Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Opportunities and Challenges for Online Instruction in School Psychology Programs

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Opportunities and Challenges for Online Instruction in School Psychology Programs

Article excerpt

Last month, Rob Dixon started an important and long overdue conversation about the potential for online instructional practices to increase access to graduate training in school psychology (Dixon, 2017). The observations that Dr. Dixon shared about the national shortage of school psychologists (Brock, 2015; Reeves, 2016; Savage, 2016), and the local manifestation of this shortage in Wisconsin, are remarkably similar to the issues our profession faces in Washington state. The Washington State Association of School Psychologists posts positions on its website and has tracked unfilled positions in the recent past. There are 14 regions represented in the state association's organizational structure, and over 70% of the regions have had unfilled positions in the past 4 years. Currently, only four institutions offer a school psychology training program in Washington, and potential candidates in many regions do not have access to a residential program. Dr. Dixon raised the question of whether or not online education could be a viable option for individuals pursuing a degree and certification as a school psychologist. Eastern Washington University has offered a distance learning option to respecialize individuals who are working in closely related positions (e.g., counselors, special education teachers, social workers). In the early years, the program was offered through a satellite system requiring students to drive to regional centers. When better educational technology became available, the program began offering online courses with synchronous and asynchronous components. While the satellite system restricted candidates to those who lived within the state of Washington, online courses allowed candidates from other states to apply. Because some states require a degree in school psychology to practice, the program now offers an EdS in school psychology with options for working professionals to complete the entire program in 2 or 3 years.

The primary aim of the present article is to take stock of the opportunities and challenges associated with online education that exist for degree seekers and school psychology program faculty. This may not be an exhaustive list of considerations and should be viewed in the spirit of this series of articles on graduate education; it's a start.

OPPORTUNITIES

When discussing the potential for graduate programs to leverage online instruction to increase access to education, the obvious should be stated first: The barriers associated with physical distance from campuses shrink. Barriers such as physical distance, as well as other barriers to learning encountered in this profession, may be overcome using distance learning. Technology is leveraged in PK–12 settings to increase educational access including, but not limited to, flipping classrooms to maximize in-person experiential learning, bridging text and speech for students with disabilities, creating avenues of communication between families and schools, and delivering engaging multimedia content that students can watch, rewatch, and pause for note-taking. Instructional designers capitalize on the use of technology to create learning experiences that were previously unavailable or unfeasible using traditional, in-person modes of instruction. Why not use this arsenal of instructional tools and techniques to support the graduate training of school psychologists?

Successes with online education and distance learning, guided by the development of digital instructional designers, are mounting throughout institutions of higher education. Tools such as quality rubrics, best practice standards, and a growing body of teacher tools to support digital instruction and assessment are shaping this area as an academic discipline in its own right (Quality Matters, 2014). It is fairly commonplace for a university to encourage and provide support to faculty in the development of online courses or adoption of digitally based instructional practices. …

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