Culturally Relevant Consultation Among School Psychology Practitioners: A Nation-Wide Study of Training and Practice

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Concerns about the overrepresentation of non-European American students in special education as well as the mismatch between a relatively homogeneous population of school psychologists and a more heterogeneous population of students has led to questions about what impacts student outcomes and how best to meet student needs. Research in the literature regarding beneficial practices for working with culturally diverse populations is limited and little is known about what school psychologists do to address culture, particularly in consultation with teachers.

This study examined the training, practice, and individual perspectives of school psychologists for addressing culture in consultation and sought to determine what practitioners do in consultation cases for non-European American or bilingual students. Results, obtained from 219 school psychologists who completed a 36-item questionnaire, indicated that they had relatively little training in both consultation and culturally relevant consultation at the pre-service level. Those with the most training at the pre-service and practice levels reportedly gained information primarily through reading, in-services and workshops. Non-European American school psychologists and recent graduates reported having the most training overall, particularly through post-graduate/professional development opportunities. Most school psychologists said they addressed culture in consultation cases and there was a greater likelihood that this occurred among practitioners in urban and suburban school settings or among school psychologists who worked with teacher-consultees of a different ethnicity than the student-client. Overwhelmingly, participants agreed that having knowledge and awareness of culture's influence on values, behaviors, communication, and learning were important to daily practice. However, results indicated that school psychologists' approaches in consultation for bilingual or non-European American students varied. Their understanding of culturally relevant consultation and consultation generally appeared limited. Responses left questions about whether practitioners consistently implemented stages of consultation to address student-clients' needs and about whether cultural issues were addressed more than superficially.

Future research is needed to determine how practitioners can consistently be trained at the pre-service and in-service levels to implement effective practices for consultation, especially culturally relevant consultation. Additional research should also explore, in depth, how practitioners actually incorporate culture-related societal, educational, economic, political, and other influences on student learning and behavior into consultation.