Utilizing school psychology professional standards to evaluate program diversity training

The author discusses the creation and use of the Diversity Self-Study to determine and compare students’ perceptions of competence in diversity issues, and to quantifiably examine the attitudes of students regarding diversity standards

By Thomas J. Gross

The SASP Chapter at Oklahoma State University goes by the School Psychology Graduate Organization (SPGO). It houses multiple committees to address program development and outreach for EdS and PhD students. The SPGO-Diversity Committee (SPGO-DC) promotes appropriate psychological practices with diverse learners, which requires awareness of the students’ perceptions of diversity education and training and finding ways to address students’ preparation to work with a variety of populations. The SPGO-DC has developed the School Psychology Graduate Organization Diversity Self-Study (DSS). The DSS contains items developed from diversity standards put forth by Oklahoma State University’s school psychology program, the American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

The first purpose of the DSS is to determine and compare students’ perceptions of competence in diversity issues across levels of training. Second, it serves to quantifiably examine the attitudes of students regarding program-specific, APA and NASP diversity standards. Third, the information gathered will be employed to improve how students obtain and share information regarding diversity by informing program education and training opportunities. Lastly, the DSS is meant to encourage student innovation for addressing diversity issues through presentation of the data to peers and faculty.

DSS creation

The DSS was developed due to the scarcity of instruments available to measure multicultural competencies of school psychology students in light of the many functions, areas of expertise and professional standards they are expected to have (Lopez & Rogers, 2001). Many of the surveys available are based upon multicultural counseling standards with adults, and normed using counselors and counseling students, or very few school psychology students. Examples include the Multicultural Awareness-Knowledge-and Skills Survey (MAKSS; D’Andrea, Daniels & Heck, 1991), Multicultural Counseling Inventory (MCI; Sodowsky, Taffe, Gutkin & Wise, 1994; Sodowsky, Kuo-Jackson, Richardson & Corey, 1998), Multicultural Counseling Awareness Scale (MCAS; Ponterotto, Gretchen, Utsey, Rieger & Austin, 2002), California Brief Multicultural Competency Scale (CBMCS; Gamst et al., 2004), Cross-Cultural Counseling Inventory-Revised (CCCI-R; LaFromboise, Coleman & Hernandez, 1991), and Multicultural Competency Checklist (MCC; Ponterotto, Alexander & Grieger, 1995). Furthermore, there have been few efforts to create measures of diversity competency for school psychology students (e.g. Arra, 2010), and current evidence indicates that school psychology competencies may be different than the tripartite model used in counseling to develop diversity competency scales (i.e., awareness, knowledge and skills as proposed by Sue et al. (1982); Lopez & Rogers, 2001; Rogers & Ponterotto, 1997).

The DSS contains 42 Likert-like items that range from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree), four open ended questions regarding preferences for education and training opportunities and sharing information, and a page for demographic information. Three 14-item subscales were developed to reflect either the general standards for the program, APA code of ethics stance on diversity in psychological practice, or NASP standards of practice regarding diverse populations. Members of the SPGO-DC researched the standards and translated them into statements. The statements were then evaluated and agreed upon by the SPGO-DC. Subsequently, the questionnaire was generated and then reviewed by the faculty advisor. Half of the items were randomly selected for reverse scoring and were reworded accordingly.

DSS Administration and Future Directions The DSS was given to 39 of 42 EdS and PhD school psychology students at Oklahoma State University, primarily through group administration at the end of the fall semester in 2011. Students were given the DSS’s purpose and instructions for completing the survey. Each item was given a score of one, two, three or four, then the scores for each subscale (general standards, APA standards, NASP standards) and the full survey were totaled. Responses to the open ended questions were investigated for response patterns, and recurring and similar responses were grouped together into categories for each question.

The SPGO-DC is currently examining the data collected from the DSS to determine the differences in scores across the subscales and across cohorts for the subscale and the full scale scores. Members are actively developing hypotheses regarding differences and the SPGO-DC is using this discourse to create recommendations for diversity education and training to present to the faculty and students.

The SPGO-DC will generate a document for distribution to the Oklahoma State University school psychology faculty and students by the end of the year, which will detail the steps taken to develop, administer, score, and interpret the data gathered from the DSS. The SPGO-DC plans to readminister the DSS at the end of the spring semester 2012 to examine changes in students’ perceptions of diversity training over the academic year. There is consideration being given to developing this survey for use in other school psychology programs as a method to assess perceived competency with diverse populations.


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About the author

Thomas Jai Gross is a doctoral candidate in school psychology at the School of Applied Health and Educational Psychology in the College of Education at Oklahoma State University. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Thomas Jai Gross, School of Applied Health and Educational Psychology, College of Education, 434 Willard Hall, Stillwater, OK 74075