Reports

Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education

The Div. 49 representative to the coalition discusses her participation in its project creating a teamwork training curriculum for use in K-12 schools.

By Karin Hodges, PsyD
It is such a pleasure to serve as Division 49 Representative for the Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education (CPSE). As your representative, I attend bi-annual Coalition meetings in D.C.; communicate with others on the Coalition, as needed, throughout the year; and support one special project during the year. This Coalition is one of the healthiest and most productive working groups that I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy. I credit the success of the group to the members, and especially to Dr. Rena Subotnik, whose career and leadership style are inspiring. View general information about the coalition, including its mission, goals, and current projects. Rather than reviewing the many intricacies of the Coalition here, I would like to share a bit about the structure of the coalition and, more specifically, the way in which I came to be working on one special and innovative project envisioned by Sylvia Rosenfield, who represents Division 13. I will also report our progress on that unique project.

There are many projects that are ongoing within the Coalition, all which aim to benefit schools in different ways. Each member of the coalition chooses one project that is most in line with his or her expertise. The member devotes most of his or her time on the coalition to that particular project.

During our bi-annual meetings, we break into subgroups where we work on projects in which we are subject experts or have a strong interest. Then, in the large group, we report back to the Coalition on our projects, and more specifically, our progress in generating a useful product for pre-K and K-12 schools. During this check-in period, Rena Subotnik, Director of the Center for Psychology in Schools and Education, our Coalition’s current Chair, Joan Lucariello, and the chorus of the encouragement from the Coalition group motivate us forward.

Which project did I join? For me, the Coalition’s “Teaming Project” was an obvious choice. I joined this project approximately a year ago and have been pleased about this decision ever since. On the teaming project, I have learned a great deal about program development. Also, the project has expanded my thinking about group work in schools.

The teaming project is geared toward creating a Teamwork Training curriculum for use in K-12 schools. Our coalition has partnered with Dr. Eduardo Salas (University of Central Florida), who is an expert in the science of teaming. Dr. Salas has been involved in building a program for use in hospitals and other settings. However, schools represent a unique setting and so any teaming curriculum stemming from Dr. Salas’s work requires specification for use in schools. Drs. Markeda Newell, Sylvia Rosenfield, and I have been very involved in shaping this teaming project, and the project has also benefitted from the expertise of Peter Sheras and several other coalition members.

For me, this process has been a bit like taking the course Project Development 101. I liken program development to performing arts. It requires patience and creativity, and it is certainly a process. Last year, Lauren Benishek, Dr. Salas’s graduate research associate, and her team collaborated with those of us on the coalition to create an interview aimed at systematically gathering information about the ways in which teams in schools function. Lauren’s group interviewed approximately one dozen school experts, including teachers, principals, consultants, and school specialists in order to generate some of the most important themes related to school teams. In December, Dr. Salas and his team (Lauren Benishek, Christina Lacerenza, Ashley Hughes, Megan Gregory, and Stephanie Zajac) finished an initial draft of the entire Teamwork Training curriculum for use in K-12 schools. The modules included Leadership, Communication, Mutual Support, and Situation Awareness. Our coalition provided feedback on the curriculum in December 2012. Our small working group is now communicating with colleagues at UCF to influence the shape and form of the product.

There is still a great deal of work to do for this project, but it clearly has the potential to be an important contribution for the field—to benefit school staff and those who work in teams in schools (e.g., Student Support Meetings, IEP meetings, curriculum development meetings) by providing them with the science of teaming. In the meanwhile, we work to determine the structure (e.g., 4 modules broken into six 30-minute sessions) and format (e.g., videos, role plays, etc.) that will ultimately represent the Teaming Curriculum. Schools can be busy places. For school staff, finding enough time for necessary work can be difficult and so adding a training curriculum to any school would be challenging. If we are to create a program that will be used, it will need to be not only research-based, but attractive, user friendly, and beneficial to school staff. Creating a training program with ease of use, which can be successfully implemented, is the largest challenge for this project. I do believe we will meet that challenge! I will look forward to sharing progress again in the near future!