Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Undergraduate Students' Perceptions of School Psychology: Findings and Implications

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Undergraduate Students' Perceptions of School Psychology: Findings and Implications

Article excerpt

Abstract. The present study was an initial exploration of the fund and source(s) of knowledge that undergraduate students possess about school psychology. A total of 622 students completed a five-part inventory that assessed their understanding of various psychology disciplines. The responses given for school psychology and clinical psychology were compared across psychology majors, education majors, and "other" majors. Results indicated that although undergraduate students rated their perceived knowledge of school psychology significantly higher than clinical psychology, the mean ratings for both disciplines were low. Undergraduates utilized different sources of information to learn of clinical and school psychology. Both psychology and education majors assigned low priority to school psychology as a graduate school choice. Further, psychology majors rated clinical psychologists as being more involved in individual therapy, assessment, consultation, and research than school psychologists. The implications of these findings as they pertain to future recruitment strategies are discussed.

Over the past several decades, various survey studies have generated important findings regarding school psychology training programs. Topics such as the number of graduate training programs (Brandon & Walker, 1972; Brown & Minke, 1986; Eddy, Lloyd, & Lubin, 1987; Norcross, Hanych, & Terranova, 1996; Reschly & Wilson, 1997), numbers of students across various training levels (i.e., masters vs. specialist vs. doctorate) (curtis & Zins, 1989; Reschly & Wilson, 1997), demographic trends of graduate students (Reschly & Wilson, 1997), curricula trends within graduate programs (Brown & Minke, 1986; Wilson & Reschly, 1996), and comparison of curricular components across various psychological disciplines (Romans, Boswell, & Carlozzi, 1995) have served to illuminate the anticipated future characteristics of school psychology. Such findings have prompted calls for specific curriculum revisions in order to meet the educational and mental health needs of school-aged children and their families into the next millennium ( Knoff, Curtis, & Batsche, 1997; Kramer & Epps, 1991; Ysseldyke et al., 1997).

However, the breadth and quality of the extant literature notwithstanding, much work remains to be done in the area of school psychology training issues. For example, little at4 to reasons graduate students initially choose school psychology (as opposed to other disciplines in psychology) as a viable career option. Indeed, an extensive literature search found only one published study that has investigated this particular topic. In this report, Graden (1987) revealed that very few school psychology training programs actively recruited undergraduate students (statistically the largest applicant pool) for their programs, relying instead on more passive recruitment strategies. Graden (1987) reported that, perhaps as a result of this recruitment method, undergraduate students knew relatively little of school psychology. These findings imply that undergraduate students enter school psychology graduate programs largely through serendipitous means, rather than due to any active, systematic recru itment efforts per se.

The implications of Graden's (1987) report were of interest then, and are perhaps of even greater interest today. Given the continued changes within the field of school psychology (e.g., expansion of roles and functions to provide services within and outside of the traditional school setting, pressures from managed health care providers to abbreviate mental health services to children and families, etc.), the course and shape of school psychology will continue to be transformed. As Ysseldyke et al. (1997) note, "In the future, the nature of one's work... Will likely be defined less by title than by areas of skill and expertise...School psychologists will less likely be restrained to a psychometric testing role and will need to cultivate other areas of practice" (p. …

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