Characteristics and Responsibilities of School Psychologists Around the World

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1 Characteristics and Responsibilities of School Psychologists Around the World UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA The School Psychology International Survey 2008 (SPIS) relied upon resident experts to respond to approximately one hundred multipart questions regarding the nature and status of school psychology in their countries. Of the 198 countries invited to participate in the survey, experts in 48 countries agreed to provide leadership in completing the SPIS (participating countries are delineated in Table 1). Further details about this project are available from the International Institute of School Psychology online at SPIS acquired information on the characteristics of school psychologists in countries around the world. The purpose of this brief is to summarize this information, thus providing school psychologists around the world with contemporary information regarding: (a) the titles used and demographic characteristics of school psychologists (b) the amount of time worked by school psychologists each year, (c) the professional affiliations of school psychologists and ratios of school psychologists to students, (d) the sources that control school psychology services, and (e) the responsibilities and populations most commonly served by school psychologists. Titles Used and Demographic Characteristics of School Psychologists The specialty of school psychology has been characterized as one that collectively provides individual assessment of children who may display cognitive, emotional, social, or behavioral difficulties; develops and implements primary and secondary intervention programs; consults with teachers, parents and other relevant professionals; engages in program development and evaluation; conducts research; and helps prepare and supervise others (Jimerson, Oakland, & Farrell, 2007; p. 1). Those who provide these services use a varieties of titles throughout the world, the responses to this survey indicated that these professionals are commonly referred to as Educational Psychologists, School Psychologists, or Psychologists. Other titles that were also noted were counselor, professional educational psychology, psychopedagog, psychologist in education, and psychologist in the schools. The term school psychologist is used herein to refer to these professionals. Interestingly, seven countries reported that they have zero school psychologists employed in their country. The majority of countries reported that the average age of school psychologists in their country is between 35 and 44 years old. Thirty-three countries recorded that females make up 70% or more of their school psychologist population. The majority of responses (n=26), reported that English was at least one of the other language most school psychologists in their country were proficient

2 2 in. Twenty countries recorded that only five percent of the school psychologists in their country have a doctoral degree, while sixteen countries reported that none of their school psychologists have doctoral degrees. Only one country reported that 100 percent of their school psychologists have doctoral degrees. Most countries reported that some percent of their school psychologists have a master degree as the highest degree. Twenty-four countries reported that zero percent of their school psychologists have a specialist degree as their highest degree, and thirty-four countries reported that a Bachelors degree with a year of professional credit was not the highest degree of any of their school psychologists. The Amount of Time Worked by School Psychologists Each Year The SPIS data also documented the average number of weeks per year the school psychologists work. Of the 45 countries that responded to this question, two countries recorded that their school psychologists work the entire year (52 weeks). Eight countries reported working an average of 48 weeks in a year, and seven countries reported working only 40 weeks per year on average. The Professional Affiliations of School Psychologists and Ratios of School Psychologists to Students The SPIS included questions addressing the percent of school psychologists who belong to professional associations. Eleven countries reported that their school psychologists do not belong to any national professional associations. Thirty-eight countries reported that either five or zero percent of their school psychologists belonged to international associations. Thirty-two countries reported that none of their school psychologists belong to the International School Psychology Association. The SPIS further gathered information about the ratio of school psychologists to students in each country by including a free response question asking for the typical ratio of school psychologists to students as 1 to. Four countries recorded that there is one school psychologist to every one thousand students. Two countries reported a ratio of 10,000 students for every one school psychologist. One country reported that for every 145,955 students in their country there is one school psychologist. The Sources that Control School Psychology Services Another section of the SPIS addressed the outside sources that control school psychology services in each country. A variety of local and national source options as well as their level of influence (little to significant) were provided as answer options in addition to a free response section. The results suggested that most school psychology services are controlled by decisions made at a national and/or regional level. Specifically, 26 countries reported that national education legislation and codes have significant control over services, but only five countries reported national education decisions of litigation as having significant control. State or regional decisions were reported as having less significant control with 29 countries reporting that state and regional decisions rarely having control over school psychological services. Seventeen countries reported that local educational decisions of a professional nature and local educational decisions of a political nature have little control over services. The Responsibilities and Populations Most Commonly Served by School Psychologists The SPIS documented the frequency with which school psychologists work with students

3 3 with a variety of disorders either directly or indirectly with their teachers and/or parents. Overall, the most common students reported to be part of school psychologists work sometimes or often were students who are slow learners; socially, emotionally, and behaviorally impaired; learning disabled, mentally retarded, and attention and hyperactive disorder. Specifically, forty-two countries reported that their school psychologists sometimes and/or often work with students with attention and hyperactive disorder. Forty-three countries reported that often or sometimes their school psychologists work with students who are behaviorally impaired. Similarly, forty-three countries reported their school psychologists often or sometimes work with students with learning disabilities. Only three countries reported working with gifted students often (see Table 2). To gather information about the responsibilities of school psychologists around the world, the SPIS asked countries to estimate the average amount of time school psychologists spend doing specific types of services (e.g., consultation, individual counseling, formal programs, staff trainings, etc.). Responses indicated that school psychologists around the world see a range of zero to 120 students on average per month for individual counseling and zero to 200 kids on average per month for group counseling. One country reported that on average per month school psychologists see 400 to 500 students in group counseling. In providing formal programs and presentations to parents and staff, most countries reported school psychologists doing one to six per month while one country reported doing 16 per month. Similarly, the average amount of times per month school psychologists work on programs that promote primary prevention ranged from one to 12 times per month. The majority of countries that responded to these questions indicated only doing such services once or twice a month. Thirty-three countries reported that consulting with parents and families was some percent of a school psychologist s work time. Two countries indicated that none of a school psychologist s work time was spent consulting with parents and families, but most countries reported that such consultation was either five or ten percent of the school psychologist s work time. When asked what percent of a school psychologist s work time is involved in research and professional writing, nine countries responses were that none of the school psychologist s work time is devoted to such activities. Twenty percent was the most percent of work time reported and was only reported by one country. Summary and Conclusions The SPIS provides valuable information through approximately one hundred multi-part questions regarding the nature and status of school psychology. Of the 198 countries invited to participate in the survey, 48 identified resident experts that were able to provide leadership to collaboratively complete the survey for their country. This research brief presented results from only certain segments of this survey, focusing on the characteristics and responsibilities of school psychologists. Results provide important information regarding what school psychologists do around the world. For example, findings indicated that school psychologists work almost every week of the year and are responsible for thousands of students. The reported amount of school psychologists who belong to professional organizations varies but appears to be limited. The responses further indicated that most school psychological services are controlled at a national and regional level. School psychologists work with a wide variety of student populations and have contact with

4 4 students the most through individual and group counseling. The results presented herein are not exhaustive nor comprehensive, as additional data was obtained from country representative regarding these topics. These results serve as highlights of future analyses and findings to be presented on this topic. Such findings will contribute to the advancement of school psychology internationally by providing baseline information that will inform our Table 1. Countries Participating in the SPIS understanding of current global efforts to serve children and schools around the world. Moreover, such findings will also provide valuable insights regarding challenges that may be faced by school psychologists in multiple countries. Additional research briefs and details about this project are available online at the International Institute of School Psychology. Country Name (n = 48) Austria Estonia* Ireland Seychelles Belgium* Finland Jamaica Slovak Republic Belize France Lebanon South Africa Brazil Germany Malta Suriname Canada Grazina Netherlands Switzerland Canary Islands Greece New Zealand Turkey Colombia Grenada Norway Trinidad & Tobago* Croatia Hong Kong Pakistan United Arab Emirates* Cyprus Hungary Portugal United States of America Czech Republic Iceland Puerto Rico Venezuela Denmark India Romania Vietnam England Indonesia* Scotland Zimbabwe * Countries reporting not having school psychology training programs Table 2. Populations Served by School Psychologists Types of Students # of Countries

5 5 Rarely Sometimes Often Attention/ Hyperactivity Disorder Autism Spectrum Disorder Behaviorally Impaired Emotionally Impaired Gifted Hearing Impaired Language Impaired Learning Disabled Mentally Retarded Health Disorders Physically Impaired Recent Immigrants Slow Learners Socially Impaired Visually Impaired

6 6

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