Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Developing a Global Perspective in School Psychology

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Developing a Global Perspective in School Psychology

Article excerpt

In the summer of 2012, school psychology graduate students from Michigan State University participatedin the Fellowship to Enhance Global Understanding, a study abroad program offering yearly trips to Botswana, China, Cyprus, or Vietnam. This initiative was designed to provide future researchers and practitioners with an opportunity to develop a global perspective on education and mental health. Our goal was to learn from students, families, school practitioners, and researchers in different countries while bringing our own expertise to that region. We interacted and shared research with other professionals and explored how practitioners within an entirely different cultural backdrop perceive and address many of the same academic, behavioral, and social-emotional issues that we face in U.S. schools.


The unique demands of the 21st century require school psychologists to effectively understand and work with students, families, school staff, and other professionals from diverse backgrounds. In its Practice Model, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) lists Diversity in Development and Learning as one of the foundations of service delivery upon which all other knowledge and skills rest. The ability to not only recognize how individual and group differences may necessitate differential service provision, but also to then provide the appropriate services is essential for successful school psychological practice. Indeed, the expectation for school psychologists to have the competency to understand how culture influences worldviews is one of NASP's major values and is included in its strategic plan.

In the current state of the world, borders are becoming increasingly permeable and interactions with people from different cultures occur multiple times every day. The diversity in development and learning competency put forth by NASP (2010) refers not only to our ability to think of the diversity in our local setting, but also diversity on a global scale. School psychologists must have a global perspective: a viewpoint that allows them, when considering their role and their interactions with clients, to think critically about the way in which experiences, knowledge, and learning are influenced by people and environments across the world. Inseparable from developing a global perspective is acquiring the cultural competency needed to interact and communicate effectively with people from cultures and backgrounds different from one's own.

Experts in the development of cultural competency note that facilitating self-awareness of one's own worldview is a necessary first step (Lynch & Hanson, 1998; Tatum, 2003). This involves acknowledgement that there are differences between our own worldviews and those of others and the consideration of how our own values, beliefs, and expectations may actually be biases (Lynch, 2004). While coursework and books may stimulate this type of thinking, they will not likely provide the requisite knowledge that comes only through experience within diverse systems and with diverse clients. International study and work programs can provide exceptional real-world opportunities for gaining these particular experiences.


Although the study abroad experience is a great way to enhance students' global understanding, the authors recognize that they may not be readily available to students through their respective institutions. This section offers several tips for graduate students on ways to broaden their global perspective aside from the university-sponsored study abroad program.

Seek out a study abroad program from another university. Many universities offer consortia study tours and welcome students from other universities to attend. Study abroad websites (e.g., allow students to search for programs by length, type, and general location. Traveling with a study group from a different university may increase collaboration with graduate students from other universities both nationally and internationally.

Organize an advanced practicum abroad. Though school psychology programs traditionally do not offer international practica, there are ways for graduate students to organize these experiences independently. The Handbook of International School Psychology (Jimerson, Oakland, & Farrell, 2007) is a good starting point as it provides selections that outline school psychology in different countries. Once you decide on a country and city, making contact and communicating (i.e., submitting a curriculum vitae and cover letter) with a school psychologist who might serve as your supervisor is a logical next step. An extended stay abroad may seem impossible due to the increased cost, but Nolan (2010) suggests funding the experience with international study grants and family homestays.

Take a class from an international university. Many graduate programs abroad offer accredited coursework in school, clinical, or counseling psychology that may be accepted by your university. Taking one of these classes (even online or through a summer immersion program) may help you better understand the theory and practice of training professionals and help you connect with graduate students abroad. Some of these graduate programs are in English and may be accessible to you even if you are not fluent in another language. Salamon (2011) and Steinback (2009) in recent Student Connections articles describe their summer language immersion experiences.

Seek out diverse experiences inyour current location. The art of obtaining a global perspective may not even require traveling or taking coursework abroad; it may be gained through setting up experiences within culturally diverse schools and districts and going out of your way to communicate with and learn from those students, families, and school staff. If there is a particular cultural or ethnic group that is particularly common in your local school or district, it would be wise to join a NASP online Community ( that focuses on understanding and meeting the unique needs ofthat specific group.

Join the International School Psychology Association (ISPA). ISPA strives to connect school psychologists across the globe in order to "promote communication among professionals who are committed to the improvement of the mental health of children in the world's schools" (ISPA, 2010). ISPA also advocates for the appropriate recruitment and training of school psychologists in places where there are none or there are too few. Joining ISPA and reading its publications can be the first step to connecting with international students and professionals (see

Attend an ISPA or other international conference, or attend conference sessions that focus on international or multicultural psychology. Attending these sessions will allowyouto make contact with professionals who study similar issues in diverse settings, and may open the door for you to create a study abroad or practicum abroad experience. Students often report that attending the ISPA conference (which changes host countries every year) was an integral part of the process in finding a study abroad or practicum experience (Nolan, 2010). Also, make plans to attend the numerous diversity-related poster, paper, mini-skills, and symposium sessions offered at NASP's annual convention.

Get involved with NASP's multicultural initiatives. NASP provides many publications, research articles, trainings, and workgroups that deal with multicultural issues. Publications can be accessed through the NASP website ( resources/culturalcompetence/index.aspx) and include resources on best practices in culturally sensitive assessment, consultation, and crisis response among many others. The NASP Multicultural Affairs Committee, as well as related interest groups and online Communities, strives to increase awareness of diversity issues in schools as well as equip school psychologists with the skills needed to work effectively within them. Additionally, we highly recommend Dr. Janine Jones' (2010) book, The Psychology ofMulticulturalism in the Schools: A Primer for Practice, Training, and Research. This NASP publication provides both the conceptual foundations and practical applications needed for the school psychology graduate student or practitioner to begin the process of thinking globally.


Graduate students and school psychologists can develop a global perspective in a number of different ways. However, few will be as enriching as actually spending time in a place where people's views and approaches might be different from your own. Our international experiences have afforded us with a unique lens in which to view the issues we face in working within our schools. While graduate school provides the theoretical knowledge and functional skills needed to become a competent practitioner, there are many other qualities and traits that are required to become an excellent practitioner. Typically, these qualities and traits are not developed through classroom training, but rather through rich and varied experiences that come from stepping outside of one's comfort zone and viewing common problems in uncommon ways.



International School Psychology Association. (2010). ISPA constitution. Retrieved from http:// and_Bylaws.pdf.

Jimerson, S. R., Oakland, T., & Farrell, P. T. (2007). The handbook of international school psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Jones, J. M. (Ed.). (2010). The psychology ofmulticulturalism in the schools: A primer for practice, training, and research. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

Lynch, E. W. (2004). Developing cross-cultural competence. In E. W. Lynch & M. J. Hanson (Eds.), Developing cross-cultural competence: A guide for working with children and their families (3rd ed., pp. 19-40). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

Lynch, E. W., & Hanson, M. J. (1998). Developing cross-cultural competence (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

Nolan, J. (2010). International experience in multicultural school psychology: A "do-ityourself" guide. Communiqué, 38(8), 33.

Salamon, T. (2011). The Ecuador professional preparation program: A multicultural experience. Communiqué, 39(5), 34.

Steinback, J. (2009). A firsthand experience of being a second language learner. Communiqué, 38(4), 35.

Tatum, B. D. (2003). Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? New York, NY: Basic Books.

[Author Affiliation]

JEFFREY D. SHAHIDULLAH, MARLA PFENNINGER SAINT GILLES, KAYLA A. MUSIELAK, KRISTEN S. GIRARD, and AMANDA HALL are graduate students in the school psychology program at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.

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