Collaboration is a daily reality for school psychologists. Their work requires them to interact closely with teachers, parents, and medical professionals to determine what path is best for a child. For that reason, collaboration is a key component of Professor Christina Grabarek’s methods for training future school psychologists.
“Valpo’s school psychology faculty teach and promote collaboration from program initiation to the point of graduation,” says Professor Grabarek, who serves as the associate dean of the graduate school and director of the school psychology program.
“Collaboration with individual students, groups, families, and educational systems is considered a skill that impacts all areas of service provided by school psychologists. Our goal is to effectively communicate with others to problem-solve and identify effective interventions for academic and mental health issues.”
One of Professor Grabarek’s courses addresses this subject head-on. Students from the first- and second-year school psychology cohorts come together with students in the school counseling program to take SPSY 660, Consultation and Collaboration in School and Community Settings. Together they learn a variety of models, techniques, and empirically-supported interventions that would enhance their collaborative skills within an educational setting.
In Consultation and Collaboration, Professor Grabarek assigns role-playing exercises and team-based group projects so that students have opportunities to practice what is taught, and learn how to navigate difficult situations.
“School psychology candidates must learn how to address conflict and how to lead meetings that could be potentially contentious,” Professor Grabarek says. “The ultimate goal is respecting differences among team members and coming to some consensus on what can be done to make a significant positive difference and a favorable outcome for the child and educational system.”
The broader school psychology program has been structured to nurture an atmosphere of collaboration. Students enter as a cohort and progress through a scaffolded and sequenced program of study. This fosters a sense of community and professional identity as future school psychologists. It also provides a key professional network as students advance in their graduate studies and in their careers.
“Building cohesion within and across program cohorts is very important to me. I want all students to feel connected with fellow school psychology students, program faculty, the school psychology program as a whole, and as a member of the larger community of the Graduate School at Valpo,” says Professor Grabarek. “Finally, I want students to identify with the profession they are entering, school psychology, and recognize that they share the common goal of helping students in our schools succeed.”
The ability to see such common ground is a core competency for school psychologists, and it is a skill that Professor Grabarek knows will serve her students well throughout their careers.