The Perceptions of Nova Scotia School Psychologists regarding their Roles

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Hasiuk, Maria
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For a number of years, it has been proposed that the scope of school psychological services be expanded beyond assessment to include other activities such as consultation, prevention, and research. Despite school psychologists' reported desires to expand their roles, change in this direction has been slow (Braden et al., 2001; Fagan, 2002). Many practitioners have found their roles restricted to that of "testers" and reported discrepancies between their actual and desired practice (Curtis et al., 2002; Desimone, 1999; Hanson, 2004; Jones-Wilson, 1994; Levinson, 1990; Reschly & Wilson, 1995). This study was conducted to examine the perceptions of psychologists practicing in Nova Scotia schools regarding their actual and desired role functioning, the establishment of their activities, the challenges to achieving their desired practice, and the influence they feel they have over the activities in which they engage. The intent of this research was to provide insight into the current practices and perceptions of school psychologists in the province. Thirty-four psychologists responded to this study, a 63% response rate, resulting in 32 usable surveys. Findings suggest that many factors influence how school psychologists enact their roles, such as the needs of different schools, school teams, school administrators, the prioritization of psychoeducational assessment, and individual school culture. Respondents spent the most time engaged in psychoeducational assessment, followed by report writing, behaviour assessment, and consultation. Significant differences were found between actual and desired role functioning, with psychologists wanting more time for counselling, inservicing, and prevention oriented activities and less time conducting psychoeducational assessments, writing reports, and travelling. Respondents identified a number of barriers/ challenges to their desired functioning, including heavy caseloads, others' lack of awareness of psychologists' expertise, the focus on psychoeducational assessment, and issues associated with working in a non-psychology environment. They also described strategies that enable them to gain some control over their activity allocation, such as open communication/ negotiation, educating others, and participating on school teams. Respondents reported having a wide range of influence over their activity allocation, from very low to very high.
School psychologists , School psychology , Nova Scotia , Public opinion