A Differential Approach to Consultation Training During Internship






Publication: National Association of School Psychologists. Communique
Author: Newman, Daniel
Date published: November 1, 2010

INTRODUCTION

The three authors of this article were brought together by a common goal: enhancing our consultation skills during internship year. As the concluding experience of preservice training, the school psychology internship provides an opportunity for trainees to move from novice levels of skill awareness and limited application toward more competent practice (Harvey 8c Struzziero, 2008). The purpose of this article is to consider the important role that internship year can have in enhancing the development of consultation skills for school psychologists in training. The article will describe the critical features of consultation training, including supervision, that facilitate the professional growth of consultants-in-training (CITs). The differentiated experiences in consultation training purposefully provided by our supervisors at our mutual internship locale of Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) in Maryland will be discussed.

THE ROLE OF CONSULTATION TRAINING

In general, the research base on consultation training is more limited than other areas of school psychology practice. Authors who have written about consultation training practices (e.g., Harvey 8c Struzziero, 2008; Rosenfield, 2002; Rosenfield, LevinsohnKlyap, 8c Cramer, 2009) consider skill development through the lens of adult learning processes by which learners move from skill awareness to eventual application of skills in practice (Joyce 8c Showers, 1980) . These authors contend that at the awareness level, mainly through consultation coursework, CITs build their foundational content knowledge, including problem-solving stages, consultation models, contextual and systems understanding, and role and relationship variables (Harvey 8c Struzziero, 2008; Rosenfield et al., 2009). As CITs engage in more applied experiences such as simulation exercises (Jones, 1999) and consultation-based case management during their field placements, skills including utilizing nuanced and effective communication are more thoroughly developed (Rosenfield, 2002).

SUPERVISION IN CONSULTATION TRAINING

In applied contexts such as practicum (which maybe didactically attached to consultation course expectations) and internship, having supervision as part of training is essential. In these settings, supervision allows for providing ongoing evaluation of and feedback to CITs to help enhance skills applied in actual school-based consultation cases (Rosenfield et al., 2009). Despite the apparent importance of supervision as part of consultation training, supervision of novice consultants may not always occur (Anton-LaHart 8c Rosenfield, 2004) . As notedby Newman and Burkhouse (2008) , "Without the appropriate support of supervision, students risk misapplying skills, lack feedback on their training progress, and can be discouraged with outcomes" (p. 69).

Although a large research base exists regarding supervision in fields such as counseling psychology, research on the role of supervision in school-based consultation training is more limited. Harvey and Struzziero (2008) explicated a developmental model of supervision that can be applied to consultation practices in the schools; the model is informed by the Integrated Developmental Model (IDM; Stoltenberg, 2005; Stoltenberg 8c Delworth, 1987; Stoltenberg, McNeill, 8c Delworth, 1998) and an additional developmental model by Benner (1984). The Harvey and Struzziero (2008) model describes the process of school psychology supervisees moving through the developmental levels of novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert.

At the novice level, intensive supervision is recommended to support CITs to acquire and implement newly learned skills (Stoltenberg, 2005). Advanced beginners (school psychology interns and early career professionals) transition from an overly self-conscious focus to having a greater awareness of the needs of their consultées. Although advanced beginner CITs may practice with greater independence, supervision continues to be critical for the development of content knowledge and process skills (Harvey 8c Struzziero, 2008). At the next developmental level, competence, CITs engage in increased reflection and more adept application of skills. The competent stage is reached after several years of practice, and may be the final developmental stage for some school-based consultants. Hallmarks of becoming proficient, the next stage of development, include increased reflection and more purposeful application of skills. Following this stage, some school psychologists go on to acquire expert level skills, which are characterized by automaticity in consultation practice.

DIFFERENTIATED SUPERVISION

Commensurate with Harvey and Struzziero's (2008) model, every stage of consultant development from beginning practicum experiences to later stages should be met with developmentally appropriate supervision. Moreover, given the complex interplay between each CIT's individual characteristics (e.g., prior knowledge, skill level, personality) and the multitude of potential consultation case variables (e.g., consultée characteristics, concerns identified), differentiating the supervision process for each supervisee is imperative (Newman, 2009). As a school psychology intern, each of the authors of this article was provided individualized, developmentally appropriate, and differentiated consultation training and supervision that was essential given our significantly varied prior knowledge, interests, and skill sets at the beginning of internship year.

DISTINCTIONS IN OUR PRESERVICE CONSULTATION TRAINING

In this section, the distinctive features of each of our consultation training experiences prior to internship will be described. First, Daniel's doctoral-level training program at the University of Maryland required students to take two semesters of coursework in consultation, with a focus on instructional consultation (IC; Rosenfield, 1987), and simultaneously to apply their skills through field-based practicum experiences. A consultation-specific practicum included being the consultant for at least two different teacher-referred cases and one system-level case. CITs received university-based supervision from either the course instructor or a peer-based supervisor, who was in turn supervised by the course instructor. An expectation of supervision was for CITs to engage in ongoing reflection by taping and listening to their consultation sessions, transcribing pertinent excerpts including successes and challenges, and composing reflective logs. The supervisor listened to CIT tapes and read logs prior to supervision sessions, provided written feedback, and utilized the content of each as catalysts for supervisor-CIT discussions.

In addition, Daniel participated on the grade-level problem-solving teams at a middle school during his third year of his doctoral training in the program, and later acted as coinstructor and supervisor for the university-level consultation course and associated practicum. For his doctoral dissertation, he developed a grounded theory of supervision as part of preservice-level school-based consultation training.

Pamela and Teresa were students at Towson University's specialist-level school psychology program. In their program, they completed one semester of consultation coursework, which included a behavioral consultation case at a practicum setting. Both Pamela and Teresa audiotaped their consultation sessions andreceived feedbackfrom the course instructor. As students at Towson, they listened to their tapes and reflected on their application of consultation skills through peer-based discussion during class time.

OVERLAPPING AND DIFFERENTIATED OPPORTUNITIES ON INTERNSHIP

Due to differences in our preservice consultation training, we began our internships at divergent developmental starting points with regard to our consultation skills. Despite our initial differences, we all found great value in consultation as a primary role of school psychologists, and consequently sought an internship site where consultation training would be a priority. In the sections that follow, we will illustrate the carefully tailored consultation experiences provided to us during internship year. Our growth in consultation skills resulting from our training will also be described.

TRAINING EXPERIENCES

Mutual training experiences. There were several overlaps in our consultation training on internship, particularly with respect to professional development. For example, the summer immediately prior to beginning our internship, we all participatedin a 3-day training on instructional intervention teams (IITs). IITs are school-based problemsolving teams utilized at HCPSS, constructed based on an IC Teams approach (see Rosenfield 8c Gravois, 1996, for a description of IC Teams). Other professional development opportunities that all three of us participatedin were monthly trainings for IIT Facilitators and a 3-day training on instructional assessment (see Gravois 8c Gickling, 2008), a skill that is highly valued for instructionalry focused problem-solving teams. Although Daniel had been previously trained in instructional assessment at the University of Maryland, these sessions offered trainees an opportunity to develop and build upon prior knowledge, as well as apply newly acquired skills with actual students.

In addition to the aforementioned professional development opportunities, we shared common applied experiences such as participating on our internship sites' gradelevel and school-wide problem-solving teams and acting as case mangers (i.e., individual consultants assigned to work with a teacher who requests assistance from the IIT).

Distinct training experiences. Although we shared some mutual training experiences, there were several distinctions made in our training. For example, Daniel was able to take a leadership role in facilitating parts of the IIT training the summer before internship given his prior knowledge in this area. Similarly, toward the middle of the year, Pamela and Teresa were able to facilitate components of a beginner-level consultation training for new problem-solving team members. Pamela and Teresa also engaged in a simulated consultation session in which they received supervision regarding their consultation skills from the district-wide psychologist for IIT (see subsequent section on supervision). In contrast, because Daniel had already had such training in conjunction with his doctoral work at the University of Maryland, he did not participate. The simulation exercises intentionally met Pamela and Teresa at their beginner developmental levels, better preparing them to embark upon more applied consultation experiences.

Daniel's prior training in consultation also presented him the ability to coconceptualize, design, and pilot a new problem-solving team with his site-based supervisor starting at the very beginning of internship year. Further, Daniel consulted with both of his site-based supervisors regarding the overall functioning of each school's problem-solving teams. Beyond his school-based sites, Daniel was able to take on leadership responsibilities such as cofacilitating advanced-level professional development at the district level for school psychologists in the areas of consultation and coaching/ supervision skills - topics directly relevant to his doctoral dissertation.

Although the consultation activities we took on related to our developmental skill levels, particular sites also presented their own unique opportunities. For example, Pamela worked with a first-year preschool problem-solving team; neither Daniel nor Teresa problem-solved with teachers regarding students in early childhood. Teresa worked with a second-year middle school problem-solving team, conducted a needs assessment regarding a team's requests for professional development, and facilitated trainings on instructional assessment at one of her sites. Finally, as previously mentioned, Daniel was able to contribute to the development and implementation of a new problem-solving team at one of his schools because he entered internship with welldeveloped consultation skills; this opportunity was also in part due to serendipitous timing of a school-wide change.

SUPERVISION

As we took on varying consultative roles in our schools, our field supervisors provided ongoing supervision relative to the content and process of our work, as well as our individual development of consultation skills.

Mutual supervision experiences. Consistent with best practices, internship supervision was provided on a regular basis. One practice involved guided reflection with our site-supervisors on previous consultation case sessions, addressing concerns, and planning for upcoming consultation case sessions. Each of us also participated concurrently in ongoing small-group supervision with the district resource psychologist/ internship coordinator, and in this context we might discuss consultation concerns. In addition, other individuals such as the psychologist for IIT and other content-knowledgeable professionals (e.g., ESOL resource teacher) were available for case specific supervision, as needed.

Distinct supervision experiences. Consistent with our differentiated training experiences, supervision was individually constructed for each of us based on our unique developmental needs, our internship settings or sites, and our consultation cases. For Pamela and Teresa, effective supervision techniques (see Bernard & Goodyear, 2009) such as the use of audio and videotaping of case-sessions and the composition of reflective logs accompanied their completion of a simulated problem-solving exercise (Jones, 1999); the simulation and corresponding supervision tools provided a formative assessment of Pamela's and Teresa's consultation skills, and helped each of them reflect further with their supervisors on their own needs and areas strengths.

Extending on the simulation, Pamela taped reflections on several individual consultation case sessions, which acted as triggers for supervision discussions. Supervision, including specific written and oral feedback, was provided prior to Pamela's next consultation meetings to help her plan the content of each meeting as well as determine individual skills she needed to improve upon. As Pamela gained more experience, knowledge, and comfort, her supervisor shifted the focus of supervision sessions toward her purposeful and nuanced application of skills.

Supervision for Teresa was also customized with regard to her needs. Teresa's supervisor identified cases she felt would best support the learning of consultation skills, observed several of Teresa's consultation sessions to provide explicit feedback later during their supervision sessions, and encouraged her to take on more challenging opportunities as the year progressed. For Daniel, differentiation of supervision meant not onlyreceiving supervision of his ongoing consultation work, but also being able to provide coaching to new team members as described earlier, and receiving supervision of his coaching, a form of "metasupervision" (Khoff, 1986, p. 535). Coaching others on their consultation practice differs from providing formal supervision as there is not an evaluative component; however, acting as a coach and receiving supervision feedback on this practice allowed Daniel to continue to develop his skills as a supervisor.

One final point is that all three of us experienced changes in the structure of supervision sessions from the beginning of the year to the end. For example, each of us was given more autonomy in our practice and in our expected contributions to supervision as the year progressed. We were encouraged to take increased responsibility for supervision preparation, to prioritize the skills we wanted to work on, and to answer our own questions whenever possible. In other words, as our consultation skills developed from the beginning of the year to the end, the structure of supervision sessions was altered to create an appropriate developmental match.

EVIDENCE OF GROWTH

Our supervisors monitored our consultation skill development during the course of the year through various means such as listening to/watching taped sessions, observing us in individual sessions or team meetings, reading our reflections, and discussing with us our self-perceptions of skill growth. This formative data helped us to coconstruct with our supervisors developmentally appropriate consultation activities to take on during the year. With supervisory scaffolding, we were able to transcend our own comfort zones and successfully complete activities that were individualized to fit our needs, regardless of where we each began the internship year.

Each of us built upon our prior knowledge of consultation by participating in professional development opportunities, and subsequently applying our knowledge in practice. Moreover, we each took on roles as trainers, and increased in autonomy in supervision and in consultation practice as the year progressed. Daniel was able to integrate conceptual and theoretical knowledge, including work on his doctoral dissertation, into facilitation of advanced-level trainings, demonstrating burgeoning proficiency in consultation. Further, he was able to move from an emphasis on his own development of consultation skills to a consideration of the development of others' skills via coaching. Pamela and Teresa both demonstrated increasing levels of competence in consultation practice as they moved beyond levels of awareness toward more purposeful application of skills. In particular, Pamela noted improvements in her application of communication skills in consultation sessions over the course of her internship year, and Teresa recognized a shift in focus from her own anxiety about managing a case toward a focus on the needs of the consultée.

IMPLICATIONS FOR TRAINING

Consultation training practices at the preservice level are sometimes limited. Many programs do not require specific consultative coursework, lackdidactic consultation-specific practicum experiences, and do not provide students with ongoing university-based supervision (Anton-LaHart & Rosenfield, 2004). Some early career school psychologists maybe provided mentors, or required to develop professional development plans for the firstyear or two of practice which, dependent on interests,may include consultation goals. However, clinical supervision practices in the main areas of school psychology practice (i.e., assessment, consultation, and counseling) can be considered deficient (Crespi & Dube, 2005). What is more, those who will act as supervisors may not themselves have had intensive consultation training or supervision (Harvey & Struzziero, 2008) . In short, the most intensive consultation training and supervision experiences school psychologists receive likely take place prior to practicing at the inservice level. For many school psychologists, internship year maybe the final opportunity to develop consultation skills while simultaneously receiving intensive professional supervision.

Based on our excellent consultation training and supervision experiences during internship year, we wish to make several recommendations that maybe useful for both university- and field-based trainers and supervisors to consider:

Universities and internship sites should communicate regularly regarding perspectives on practice and experiences offered to students. All three of us learned to value consultation practice during our preservice level training. Based on our prior work with HCPSS (e.g., university practica), we chose this internship site because we knew it would offer us the intensive consultation training experiences we desired. In fact, students at Towson University and University of Maryland have historically worked as practicum and internship students in HCPSS, in part because of the innovative consultation practices in the district. Although we each aimed to develop our skills from different developmental starting lines, we were aware that HCPSS valued consultative service delivery and would provide the means to enhance our capacity to practice as consultants.

Internship sites should frame consultation training practices using developmental models. Each intern enters internship with different needs in the various areas of clinical practice. By considering interns' developmental levels and individual needs, appropriate matches can be made with respect to professional development opportunities, applied experiences, and supervision.

Internship sites should purposefully differentiate training. Placement at our school-based sites, the professional development and applied experiences made available to us, and the supervision we received were not coincidental. Each of our internship experiences, which differed considerably, was purposefully and mutually constructed based on our prior knowledge, our goals for the year, and our individual needs.

Provide ongoing, intensive, and differentiated consultation supervision. For each of us, supervision was a critical component of consultation training on internship. Supervision was individually tailored to each of our needs, provided a place to discuss our unique concerns, and supported us in tackling new endeavors to advance our consultation skills. Simultaneously, supervision ensured that our work with clients was linked to "externally validated understandings of good professional practice" (Bernard 8c Goodyear, 2009, p. 94).

Remember that interns are students. At HCPSS, we were treated as students engaged in a capstone learning experience as opposed to school psychologists practicing at the inservice level. Even for interns with highly developed clinical skills, it is essential to have immediate access to supervision and exposure to ongoing professional development. Although it is expected that interns should develop increased autonomy in practice during the year, internship is a year to learn. The provision of valuable learning and supervision processes during the internship year can instill in interns a value of lifelong learning.

CONCLUSION

According to School Psychology: A Blueprint for Training and Practice III (Ysseldyke et al., 2006), "as training programs prepare their students for expanded roles, appropriate internships must be available to support novice practitioners ... internship sites will need to provide enriched experiences to assist trainees to develop these competencies by the conclusion of their internships" (p. 21). The purposefully differentiated and developmental approach to consultation training provided to us in HCPSS during our internship year reflects an ideal model to promote competence in practice. In particular, the development of consultation skills is a foundational competency which is an essential part of the school psychologist's expanded role, "and needs to be a focus [of training] for the next decade if the potential of consultation services is to be fully realized" (Ysseldyke, Burns, 8c Rosenfield, 2009, p. 194).

We all began the year with different prior knowledge, experiences, and skill sets in consultation, and ended the year at different levels of skill development. However, given our differentiated consultation training during internship, including professional development, individualized opportunities for application, and supervision, we all experienced developmental growth and feel more confident to take on the role of schoolbased consultants as we enter the field as young professionals.

EPILOGUE

We have each recently completed our first year of professional practice, and continue to incorporate consultation in our work. Consistent with our value of lifelong learning, each of us has set goals for our individualized development of consultation skills during our early career. Daniel is an assistant professor at the specialist-level school psychology program at National-Louis University in Chicago, Illinois. He teaches two courses in school-based consultation, supervises students' applied experiences, and continues to engage in research about consultation training and supervision. Daniel's early career goals relate to his ability to effectively instruct, supervise, and coach others on their consultation skill development and to consult with local schools and districts regarding consultation service delivery at the in-service level. Teresa and Pamela are practicing school psychologists in Baltimore City Public Schools. During her first year, Teresa successfully built several individual consultant-consultee relationships and intends to use these relationships to further establish her role as a consultant in the school. Pamela has worked to gain the buy-in of key stakeholders in her buildings and will continue to work toward building effective school-wide problem-solving teams.

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Author affiliation:

Daniel Newman, PhD, NCSP, is an assistant professor in the school psychology program at NationalLouis University in Illinois. Pamela Cocol, NCSP, and Teresa Coffin are school psychologists with the Baltimore City Public School System in Maryland.

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