The Dispositions of Three School Psychologists Regarding Cultural Responsiveness
Edwards, Thelissa A.
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Background: School psychologists have the ability to leverage a substantial degree of subjectivity in their findings, conclusions, and recommendations that may greatly contribute to the determinations of identification, placement and discipline of school-aged students with disabilities. Long-standing, consistent and established evidence-based research exists that supports the significant educational, economic, and emotional disparities that correlate with cultural differences. It is therefore incumbent upon school psychologists to carefully consider their role in the process of actively contributing to this dynamic through self-reflective practices that support culturally responsive assessment and practices. Purpose: The primary research question of this study is how will practicing school psychologists across a variety of experience levels collectively inform their involvement in and interpret the importance of culturally responsive practices in their current role? Additional sub questions addressed in this study included: What constitutes relevant and applicable culturally competent education, training, and support for practicing school psychologist and special education staff? Are the culturally responsive practices of practicing school psychologists lower than entering school psychologists due to an emphasis on promoting diversity and cultural responsiveness in school psychology graduate training programs? Methods: This qualitative study analyzed the perceptions and variety of experiences of school psychologists regarding cultural responsiveness. The research exclusively studied three currently practicing school psychologists who support students in large metropolitan school districts in the Greater Houston area. Each study participant engaged in a total duration of three interactions, including the completion of a 40-question self-assessment checklist, interview, and participation in a focus group session. The total duration of an individual subject’s participation in the study was two hours. Results from the self-assessment were used to frame an interview protocol. The data collected from the individual interviews was analyzed to determine common patterns and emerging themes pertaining to beliefs about cultural responsiveness in relation to school psychologists, resulting in five focus group questions. Finally, research participants participated in a focus group to discuss their perception of their assessment results and overall experience. Results: Overall, findings from the study indicate that school psychologists perceive that they bear the professional and ethical responsibility to monitor the degree to which they employ the ongoing practice of cultural responsiveness in the school setting. However, they collectively noted that they lack the capacity and support in their current roles to perform this function. Study data revealed that several factors influenced this dynamic, including the role, training and professional development of school psychologists, their relationship with mental health and academic achievement, school discipline, including disproportionality in special education, bias and equity, and the practicality of culturally responsive practices. Conclusion: Upon completion of the data analysis, information from the self-assessment checklists, interviews, and focus groups provide ample evidence that while school psychologists hold beliefs that culturally responsive practices are essential to the effective fulfillment of their role to support students and families, many barriers exist to their ability to provide services in this manner. Implications for future study include the identification of ways in which school psychologists can reduce barriers to practice cultural responsiveness.