ERIC Identifier: ED391986
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Smith, Douglas K.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Cooperation between School Psychologists and Counselors in
Assessment. ERIC Digest.
The role of school psychologists and counselors in assessment is well
established and is a frequent research topic. For example, a review of the ERIC
database from 1987 to 1994 revealed 64 entries for "assessment and school
psychology" and 622 entries for "assessment and counseling." Similar results
were obtained for a review of the Psychological Abstracts database with 146
entries for "assessment and school psychology" and 924 entries for "assessment
and counseling." However, studies that explored the joint role of counselors and
school psychologists in assessment could not be located. With the current
emphasis on collaboration in schools and the use of a pupil services model to
deliver services of counselors, school psychologists, school social workers and
school nurses, it is important to examine ways in which school psychologists and
counselors can work together in the assessment process.
SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS AND ASSESSMENT
While the assessment
activities of school psychologists emphasize services to children and youth,
usually within a school setting, the assessment activities of counselors
frequently cover a wider age range and emphasize the adult population. The
assessment of individual students is both the traditional and the major role of
school psychologists (Fagan & Wise, 1994). In fact, surveys of school
psychologists continue to show that the majority of their time is centered on
assessment activities. A recent survey (Smith, Clifford, Hesley, & Leifgren,
1992) indicated that the typical school psychologist devoted 53% of his or her
time to assessment with the assessment of intellectual ability being the primary
focus. Techniques that are used emphasize structured, standardized formats with
an emphasis on quantitative rather than qualitative approaches (Smith &
Mealy, 1988; Smith, Clifford, Hesley, & Leifgren, 1992). In general, the
school psychologist's involvement in assessment begins with a student who has
been referred by a parent or teacher for academic or behavioral difficulties. As
part of the assessment process, an individual test of intelligence and an
achievement test are likely to be administered. Additional data that are
collected may include behavioral observations, rating scales completed by
teachers and parents, and interviews with the student and with the student's
parents and teachers.
COUNSELORS AND ASSESSMENT
As Hood and Johnson (1991) note, "assessment is an integral part of counseling...[and] provides information that
can be used in each step of the problem-solving model" (p. 11). In general,
assessment information is used to clarify concerns of clients, to plan programs
or interventions and evaluate their effectiveness, to provide career planning
information, and to assist clients in understanding themselves. Thus,
counselors, especially in school settings, are more likely than school
psychologists to be involved in developmental assessment approaches that are
holistic in nature, are qualitative rather than quantitative, and emphasize
developmental norms. These approaches may include checklists or rating scales,
unfinished sentences, writing activities, decision-making dilemmas, games, art
activities, story-telling and bibliotherapy techniques, self-monitoring
techniques, role-play activities and play therapy strategies (Vernon, 1993).
Surveys of counselors in different counseling settings including counseling
agencies, secondary schools, and private practice indicate that counselors use a
variety of test instruments with an emphasis on interest inventories,
personality inventories, and aptitude tests (Hood & Johnson, 1991).
Both school psychologists and counselors are involved in the assessment
process with differing emphases and orientations that are complementary to each
other. School psychologists often emphasize the use of quantitative approaches
to measure ability and academic skills while counselors often utilize
developmental as well as qualitative approaches to assess personality
characteristics, interests, and aptitudes. The two approaches, when combined,
can offer a more comprehensive picture of a student than either approach alone.
MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAMS AND COLLABORATION
With the advent
of Public Law 94-142 (the Education of All Handicapped Children Act) and the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), emphasis was placed on a
multidisciplinary approach to assessment and placement activities for students
referred for possible disabilities. Multiple sources of information, multiple
procedures and multiple settings are required in order to develop a
comprehensive understanding of students' needs and abilities. The basis for such
an approach is collaboration among professionals including regular education
teachers, special education teachers, administrators, pupil services personnel,
Collaboration, of course, is not a new concept. Sullivan (1993) describes it
as "a reform movement that has been gaining in momentum over the past five
years" (p. 1) and suggests that it was created as a response to the
fragmentation in service delivery that often occurs in educational and mental
health settings. Both benefits and obstacles are associated with collaboration.
A major benefit of collaboration is the opportunity to create a more
comprehensive approach to service delivery. It facilitates development and
sharing of new perspectives on how students can be served and promotes improved
communication among those working with students. Collaboration can also foster
an emphasis on prevention and can create more effective services by reducing
duplication. In order for collaboration to be successful, however, it must
receive support at all levels and participants must display cooperation and
trust (Sullivan, 1993).
RECOMMENDATION FOR COLLABORATION
Counselors and school
psychologists have much to offer in the assessment of students and both sets of
professionals should be members of multidisciplinary assessment teams.
Counselors contribute skill in developmental assessment approaches and provide a
holistic view of the student. In addition, their expertise in interpersonal
assessment and career/vocational assessment is valuable in program planning,
especially for adolescents. School psychologists' contributions include
expertise in the assessment of cognitive and academic skills and the development
of classroom interventions. Their background in behavior management and
educational psychology along with training in psychological assessment provides
a unique perspective for program planning.
The increased focus on involving families in prevention and intervention
programs offers counselors and school psychologists the opportunity to
collaborate in a number of ways. Activities in which the two sets of
professionals can work together include family counseling, parent training, and
the development and implementation of behavior management programs in the home.
The assessment skills of both specialties can also be utilized to develop
evaluation procedures to examine the effectiveness of programs.
Within the school setting itself, a number of opportunities exist for
counselors and school psychologists to work together. These include developing
support groups for students, working with classroom teachers to implement
developmental guidance materials and curriculum within the classroom, and
developing aggression/violence prevention programs and curricula. By utilizing
the unique assessment training and expertise of counselors and school
psychologists we can develop a more accurate picture of the whole student and
his or her specific needs. In this way more effective intervention and
prevention programs can be developed and implemented.
Both counselors and school psychologists are
trained in assessment with somewhat differing emphases and areas of expertise.
The multidisciplinary approach to assessment required by P. L. 94-142 and IDEA
is especially suited for the two groups of assessment professionals to work
together in a collaborative manner. In this way a more complete picture of
students' needs can be developed and service delivery can be enhanced.
Fagan, T. K., & Wise, P. S. (1994). School
psychology: Past, present, and future. New York: Longman.
Hood, A., & Johnson, R. (1991). Assessment in counseling: A guide to the
use of psychological assessment procedures. Alexandria, VA: American Association
for Counseling and Development.
Smith, D. K., Clifford, E. S., Hesley, J., & Leifgren, M. (1992). The
school psychologist of 1991: A survey of practitioners. Paper presented at the
Annual Meeting of the National Association of School Psychologists, Nashville,
Smith, D. K., & Mealy, N. S. (1988). Changes in school psychology
practice: A five-year update. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of American
Psychological Association, Atlanta, GA. ED 302 782.
Sullivan, D. (1993). Benefits and obstacles to collaboration. Madison, WI:
Bureau for Pupil Services, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Vernon, A. (1993). Developmental assessment and intervention with children
and adolescents. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.