School Psychology Research: Combining Ecological Theory and Prevention Science

By Burns, Matthew K. | School Psychology Review, March 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

School Psychology Research: Combining Ecological Theory and Prevention Science


Burns, Matthew K., School Psychology Review


Research and the scientific method is the foundation for school psychology practice and training (Ysseldyke et al., 2006). Fortunately, research within school psychology is more rigorous than ever before and recently has had notable effects on policy and practice. The number of federally funded studies published in School Psychology Review (SPR) almost doubled between 2006 and 2010 in comparison to the previous 5 years, which represented a shift in conceptual soundness, methodological rigor, and alignment with federal priorities within school psychology research (Power & Mautone, 2011). The impact factors and immediacy index for school psychology journals, which are based on frequency with which articles in a journal are cited and used as estimates of journal quality and influence, consistently rate among the highest within educational psychology. Moreover, the provision for using response to intervention as part of the learning disability diagnostic process and the rapid increase in its use in practice are directly linked to school psychology research. The widespread use of response to intervention is an example of how our research has directly affected the lives of countless children.

Given the expanding influence of school psychology research, it is essential that journals promote ever-evolving standards of methodological rigor to lend confidence to conclusions that affect children, communities, and families. We will continue to follow published methodological guidelines (e.g., Kratochwill et al., 2010; What Works Clearinghouse, 2008) to enhance the internal validity of research conclusions and will promote the use of sophisticated designs and analyses. However, increased rigor alone does not influence practice. Ellis (2005) suggested that for educational innovations to have a lasting effect, there should be convincing research regarding its theoretical basis, its effectiveness in highly controlled settings, and the consistency of results when applied in natural settings. School psychological research has focused on effectiveness and even somewhat on consistency of implementation (e.g., Bolt, Ysseldyke, & Patterson, 2010; Hagermoser Sanetti, & Kratochwill, 2009), both of which will advance the field. However, our research has yet to adequately address theoretical implications and doing so will move our science to a more mature presence. The purpose of this article is to comment on the importance of theoretical implications within school psychological research, to discuss which theoretical orientation will advance the field, and to outline potential implications for research and practice.

Why Does Theory Matter?

Many community organizations conduct free health screenings to promote early identification of potential health difficulties. Early identification is almost always important in treating health problems, but the President of the Minnesota Academy of Family Practice argued against these health screenings, stating that potential patients were better off receiving regular physicals that examined the entire body and considered risk factors and family history, than they were to receive a "blind search for disease" (Yee, 2009). In other words, diagnosticians cannot understand risk data without fully considering the context from which they came. This is quite analogous to the role of theory within research in that the data cannot be adequately interpreted unless they are contextualized within theory.

Tharinger (2000) cautioned against an overreliance on empirically supported treatments, and suggested that instead practitioners should rely on an integration of theoretical frameworks and a working knowledge of empirical research. Practitioners are frequently presented with newly developed interventions for which the research base is still developing. School psychologists should be cautious about practices without a solid research base, but should avoid those without a theoretical foundation because theoretical and conceptual frameworks provide a structure to guide practices and solve problems (Tharinger, 2000; Tilly, 2008).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

School Psychology Research: Combining Ecological Theory and Prevention Science
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?