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 IMPORTANCE OF GAINING A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE

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.

TIPS FOR DEVELOPING A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE

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., www.studyabroad.com) 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. …

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