"School psychologists should know how to organize schools in ways that promote learning and prevent problems." - NASP, 1997.

Picture
School Psychologists play a leadership role in developing, maintaining, and fostering positive school climates. They act as agents of and advocates for change. A School Psychologist is fundamental in setting up the structure of schools and working with administration, teachers, and staff to set up student support teams, develop policies on discipline and grading, and provide leadership in fostering an environment of caring and high expectations.

Level of Competence in School Structure, Organization, and Climate = novice

Evidence
I have included coursework descriptions from my Master's of Education program that highlight my learning and knowledge base in this domain. I have also included three assignments that really show my understanding of some of the issues related to this domain. I have also included the citation for several useful, relevant influential readings that highlight best practices for School Psychologists as their role pertains to school structure, organization, and climate. To highlight my personal experience and development in this domain, I have included a certificate from a leadership course that I took as professional development in the summer of 2009. And lastly, a reflection statement will connect all of these pieces together as they relate to my competence in this domain of School Psychology.

Course Descriptions

693.54 - Advanced History, Theory, & Practice in Psychology
This course will examine (a) the history of psychological concepts in Western culture, (b) major theoretical systems and research approaches of twentieth-century psychology, and (c) the foundational assumptions of contemporary perspectives
in psychology. The course will focus on selected topics both in the intellectual as well as the institutional and social history of the discipline. In addition, this course offers a critical examination of school psychology as a specialty area of practice within the discipline of psychology. The history and current status of school psychology, the theory and research underpinnings that guide the practice of psychology in education, and the criteria that define School Psychology as a specialty area within professional psychology will also be explored.

APSY 667 - Academic and Language Assessment
Educational assessment is the process of gathering information for such purposes as better understanding a student’s academic and/or language problems, making decisions about appropriate interventions, and assessing educational outcomes.  This course provides students with a broad understanding of the history of assessment and the standards that guide assessment practices.  Attention is given to the assessment of academic areas (e.g., reading, mathematics, written language) and language skills, anchored within an understanding of how such skills develop according to contemporary theories.  The overall emphasis is on an integrated evidence-based approach to assessment that can be applied for educational planning and decision-making.


CAAP 603 - Professional Ethics
Professional Ethics addresses personal and professional ethical issues in psychology. Students will reflect critically on both personal and collective world views/values and will explore the impact of those perspectives on psychological processes and contexts. Basic ethical issues in therapeutic relationships will be considered, as well as emerging issues, conflicting loyalties in organizational settings, and responsibility to society. Integrity in teaching and scholarship will be addressed. The role of regulatory and collegial professional associations in enhancing the quality of psychological services and protecting the public from unethical and incompetent practices will be presented. The content of the course will integrate knowledge, practical skills, and student self-awareness.

Assignments

The following three assignments highlight some of the knowledge I have gained in terms of school structure, organization, and climate as they relate to policy. The first assignment highlights some background knowledge that I gained in this area in one of the first courses that I took in the Master`s of Education program on the history of school psychology and it`s relation to teaching. This document describes the change in thinking that has taken place over the years in schools in terms of the role of School Psychologists and showcases my knowledge of how School Psychologists can be instrumental in creating school structure, organization, and climate.

The second assignment is a powerpoint presentation that thoroughly describes the policies and procedures that guide special education in British Columbia. This related to my level of competence in this domain as it shows my understanding of the greater school system and "how things work".

And finally, the third assignment is a mock policy making exercise and was a partial fulfillment of the requirements for CAAP 603 - Ethics. This assignment, completed with a partner, allowed me to really think of all the levels involved in providing leadership in developing schools or programs that meet the needs of all learners, using a multidisciplinary approach.

Influential Readings

Blankstein, A. M. (2004). Failure is not an option: Six principles that guide student achievement in high-performing schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

This book is an excellent read for educational leaders. It describes and gives poignant examples of the "do's" and "don'ts" for setting up high-achieving schools. Specifically, this book is predicated on six guiding principles that I believe are effective for School Psychologists to understand as they contribute to school structure, organization, and climate. These principles are: establish a common mission, ensure achieve for all students through systems of prevention and intervention, develop collaborative teams focused on teaching and learning, engage in data-based decision making, involve the community and families, and build sustainable leadership capacity. Interestingly, these principles also overlap onto other domains of competence described on this website.

Gray, S. W. (1959). Psychologists for the public schools: A training program. American Psychologist, 14, 701-704.

This article is old, but relevant. It is a commentary by Dr. Susan Gray describing the important and "changing" role of the school psychologist in the development of school structure and organization. An excerpt from the article reads, "As superintendents will and must try out new patterns of organization and instruction under the impact of these pressures they are eager for whatever help they can find. If the psychologist can provide data or skills to aid in solving these problems, he will find his welcome in the schools." I find this article interesting given that it was written so many years ago, yet it still holds true today.

Specht, J. (2009). Inclusion defined. Retrieved from The Centre for Inclusive Education, UWO, http://www.edu.uwo.ca/inclusive_education/inclusion.asp

This web page is actually something I read in a course I took on inclusive education before entering my graduate studies and it has stuck with me ever since. Dr. Specht describes the importance of creating a welcoming school atmosphere that encourages the development of relationships for all children. She mentions that this allows all children to participate in activities and understand societal expectations as, in her opinion, schools are a microcosm of society. Although she does not specifically make the connection of the School Psychologist`s role here, I do. It seems in my mind that the School Psychologist would play a vital role in fostering policies of inclusion and thereby inclusive environments in schools. This reading also directly related to the domain of Socialization and Development of Life Competencies.

Certificate

The following certificate shows that I have completed an 18 hour course on leadership training. It also breaks down the specific competencies within leadership that were taught. I feel the knowledge I gained from this course directly improved my level of competency in this domain. It allowed me to see my role as a School Psychologist in terms of the bigger picture of school structure and organization. It also gave me the confidence to take on those leadership roles.
Picture

Reflection Statement

In my experience as a classroom teacher I have gained an understanding of school structure, organization, and climate and what it takes to create it and maintain it. Specifically, I have worked as a learning assistance teacher and have been responsible for creating and implementing systems of intervention that included outlining referral processes, assessment processes, and communicating and collaborating with teachers about interventions. I was comfortable, even at that time, taking on such a leadership role.

I have also worked with certified education assistants in my classroom and have created an environment where mutual respect is fostered and open communication is always the policy. Paraprofessionals that I have worked with as well as administrators and parents have all commented on what a safe, caring, and inviting environment I created in my classroom.

Given the knowledge and experience I have gained since, as a result of my graduate coursework, leadership training, and readings, I feel I have even further developed my competence and confidence as a leader. As a beginning School Psychologist I look forward to effecting change in school structure, organization, and climate to ensure an optimal learning environment for all students.