Consultation Practices of Nova Scotia School Psychologists

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Murray, Kelly
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School psychologists engage in consultation practices to better serve the psychological and educational needs of their students (Siegel & Cole, 2003). School consultation has been described as a collaborative and interdependent problem-solving process between consultants and consultees for the purpose of exchanging information. Consultants provide specialized knowledge to others while consultees seek information or assistance from others (Zins & Erchul, 2002). This model of consultation is appropriate for the school setting because consultants and consultees form a partnership and share responsibility for student outcomes (Erchul & Myers, 1996; Henning-Stout & Bonner, 1996). Consultation may be particularly important for school psychologists who work in rural communities as research has suggested that rural school psychologists encounter challenges that are unique to working in more isolated areas such as professional isolation, lack of available or accessible resources, and having to assume the role of a generalist. This study was conducted to identify and compare rural and urban Nova Scotia school psychologists’ consultation practices in their roles as consultants and consultees. It also explored what they perceived as some of the barriers and facilitators to effective consultation practices, and examined whether these differed for psychologists in urban as compared to rural settings. Surveys were sent to 66 school psychologists believed to be practicing in Nova Scotia. Thirty-eight, or 58%, were included in the data analysis. Most respondents had limited experience in the field. Fifty percent of participants had been practicing for five years or less and 92% had been practicing for 15 years or less. Findings indicated that Consultation Practices III many school psychologists who were practicing in Nova Scotia engaged in consultation practices, as consultants and consultees, on a regular basis. Significant positive correlations were found between how often school psychologists acted as consultants and consultees with various others suggesting an interdependent and reciprocal relationship between school psychologists and other professionals and non-professionals. Participants viewed working collaboratively with others to solve problems and gathering and receiving knowledge and support as important to them in their practice. Most consultation appeared to be occurring at the school-level with participants reporting that they consulted most often with school personnel and parents. School psychologists reported consulting most often for academic and behavioral issues and most reported being confident or very confident in their ability to act as a consultant for these issues. Although most participants indicated they were somewhat satisfied or satisfied with their current level of consultation, almost three quarters of all respondents reported they would like to spend more time on consultation. Respondents indicated the most significant barriers to effective consultation were heavy caseloads, doing too many psycho-educational assessments, and servicing too many schools. Facilitators to effective consultation were administrative support, time allocated for consultation, common planning time with staff, flexibility in scheduling, promoting the role of the school psychologist, effective communication, parental involvement and participation in sitebased and program planning teams, being a regular presence in schools, and shifting from a psycho-educational assessment focus to a comprehensive service delivery model. Few significant differences in consultation practices were identified among rural, urban, and combined rural and urban school psychologists. Urban participants were more Consultation Practices IV likely than rural and combined participants to act as a consultant for family doctors. Urban and combined participants were more likely to provide information to social workers. Rural participants reported being sought out more often than urban and combined participants for assistance with social-emotional issues and rated gathering information for social-emotional issues as more important. No significant differences were identified with respect to barriers or facilitators to effective consultation. The lack of significant differences may have been a result of the small number of participants in the urban and combined rural and urban groups.
Counselors , Teachers , School psychology , Nova Scotia , School psychologists