Saturday, September 17, 2011

Goals for Second Year

As part of my feedback on portfolio last May I was told to add a reflection statement about my experiences for each domain of school psychology. Upon entering my practicum class this fall we were instructed that completing the assignment would be required of the course, along with goals we have for our second year for each domain. Well this required a lot of reflecting about what each domain means to me, what experiences I have had, what experiences I am missing, and how I plan to get those experiences during my second year. So, I have finished reflecting and my brain is exhausted. I wanted to share what my experiences have been and what some of my goals are for the year. I also invite you to share what your individual goals might include whether you're a first, second, or third year, early school psychologist, or long-standing professional in the field. 

Domain 1: Data-Based Decision-Making and Accountability

School psychologists have knowledge of varied models and methods of assessment that yield information useful in identifying strengths and needs, in understanding problems, and in measuring progress and accomplishments. School psychologists use such models and methods as part of a systematic process to collect data and other information, translate assessment results into empirically-based decisions about service delivery, and evaluate the outcomes of services. Data-based decision-making permeates every aspect of professional practice.
                    (National Association of School Psychologists [NASP], n.d.)

Data-based decision-making is a necessary component to my work as a school psychologist. Whether I am conducting an assessment to determine special education eligibility or progress monitoring a student through response to intervention (RtI), I must rely on my data-based decision-making skills to support these choices with empirical evidence. Through the past year of practice I have had many opportunities to work on my data-based decision-making skills. In my first year of study I learned numerous assessment measures, including the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test III (WIAT-III) and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children IV (WISC-IV), and conducted two separate psychoeducational evaluations at my practicum site. I also have had experience conducting functional behavioral assessments and observations through time-sampling techniques, skills which I have already begun to use in my second year practicum placement. Lastly, I was fortunate enough to be a part of Primary Project as a Site Coordinator. In this position I was involved in the assessment of target classrooms to determine which students would benefit most from our program, as well as the progress monitoring of their progress during the course of the sessions.

While I feel I have a strong foundation in the realm of data-based decision-making I still feel that there are areas I would like to continue to improve upon. At my current placement I would like to get more experience using a variety of assessment measures that are chosen based upon the referral question and subsequent findings. I would also like to improve upon my use of the data to make decisions about a student’s educational plan and eligibility. Lastly, I would like more practice conducting functional behavioral assessments and using the data to inform intervention development. I plan to accomplish these goals by getting more hands-on in the evaluation process and asking questions regarding the choice of measures. I will also advocate for the opportunity to be a part of the process, rather than the end result. For example, I will be a part of a student support team meetings and offer my services to observe a student, conduct functional behavioral assessments, and progress monitor specified areas of concern.

Domain 2: Consultation and Collaboration

School psychologists have knowledge of behavioral, mental health, collaborative, and/or other consultation models and methods and of their application to particular situations. School psychologists collaborate effectively with others in planning and decision-making processes at the individual, group, and system levels.
                                                                            (NASP, n.d.)

Consultation and collaboration is a domain that exemplifies my work as a school psychologist. I must work together with others involved with students to understand their strengths, difficulties, personality, and environment to provide a platform for success. Consultation and collaboration does not simply refer to the teachers we communicate with on a daily basis. Parents, students, student services, and administration are involved in our work as consultants in the educational system. During my first year placement I had opportunities to work with teachers and administration involved in Primary Project. I organized formal meetings with the teachers, as well as informal check-ins to see how students enjoyed the program and the difference it was making in the classroom. I was also able to consult with teachers when it came to performing psychoeducational evaluations. I worked with teachers to learn about a student’s strengths and weaknesses within the classroom, as well as their social-emotional functioning. I then was able to bring this information into my report writing, as well as Team Meetings and Child Study Team.

Consultation and collaboration is an area I would like more experience. While I had a lot of opportunity to be a part of consultation and collaboration experiences I spent most of it as an observer. My supervisors, a school psychologist and evaluation team facilitator, were hands-on in consulting and collaborating on various committees and teams. I would like more opportunities to play a hands-on role in stated teams and with individual teachers regarding students outside the psychoeducational evaluation process, such as functional behavioral assessments. I also hope to gain experience bringing together the perspectives and input of all teachers involved in a student’s daily life in school, which is specific to the secondary educational setting (i.e., team of teachers, rotating schedule). I plan to accomplish these goals by being a part of team meetings for each grade level and getting involved with the student study team. I plan to take on responsibilities in efforts to intervene before an evaluation is recommended through consultation, intervention design, progress monitoring, and evaluating its effectiveness.

Domain 3: Interventions and Instructional Support to Develop Academic Skills

School psychologists have knowledge of human learning processes, techniques to assess these processes, and direct and indirect services applicable to the development of cognitive and academic skills. School psychologists, in collaboration with others, develop appropriate cognitive and academic goals for students with different abilities, disabilities, strengths, and needs; implement interventions to achieve those goals; and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions. Such interventions include, but are not limited to, instructional interventions and consultation.
                                                                                       (NASP, n.d.)

Interventions and instructional support to develop skills involves a developmental understanding of learning and how to best support students based on their current abilities. As a school psychologist I am to help develop an understanding for these capabilities to better inform interventions designed to promote academic success and evaluate their effect. During my first year I was involved in numerous classroom observations of students where I examined the effectiveness of instructional tools compared to the needs of a specific student and the classroom as a whole. I also conducted two psychoeducational evaluations which informed my choice of individualized recommendations presented in the reports and at the team meetings to better inform instruction.

Based on my previous experience I feel I need more support developing appropriate interventions for students, as well as developing an understanding of recommendations for students based on the findings of their psychoeducational evaluation. While I have many possible ideas, I would like support designing academic interventions that are tailored to each student and recognizing the achievability of said ideas. I also hope to gain some experience and insight when it comes to writing goals for students’ educational plans that are observable, measurable, and feasible for the classroom teachers. To achieve these goals I plan to get more involved in the writing of the individualized education plans for students. Initially, I will familiarize myself with the plans of students on my caseload and asking if their current goals are easily understood and defined operationally. I will then work to develop better informed, and potentially more practical, goals for these students based on current abilities, findings, and available supports.
Domain 4: Interventions and Mental Health Services to Develop Social and Life Skills

School psychologists have knowledge of biological, cultural, developmental and social influences on behavior and mental health, behavioral and emotional impacts on learning and life skills, and evidence-based strategies to promote social-emotional functioning and mental health. Examples include: integrating behavior supports and mental health services with academic and learning goals for children; facilitating design and delivery of curricula to help students develop effective behaviors, such as self-regulation and self-monitoring; providing a continuum of developmentally appropriate mental health services, including individual and group counseling, behavioral coaching, positive behavior support and family education and support.
                                                                                  (NASP, n.d.)

As a school psychologist it is important to recognize the impact of social-emotional functioning and abilities on academic and social success. It is my job as a school psychologist to help students develop skills in understanding social pragmatics, coping with anxiety, and promoting self-esteem. Student mental health affects every facet of their life, not just their school achievement. By helping students develop these skills it will promote their school achievement, as well as improve their self, peer, familial, and community relationships. During the spring of 2011 I attended the Massachusetts School Psychologist Association (MSPA) conference which focused on an RtI approach to behavior, as well as tools and resources available to help design interventions, specifically RIDE behavior intervention bank. During my first year placement I did not have many opportunities to work with students in regards to their social-emotional learning. Primary Project aimed to help students develop their social-emotional and life skills through child-centered play. I was also involved in observing individual counseling and group counseling sessions. However, these did not necessarily have the focus or formality I would like to have experienced. Classroom experience at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP) did provide many opportunities to learn about how to develop social and life skills that my placement did not. I have also had five years experience working with students on the autism spectrum to help develop their social and life skills during a therapeutic summer program.

My lack of hands-on experience in this realm does not represent my passion for this area of student functioning. I am currently working with President Covino to develop an analysis of the literature on social-emotional functioning and explain its importance in the educational system. In my current placement I would like to gain experience working with students who are having difficulties in the areas of social and life skills. Because of my experience working with students who have autism, while still a passion, I would like opportunities to branch outside of my comfort zone and work with students who have other life experiences that have impeded their development of said skills. I am currently involved in a social pragmatics group at my current placement, but I would like an opportunity to work with a group of students who are experiencing difficulties managing their anxiety or depression, or work with a group of students affected by relational bullying. I hope to accomplish this goal by working with my supervisors and the guidance office to fill this void in the current student services support offerings. I also would like more experiences working with individualized counseling. This is an area I know will be a great challenge and I am excited to learn more through hands-on experiences. Initially it may be helpful to shadow in a few sessions with a student and then slowly transfer over the sessions to me as the therapist.

Domain 5: School-Wide Practices to Promote Learning

School psychologists have knowledge of school and systems structure, organization, and theory; general and special education; and evidence based school practices that promote learning and mental health. They understand schools and other settings as systems. School psychologists work with individuals and groups to facilitate policies and practices that create and maintain safe, supportive, and effective learning environments for children and others.
                                                                                 (NASP, n.d.)

School-wide practices to promote learning are beneficial for all students to stay on track and maintain their social and academic achievements. These school-wide practices also help to identify students who may need additional support through tier 2 and tier 3 interventions. In my previous placement there were many different systems in place to promote learning, including Core Values and transition tickets. I did not have many opportunities to get involved in the systems as they were already in place.

At my current placement I have already noticed some of the practices used to promote learning. For example, in the seventh grade every teacher wears a microphone and each classroom has a speaker to amplify the lecture/discussions. The system is also hooked up to student hearing devices for those who are hearing impaired. Teachers use the system regardless if there is a hearing impaired student present in the classroom. I am interested in discovering more uses of assistive technology in the classroom, as well as universal designs for learning. While many of these practices were in place prior to my involvement, I hope to learn more about what is offered and used currently in the school and get involved if the occasion arises to develop new practices.

Domain 6: Prevention, Crisis Intervention and Mental Health

School psychologists have knowledge of principles and research related to resilience and risk factors in learning and mental health, services in schools and communities to support multitiered prevention, and evidence-based strategies for effective crisis response. Examples include: promoting recognition of risk and protective factors that are vital to understanding and addressing systemic problems such as school failure, truancy, dropout, bullying, youth suicide, or school violence; participating on school crisis teams; providing competent mental health services during and after crisis situations; and promoting resilience and wellness.
                                                                                (NASP, n.d.)

Prevention practices and crisis interventions are extremely important to my work as a school psychologist. As a school psychologist it is my job to recognize the needs of my school in order to determine the programming that is needed for students to prevent the indicated issue. For example, it would be important to conduct a needs assessment to determine if truancy has become a problem in my school. If truancy is in fact an issue in my school I must look for the appropriate program for my school and community to put in place in an effort to curb this issue. It is also important to be a part of the crisis team and develop the procedures in order to effectively manage it. During my first year I took part in the NASP PREPaRE workshop 1 curriculum, which will further inform my understanding of how to develop a comprehensive school crisis team. Being involved in Primary Project last year allowed me to begin my involvement in a prevention effort.

After completing a course in Preventative Mental Health in the summer of 2011 I hope to use some of my knowledge to inform my practices at my placement. I will improve upon my knowledge of what my placement’s school crisis team is, how it functions, who is involved and their role, what is done to prevent a crisis, and what happens after a crisis occurs. I also hope to have an opportunity to implement or be involved in a prevention program during my second year placement.

Domain 7: Family-School Collaboration Services

School psychologists have knowledge of family systems, including family strengths and influences on student development, learning and behavior, and of methods to involve families in education and service delivery. School psychologists work effectively with families, educators, and others in the community to promote and provide comprehensive services to children and families.
                                                                             (NASP, n.d.)

Family-school collaboration is extremely important in my work as a school psychologist. When I am working with a student, whether for an evaluation, individualized counseling, or academic intervention, I am also working with and affecting their family. In order to best serve the student I must also remember the family needs, expectations, and follow-through of the intervention at home. It is important to have a working alliance with the family to best serve the student, as their behavior and success also impacts the familial dynamics outside the school day. Just as we must be sure that student goals are understood and feasible for the teachers to help achieve, we must consider the same for the family.  During my first year placement I had many opportunities to work with families of students. I was highly involved with the families who took part in Primary Project, especially the initial phone calls and the formal meetings (i.e., Pizza with Parents). I also had many opportunities to get to know parents through team meetings. For the psychoeducational evaluations I had conducted myself, I had previously spoken with the parents regarding my involvement and then was able to share the findings with them, as well as how we planned to support their child.

In my second year placement I have already had a few opportunities to meet with parents, which has also informed my understanding of family involvement in the town I am working. I plan to be more involved with parents this year as I will be more involved with students in a variety of ways. I plan to communicate to parents the goals of my involvement, whether assessment or individualized or group counseling, as well as discussing their expectations for my involvement with their child. I plan to keep an open line of communication in order to best serve each student with which I work. I also would like to discuss the findings of my psychoeducational evaluations with parents prior to a meeting and answer questions/clarify findings.

Domain 8: Diversity in Development and Learning

School psychologists have knowledge of individual differences, abilities, and disabilities and of the potential influence of biological, social, cultural, ethnic, experiential, socioeconomic, gender-related, and linguistic factors in development and learning. School psychologists demonstrate the sensitivity and skills needed to work with individuals of diverse characteristics and to implement strategies selected and/or adapted based on individual characteristics, strengths and needs.
                                                         (NASP, n.d.)

Much of what we do as school psychologists involves identifying what students can and cannot do, and how we can help transform a can’t into a can. Diversity is not simply related to the student and their cultural and ethnic background. Diversity also relates to students with disabilities, socioeconomic differences, linguistic differences, or sexual orientation. During my first year placement I was in a school that served Black and Hispanic families. Many of the students I encountered spoke English as a second language, and many times their parents did not speak English at all. It was a learning experience for me being in team meetings with translators. Much of the time I was unsure if the message was being delivered with the correct meaning about the student.

My current placement is the almost opposite of my first year placement. Speaking only of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, majority of the students are White/Caucasian. I will not necessarily face the same cultural and linguistic differences, but I will encounter differences in socioeconomic backgrounds. On the outside the town is of high socioeconomic standing, but like in many other communities there are also discrepancies. I have also found that there are more students with visible disabilities, such as being in a wheelchair or having a visual impairment.  I am excited to learn about the various low-incidence disabilities students have and how I can better serve them. I am also interested in finding ways to empower diversity among students; turning the assumed negative into a positive. I am excited to expand my own personal definition of diversity, and subsequently expand the definition for others.

Domain 9: Research and Program Evaluation

School psychologists have knowledge of research design, statistics, measurement, varied data collection and analysis techniques, and program evaluation sufficient for understanding research and interpreting data in applied settings. Examples include: evaluating and synthesizing a cumulative body of research findings as a foundation for effective service delivery; incorporating techniques for data collections, analyses, and accountability in evaluation of services at the individual, group and system levels; and applying knowledge of evidence-based interventions and programs in designing, implementing, and evaluating the fidelity and effectiveness of school based interventions plans.
                                                     (NASP, n.d.)

Research and evaluation is important in my work as a school psychologist, but it can also be easily forgotten. You can spend infinite hours designing an intervention for a student or group of students, but never evaluate its effectiveness through the collection or formative and/or summative data. During my first year I spent a lot of time progress monitoring students to determine whether or not they were achieving as would be expected (e.g., DIBELS). Teachers also evaluated students’ progress from Primary Project at the half-way point and at the conclusion of the program. This past year we asked the teachers to also evaluate the progress of students not in the program so we could compare those involved to their peers. I also conducted an individual research project while at my placement during my first year. I evaluated the teacher’s perceptions of the effectiveness of the structured recess program that was in place at my school. After completing my research paper and presenting my findings at the Student Affiliates in School Psychology (SASP) conference at Northeastern University in the spring of 2011, I submitted my proposal for the poster presentation portion of the NASP Conference in 2012. I am currently waiting to hear if my research was chosen.

During my second year placement I hope to find other ways to integrate research and evaluation into my practices. I plan to ask for opportunities to get involved in collecting data on both individual students and on larger scales. I hope to have an opportunity to evaluate implemented programs, whether school-wide, grade-wide, or class-wide, as well as interventions implemented for individual students. I also hope to use research and evaluation techniques to determine the effectiveness of techniques discussed during individual or group counseling, such as relaxation for test anxiety.

Domain 10: Legal, Ethical, and Professional Practices

School psychologists have knowledge of the history and foundations of school psychology, multiple service models and methods, ethical, legal and professional standards; and other factors related to professional identity and effective practice as school psychologists. They demonstrate skills to provide services consistent with ethical, legal and professional standards; engage in responsive ethical and professional decision-making; collaborate with other professionals; and apply professional work characteristics needed for effective practice as school psychologists, including respect for human diversity and social justice, communication skills, effective interpersonal skills, responsibility, adaptability, initiative, dependability, and technology skills.
                                                           (NASP, n.d.)

Understanding of the legal, ethical, and professional practices of school psychologists are critical in my everyday functioning in the profession. The ethical and legal guidelines of psychology and NASP inform each decision we make on a daily basis, whether consent or confidentiality. It is important to remember these ethical and legal guidelines while we practice, but also remember that we always have the resources of mentors, other professionals, and professional organizations to help us make the legal and ethical choice in any tough situation. During my first year placement I felt tightly bound by the legalities of being a practicum student, and currently still do. Getting consent from parents can be difficult when you are a graduate student as can being involved in a case with students who have grown to trust your supervisor when you are then thrown into the mix. Understanding the positions of school psychologists and what we are required to do in a given situation does not always align with the stipulations of the school district in which you are working. This can pose a challenge for making ethical decisions. In my previous placement two budgetary options were proposed to the child study team: conduct a necessary bilingual assessment or have protocols during the following school year. My supervisor stood up for the legal and ethical infractions making a forced choice posed. Having to stand up for situations such s these can be nerve-wracking, but are necessary to keep the best interest of students. There is also the matter of filing a 51A. In my first year placement this was, unfortunately, a frequent occurrence. The numerous legal and ethical processes involved can be overwhelming and you must still maintain your composure while a child discloses their innermost struggles related to abuse and/or neglect.

In my placement this year I would hope that I will not face any ethical and legal situations where individuals are not adhering to what is written in law, but I know that this is not realistic. My goal is not be a culprit of any situations in which appropriate ethical or legal action was not taken. Ensuring I have parental consent for all interactions with students regarding psychoeducational evaluations, interviews, and individualized and group counseling will be critical. A real challenge will be the discussion of confidentiality. Establishing rapport based on the definition of confidentiality and understanding I will be sharing information with my supervisors will be important. I hope to help students understand what confidentiality means when working with me as a practicum student, as well as developing a child-friendly explanation of what it means to convey these points. As a graduate student I still struggle with all of the nuances and exceptions to confidentiality, so it will be important to make myself more familiar and subsequently help students understand them. 

Until next thyme,

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