Practice and Research Updates

Division 16’s translation of science to practice working group updates

This group concentrates on the training of school psychology students in the translation of research to practice and building awareness of the new science of implementation

By Sylvia A. Rosenfield and Susan G. Forman

This working group was formed in the Fall 2010 by the division, under the leadership of then president, Karen Stoiber. Our charge was to:

  • Enhance the translation of research to practice and practice to research in the specialty of school psychology 

  • Enhance research-based psychological practices in the context of schools 

  • Promote Division 16 as a resource for evidence-based practice for school psychologists


Current members of the Working Group represent a diverse set of criteria, including Division Executive Board members, early career, practitioner, university faculty, and graduate student. The current members are:

  • Sylvia Rosenfield & Susan Forman, Co-Chairs 

  • Karen Stoiber 

  • Robin Codding

  • Jim DiPerna

  • Jorge Gonzalez 

  • Gretchen Lewis-Snyder 

  • Linda Reddy 

  • Lisa Sanetti 

  • Ed Shapiro 

  • Renee Jorishe

Our Assumptions

As we began our work together, it became clear that the organizational context of the school is central to the translation process, and that it is important to acknowledge the distinction between the research-based practice of school psychology and that of the other applied specialties. School psychologists can recommend, but we are often not the implementers of research-based practices or programs. Much of our work involves supporting others in implementation or working within the constraints of the school culture. Further, there are questions of whether there is good evidence for many issues and problems that school psychologists need to address, as compared to evidence-based interventions for diagnosed problems such as depression. We began our work acknowledging those assumptions.


Thus far, we have focused on two areas: the training of school psychology students in the translation of research to practice and building awareness of the new science of implementation. Examining Training. One of the basic and primary prerequisites for successful implementation of research evidence in schools is adequate knowledge  and skill in the research but also in theimplementation of research evidence in practice. Our Working Group decided that issues related to education and training in EBIs needed further exploration; would be of interest to members of APA-Division 16, many of whom are trainers; and that investigation in this area has the potential to yield information that could improve school psychology training programs, and, in turn, the practice of school psychologists. For our first project, we conducted a focus group with 10 trainers and internship coordinators at CDSPP in January 2011. Several themes emerged:

  • There were epistemological issuessome students and faculty question the value of experimental research and value different ways of knowing. 

  • Participants raised questions about for which populations EBIs work (e.g., evidence of effect on one population may not translate to other groups), under what conditions. 

  • The participants reported a lack of consistency within programs regarding importance of EBIs. When some faculty members are not committed to the evidence based practice approach, students don’t understand the lack of consensus and become confused. 

  • Participants stated that many students have difficulty with the universitypractice setting gap; they don’t know how to deal with the best practice-real practice gap when they attempt to implement EBIs in the field and meet with resistance to change.

  • Participants reported that some students don’t have the skills to get others to accept their ideas and don’t know how to cope when their ideas aren’t accepted in a practice setting.

Given the small number of participants and the nature of the results, the group decided to conduct an online survey of trainers on the issues raised. The survey is in development and should be disseminated during the spring 2012. Future plans include a possible interview study of trainers and learning more about how practitioners view the translation process.

Implementation Science

In line with our assumptions regarding the importance of organizational context, we began to explore the issue of how we work at the systems level as evidencebased practitioners. Thus, a second project of the working group began to emerge, a paper to increase Division members’ awareness and understanding of implementation science, which has grown over the past decade. Implementation science has been defined as the scientific study of methods to promote the systemic uptake of research findings and evidencebased practices into professional practice and public policy. This paper, co-authored by members of the workgroup, focuses on implementation of research into practice in the context of schooling. We anticipate its completion by summer2012, and hope its publication will be of value to members of the Division and other. Division members who will be attending the 2012 APA Convention in Orlando should try to attend the presentation by Dean Fixsen, one of the major contributors to the field of Implementation science. His presentation is entitled: The “Evidence-Based Program” Movement is Dead: Long Live the EBP Movement!

Concluding Comments

Our workgroup continues to discuss many issues around this topic. These include:

  • Do we define our charge as evidencebased practice, not just evidence-based intervention and assessment? 

  • How do practitioners view EBIs and is it a different definition than trainers have? Are practitioners limited by training and by the role assigned to them? 

  • Should we be supporting practitioners in developing their own evidence base for practice (e.g., teaching single subject design)? 

  • How do we think about different levels of assessment, intervention and problem solving in school practice? There is practice at the child, class, school and district levels 

  • Is there good evidence for many of the school practices as compared to interventions for diagnosed problems (such as depression)? Is the evidence targeted at problems that practitioners routinely need to solve?

We look forward to continuing our work. Please let us know your comments and thoughts about our work.

Note: This article is based on update presentations by the workgroup at APA in 2011 and NASP in 2012.