National Louis Launches Professional Development Program
By Robert Schroeder
Waukegan, Ill. is a unique setting for a school. Not quite urban because of its suburban location; not quite suburban because of its high population. A diverse population that makes traditional minorities the majority and a city shaking off the mantle of post-industrial withdrawal creates a melting pot of socioeconomic and racial issues that inevitably spill into schools.
National Louis University's Education Psychology department is implementing a new professional development model working with school psychologists in Waukegan schools to focus on supporting positive outcomes for students and student systems in this distinctive environment. The model focuses on building communication skills between school psychologists and teachers and administrators to empower teachers and administrators to apply solutions and to create collaborative, data-informed decision-making.
"There are a lot of unique problems or issues that would come up that a teacher might need support with, or need support at the grade level or system level," said Daniel Newman, Ph.D., assistant professor in the National College of Education. "This is a really individualized process where the school psychologists can work through and be clear what are the problems we are working on."
Newman is teaming with Diane Salmon, Ph.D., associate professor in the National College of Education and Mary Francis Schneider, Ph.D., professor in the National College of Education to facilitate the district-wide development. The professional development model will engage Waukegan teachers, administrators and school psychologists in the instructional consultation model developed by Sylvia Rosenfield, Ph.D., professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland. The model takes faculty and staff through a series of stages: identifying a problem, analyzing the facets of the problem, developing an intervention or an evidence-based program and monitoring the progress of that intervention.
Newman says the model will stress a data-heavy approach, benchmarking intervention progress with academic data, behavioral data, system-wide data, and information at the individual student level. The benchmarking will not only gauge progress but also provide school psychologists with the opportunity to reflect on their intervention decisions.
"We are hoping to really empower the school psychologists in the district to stop and think about the consultation skills they are using," Newman said. "We want them to see how this model of instructional consultation fits within the work they are doing in the district; we want it to be a resource for school psychologists."
The professional development begins with a full-day training session followed by ongoing monthly support sessions with National Louis University faculty and students completing their practicum at Waukegan. The support sessions provide an opportunity for peer group supervision and support for the development of consultative skills. This collaborative approach to professional development will bring practical experience back into the classroom at National Louis University, providing students with real-world examples before they embark on their own practicum experiences.
"It brings us out of the silo here at NLU," Newman said. "I think we will learn a lot about how the school psychologists receive consultation as a model of service delivery and how we can interpret that and bring it back [in our classrooms]."
Newman envisions this professional development model becoming a permanent form of an ongoing support model provided by National Louis University's education psychology department. He says many professional development models involve a one or two-day workshop that do not include follow-up to reinforce skills. Newman, Salmon and Schneider are conducting their own research of results at Waukegan and hope to use their data to replicate their professional development model in other districts.