"Experiential and linguistic differences can also result in learning difficulties and apparent disabilities. School psychologists must be effective in assisting schools in identifying what is needed for these students to succeed..." NASP, 1997.

School Psychologists today are facing more diversity in their profession than ever before. Families are changing and more children are being brought up by single parents, and cities are becoming more culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse. With these changes in society comes a recognition of a wider variety of unique talents and strengths in learners. Also, children and youth are presenting with more unique and varied weaknesses in learning. School Psychologists play a fundamental role in recognizing and designing effective instruction plans to foster these unique strengths and talents and overcome any weaknesses or barriers to successful learning. In doing so, School Psychologists must also recognize their own biases about diversity and how these affect their professional practice.

Level of Competence in Student Diversity in Development and Learning = novice

Coursework from my Master's of Education program has really informed my level of competence in this domain. Descriptions of relevant coursework and their relation to my competency are listed below. I have also included an assignment that really shows my thinking and reflection in this area. Also, an annotated bibliography of a textbook that I think highlights important issues in this domain is included. Also in this section, I include the citation for a useful, relevant article that emphasizes the importance of recognizing one's own biases in order to become a competent professional who is aware of student diversity in development and learning. I have also included a video  that raises some important issues and summarizes my perspective in this domain. 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

APSY 674 - Interventions to Promote Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Well-being
This course promotes socio-emotional and behavioral well-being of children and youth who have emotional disturbances and behavioral problems in school and community settings. Weekly group discussions will focus on salient issues and practices relative to children and adolescents who have
emotional and behavioral problems.

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.

APSY 693.48 - Family and Social Bases of Behavior
This course examines theoretical perspectives and contemporary research on socialization processes in childhood and adolescence, with particular emphasis on family and peer interpersonal relations. This course examines connections between family and the education system including parent involvement in schools. Additional topics include peer group processes, prosocial behavior, and social responsibility. The role of gender, culture and diversity in development are pervasive themes throughout the course. The emphasis throughout this course is on building resilience in children and families to overcome adversity.


The following assignment is a discussion board posting in response to questions about diversity and personal beliefs, as part of the requirements for CAAP 603 - Professional Ethics. It outlines a brief examination and recognition of my own personal biases as well as the dilemmas inherent in dealing with diverse populations as a School Psychologist.

Influential Readings

Ambert, A. M. (2006). Changing families: Relationships in context (Can. ed.). Toronto: Pearson.

This textbook takes a comprehensive look at the changing nature of families in Canada. It tackles sensitive and controversial issues such as divorce, separation, and single parenting, same-sex partnerships, extramarital affairs and their impacts on families, issues facing immigrant families, and family violence and abuse, as well as much more. The entire textbook has had an impact on developing my level of competence as a School Psychologist in student diversity in development and learning, however one chapter in particular is worth mentioning: Chapter 4 - Cultural diversity and adaptations: Canada's ethnic and immigrant families, This chapter highlights some of the unique needs of and learning styles of children from immigrant families.

Moule, J. (2009). Understanding unconscious bias and unintentional racism. Phi Delta Kappan:The Journal for Education, January, 321-326.

This article completely opened my eyes to the process and importance of recognizing my own biases. Every School Psychologist should read this article and scrutinize honestly their beliefs before beginning to practice as a professional. To quote the article, "Acknowledging our possible biases and working together openly is essential for developing community in our schools." This article urges professionals to truly examine their own biases at least to be aware of them in order to work together openly with others.

Simpkins, G., Gunnings, T., & Kearney, A. (1973). The black six-hour retarded child. Journal of non-white concerns in personnel and guidance, 2, 29-34.

This is a wonderful article that highlights the importance of looking at children first as children, not as disorders and recognizing the strengths of an individual before labelling their weaknesses. This article also presents some of the struggles faced by minority families and the importance of school systems recognizing the differences in their learning styles and life circumstances. It also clearly illustrates the fallacy of thinking of minority children as disadvantaged, rather than thinking they are placed in situations where they are at a disadvantage. This article is also influential in pointing out the importance of adaptive functioning when looking at possible diagnoses of mental retardation. On a bigger level, it challenges me to constantly question what is a "disorder" versus what is "socially unacceptable".


The following video clip is the story about making the movie "Freedom Writers". The movie is based on a true story of a teacher who changed the lives of her diverse students, and how they changed hers. She was able to teach more than just curriculum to a group of students that everyone else thought was "unteachable" by being respectful, listening to their stories, and finding ways to tap into their potentials. The movie itself is a must see for all professionals working in education. Watching this movie helped me to recognize the need to identify all students' learning needs and recognize my own biases in my professional practice. The following clip summarizes the story, its importance, and the importance of discussing and recognizing one's own biases towards diverse populations.

The clip contains some disturbing scenes and coarse language.

Reflection Statement

The learning that I have done about myself in this domain as a result of my coursework, assignments, readings, and reflections is far greater than the learning I have done about the specific learning needs of diverse groups of students. For that reason, I feel I am at a novice level of competency in this domain, rather than an intermediate level.

As a teacher, I have gained some experience in identifying the unique learning needs of diverse groups of students and modifying my curriculum and instructional practices accordingly. During my internship, I feel that this experience will help me to do the same for other teachers, at a school level. Moreover, the specific strategies I have learned for identifying and recognizing diverse learning needs as a result of my coursework in the Master's of Education program will also serve me well in this domain.

Going forward, I feel I have developed a sense of awareness of my own personal biases and background influences. As such, I am better able to prevent these from interfering with my decision making, instruction, behavior, and ultimately long-term outcomes for students. I look forward to gaining more insight and experience into this domain by learning from other professionals during my internship.