In This Issue

Practices and reflections: Behavioral consultation services at a practicum school

Key experiences and tips for graduate students

By Mayo Fujiki

Abstract: The author reflects on her experience of providing behavioral consultation services at her practicum elementary school. Along with the descriptions of a case with a third grade teacher, several tips are presented to graduate students who are starting to provide similar services.

Although providing behavioral consultations at school can be unnerving to many graduate students due to limited experience, the same feeling or conditions may be true among many practicing school psychologists. This trend may be likely because many practicing school psychologists either decide against consultations or are not allowed to provide consultations, as they spend more than half of their time in eligibility-related activities (Hosp & Reschly, 2002). School based behavioral consultation allows school psychologists to have an impact on more children than direct service, which involves working face-to-face with children (Kratochwill, 2008). Therefore, it is important for graduate students to obtain practical consultation experiences during their training in order to familiarize themselves with such services and develop their consultation skills.

As part of the program at the University of Missouri, I took a school consultation class during the spring semester of my second year in 2012. The course required me to conduct at least 2-3 consultation cases with teachers. In fall 2011, I started my yearlong practicum at a rural elementary school in mid-Missouri, but I did not start consultation until spring at the same school. The teachers at my practicum site did not have any consultation experience with school psychologists, so I sent a service advertisement email to them at the beginning of the semester in February. Because no responses came, my school psychology supervisor attended a school staff meeting to explain the consultation service and my course requirement.

A few days after the staff meeting, I directly asked teachers with whom I had a good relationship to see if there were any students who needed to improve their behavior or academic skills. This was the best recruitment technique. Also, the school principal referred teachers who wanted help with a student with behavioral issues to us, the school psychology team, and we took most cases as behavioral consultations.

One of the three cases I completed was with Ms. Smith, a third grade teacher, who had a female student with a behavioral issue, which included talking to peers and leaving her seat without permission. Ms. Smith and I met about once a week for 15 minutes during teacher planning time. Following the behavioral consultation framework, I used the first meeting to identify the student’s specific problem. According to the teacher, the student often left her seat and talked to her peers during independent work time throughout the day. Ms. Smith shared her understanding of the reason for this problem behavior by mentioning that the student wanted to seize any opportunities to interact with her peers. However, in order to explicitly communicate behavioral conceptualization, it was important for me to rephrase this point to the teacher by the function of the behavior: to obtain peer attention.

After the first consultation, I asked Ms. Smith to conduct an event recording by counting the number of times the student talked to a peer during independent work time. Ms. Smith did this for 10 minutes a day for six days. Event recording is a simple way to collect data on problem behavior, and it provides a simple depiction of the problem to an observer, in this case the teacher, as it is happening. When presenting this data collection procedure, I made sure that Ms. Smith understood what she was supposed to be doing, gave the rationale of baseline data collection, and asked about the ease or difficulty of this procedure. Ms. Smith did not need much explanation and was open to this technique.

At the following meeting, the teacher shared the observation data, and again I asked her reflection of the experience, in order to improve my consultation skills and to encourage her involvement and sense of ownership in the case. One thing she suggested was to collect frequency data of teacher redirection. I welcomed this suggestion and this helped Ms. Smith know that she was the main player of the consultation.

Another key point in my consultation experience was allowing Ms. Smith to implement what she thought would work with the particular student as an intervention.

While I thought of a pass system as a potential intervention, the teacher wanted to use the Check In Check Out (CICO) intervention, partly because she and the school were familiar with it. The CICO is an evidence-based intervention effective when the function of the problem is adult attention-seeking behavior (Stormont, Reinke, Herman, & Lembke, 2012). My supervisor and I decided that the CICO could work because third grade children typically seek attention both from peers and adults. We also decided to modify the CICO by adding the peer attention component to correspond to a speculated function of the targeted problem behavior. Therefore, upon confirmation with the teacher that the student also liked teacher attention, the CICO was developed to providethe student with adults’ and peers’ attention appropriately and systematically. Specifically, the student would use a CICO form every day to get either a smiley, regular, or sad face mark for each period of study from a teacher. If she obtained more than 13 smiley marks that day - more than an 80 percent success rate - she would earn a reward ticket from a peer.

The results of this intervention showed success! Before the intervention, the problem behavior occurred an average of 4.5 times per 10-minute period. During the CICO phase, the behavior occurred an average of 1.6 times per 10-minute period. After the start of the CICO, there was no day in which the target behavior occurred more than four times in a 10-minute period. Also, five days after the start of the intervention, the frequency of the target problem behavior stayed below two.

To conclude the consultation service, I gave Ms. Smith a three-page report to refer or pass to the student’s fourth grade teacher. More importantly, this report was also intended to immerse the teacher with a scientific hypothesis testing procedure in problem-solving, as well as with an evidence-based intervention, just as the consultation had. It was vital that the report used teacher-friendly phrases with a diagram and a graph as visual representations of the texts so the teacher could easily understand and use it in the future. For a quick guide, the one-page general handout describing the CICO was attached as well as the form used with the student.

In addition to several points mentioned above, I practiced and learned the following through my practicum:

  • Be enthusiastic about what you are talking about and what the teacher is learning during consultation sessions. 

  • Show visual data to aid communication and validate your reasoning (e.g., graph). 

  • Obtain supervision or get insights from colleagues when necessary even for a brief time. 

  • Let go of teacher resistance, instead of taking it personally. 

  • Predict a “predictable” consequence and inform the teacher (e.g., extinction burst). 

  • Be persistent with teachers to stay involved and remain updated. This shows you care.

References

Hosp, J. L., & Reschly, D. L. (2002). Regional differences in school psychology practice. School Psychology Review, 31, 11-29.

Kratochwill, T. R. (2008). Best practices in school-based problem-solving consultation: Applications in prevention and intervention systems. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology V (pp. 1673-1688). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

Stormont, M., Reinke, W. M., Herman, K. C., & Lemke, E. (2012). Academic and behavior supports for at-risk students: Tier 2 interventions. Guilford Press: New York.

About the Author

Mayo Fujiki, MS, is a 2nd year doctoral student in school psychology at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She grew up in Japan and received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology in North Carolina and master’s degree in Clinical Child Psychology in Illinois. She is currently a research assistant with Missouri Prevention Center LEAP to Achieve Project and interested in research on teacher education and parent training.