points towards the end of the semester evaluation.
3- Make certain workshops mandatory

Fabio Simao said...

Rifka mentions how her experiences within her practicum and the literature highlight the role of the school psychologist as the bridge between stakeholders. Indeed collaboration and consolation are two facets within the field that are critical to the success of any school psychologist. We are advocates for the children we aim to help and must therefore coordinate the team that will inevitably affect the appropriate change. We must remember that each person within this team has his/her own set of skill sets and responsibilities they bring to the table. As psychologists, we focus on the scientific method when problem solving as well as gathering and interpreting data. This skill is essential to not only collecting actionable data but also, and just as importantly, its interpretation. We are therefore called upon to be the leader in data gathering and dissemination to produce positive and measurable results, and justifiably so. Look at it this way; administrators wouldn’t come to us when they need answers about payroll, building management, who to fire or hire, and (to a certain extent) what curriculum the fourth grade should be using. These questions are best answered by those professionals that have the necessary skills to address these matters.

However, we also occupy a unique position within a school system in that our role is not static and contained to just one domain. That is, we must work hand in hand with administration, teachers, parents, students, and others. Communication then becomes (after we properly gather and interpret data) our most potent tool. As is detailed in the table on page 556 of the text, we must remember and adhere to a set number of guidelines for communicating data. The most point to take away from this table is that we must be clear, concise, and free of confusing language so that every person involved has an understanding of what the data says and how it directs our subsequent actions/interventions. Admittedly, this is something I have some trouble with and has come to light as I write my cognitive assessment reports. Our training is heavy of technical definitions, procedures, and jargon. We are taught within the bubble of a guiding paradigm. We communicate with professors, peers, and professionals with the understanding that we share a familiarity with these technicalities and the specialized language we use to communicate them; yet we aren’t confined to this bubble. We must convey what are oftentimes complex and dynamic procedures and findings in a clear and effective manner. This is certainly a challenge I will face and I wonder if I am alone in this assessment. Am I alone?

Lawrence said...

Rifka makes a good point in her comment. She doesn't disagree with the different things the school psychologist has to do, but accepts it as their responsibility in working toward what best suits the child's educational and emotional needs. I agree that school psychologists should have the respect of their peers, administration, teachers, students, and student's parents to have them participate in interventions that may need their assistance. Even though the school psychologist is in charge of gathering the data, implementing the data, and communicating the data and intervention between so many different people, they still can't do it alone. They will need the support of administration, parents, and teachers in order to give the intervention she's implemented a chance for success. This is where her respect and credentials come in handy. If she is respected, all of these people will be more ready to participate and help in the success of the child. Also, if the data she gathers and explains to them are valid and relevant to a well thought out intervention, they will be more likely to do everything they are suppose to do knowing that they are involved in something that was well designed, researched, investigated, and likely to be successful.

roseann briza said...

I would like to answer the question about how should a school psychologist approach a situation in which one or more teachers are not willing to participate in professional development workshops. Professional development will give a teacher the skills and knowledge for both personal development and career advancement. It is import to try to get the teacher to understand how the professional development will benefit the teacher within the classroom. The psychologist will need to help the teacher clarify the value of skills and concepts of the professional development workshop and how it will help the teacher deal with certain situations. They will also have to help the teacher find personal meaning regarding the information discerned in the workshops.

Fabio Simao said...

I would have to agree with Roseann about the responsibilities that a school psychologist has in ensuring that team members (mainly teachers) understand the skills taught to them in any professional development. However, going back to the last question posed by Flor, I believe these workshops and development opportunities should be made mandatory and not fall under the many responsibilities of a school psychologist. Musch like teachers are required to attend curriculum and related discipline workshops throughout the year, the same should hold true for those that are psychological/behavioral in nature. The school psychologist perhaps might function as a leader within these meetings and certainly provide clarity and support in the days/weeks/months that follow. Sure it requires an investment of time to attend these continuing education workshops, yet the potential positive results that come from them is certainly well worth it. In the end the teachers will be more educated, maintain a better learning environment within their classrooms, and create an ongoing collaborative culture with school psychologists and all stockholders. Most importantly, the children will reap the ultimate benefits.

EstelaLopez said...

As everyone has made excellent points, I also agree with a couple points made in this blog. As Rifka and others mentioned, the school psychologist earns respect. The relationships within the school staff, school psychologist, and parents need to be solid because the manner in which the relationships develop determines how seamlessly the teamwork process unfolds. The school psychologists is part of a team and every team needs a leader which in this case would be the school psychologist. Although everyone is held responsible, the school psychologist is the initiator and information gatherer and interpreter. Through my practicum experience, I've encountered many teachers who claim they are willing to stay after school and work with other staff to improve the educational environment. So if the teachers are willing why isn't this occurring? Well, there is no one willing to initiate such meetings. It may sound unfair for the school psychologist to gather, interpret, and present the data but the school psychologist is part of a team where collaborative effort helps ease this process. There will be staff who are not willing to participate in the professional developmental workshops but making those meetings mandatory will help solve that issue as you all have mentioned. Teachers need the ongoing support of the school psychologist and having such meetings will allow for the support to be present. Not only will the students benefit but so will the teachers by acquiring knowledge which will then be translated through their teaching methods. School psychologists would not bare the weight of collecting all data, this would be the teachers' responsibility since it is the teachers who interact with the students the most. They’re the front line people who identify social, emotional, or behavioral concerns. A school psychologist will collect data gathered by teachers, interpret it, then present the data before teachers and how to go about implementing methods in the classroom. I personally don't see it as one person doing all the work, it is more like one person initiating and guiding others towards finding a solution.

Lawrence said...

School psychologist should approach teachers not willing to participate in one or more professional development workshop by finding ways to connect what is being taught in the workshop to what is going on in the classrooms. School psychologists should try to convince teachers that these workshops are important and connected to the ever-changing technology, laws, research, techniques and reforms that are constantly being implemented. The times and students are also always changing, which means the workshops will be used to stay ahead of the curve and on top of our games with the smart, technology savvy kids we’re trying to be a step ahead of. If the teachers still aren’t interested in attending the professional development workshops then the school psychologist should forget about it and continue to work on all the other tasks they are expected to do. The school psychologist shouldn’t have to babysit teachers and ask them over and over to attend workshops because it is not the school psychologist’s responsibility. It would be nice if they attended and learned something new about handling and dealing with their students, but if not, they should be facing their boss, who is the principle. The principle should be responsible for getting the teachers to attend the professional development workshops, and the school psychologist should just be encouraging it. The principle should make all or most of the meetings mandatory, so the teachers are guaranteed to continue to learn and become better educators. When teachers miss lots of helpful workshops, it shows how much they really care about being the best teacher they can possibly be. At my practicum, Ms. Crowley (the school psychologist) hardly talks to the teachers about anything. She primarily communicates to the child study team, and communicates to the teachers through written documentations on students (IEP’s), but never on workshops; I guess she knows at the end they will do what they want anyway.

Craig Barriale said...

It seems as though I am late to the party for this thread, but better late than never, right? As usual, everyone's responses are insightful and well-developed, but I would like to respond to Lawrence's entry. As a teacher, I think that everything he said is great. The majority of teachers do not take workshops seriously. Unfortunately, workshops have really become something that many teachers perceive as an annoyance and a waste of time. Teachers are very structured and become creatures of habit so when something like a workshop is introduced into the mix it becomes something that many oppose. I have been to multiple workshops where teachers will sit there for the allotted time, leave, and learn nothing. Now, the teachers in this situation are not completely at fault. Many of the workshops teachers are presented with are nothing to write home about. It seems the worst case is when outsiders come in to present information that clearly have no education experience. Many teachers do not want to listen to someone speak about what they should be doing in the classroom when the speaker has never been in a classroom themselves. This speaks to Lawrence's point that the school psychologist he shadows hardly ever talks to the teachers because she knows they will just do what they want. Unfortunately, it seems as though there is a disconnect between the teachers and the child study team. This could be due in part to the members of the child study team not being teachers in the past. My school psychologist also does not frequently speak with teachers, but does have a good rapport with the ones she does speak with. As a current teacher and potential school psychologist I believe that my classroom experience will be a great asset in the future. Only time will tell.