School Psychology Field Experiences
Three carefully constructed practica (3 separate courses for a total of 9 credits) are a part of every student’s program. The first practicum course orients students to the educational process and focuses on assessment skills. In addition to administering and interpreting a variety of assessment tools, students implement an academic intervention with an individual child, and conduct a functional behavior assessment linked to intervention. In the second and third practica, students refine their assessment skills and develop expertise in direct and indirect interventions (e.g., individual and group counseling, teacher and family consultation, design and implementation of behavior management programs, social skills training). Practicum experiences also are embedded with more content-based courses. For example, during the first semester students shadow and interview a school psychologist and administer a variety of intelligence tests.
Practicum assignments are made by faculty to ensure that students gain experience with children a variety of ages, cultures, and disabilities. Practica require 2 full days per week and are completed in regular school settings; however, one practicum may be completed in a more “specialized” setting, such as programs for children with physical and/or sensory impairments, alternative schools, schools for children with autism or other severe disabilities. Students interested in a particular area should discuss possible placements with the University practicum supervisor. Supervision is provided on-site by a certified school psychologist; students also attend weekly group supervision meetings with a University faculty member.
For students in the specialist program, an internship is completed in the third year of training. In order to begin internship, Ed.S. students must have completed all previous coursework with no incompletes on their transcript. Doctoral students complete the internship during the fifth year in the program. The objective of the internship is to insure competency and integration of knowledge and skills in all domains of school psychology and to broaden such knowledge and skills.
The internship is a culminating experience during which students not only continue to develop a full range of competencies across all domains of school psychology practice, but more importantly demonstrate the integration and application of such competencies. The internship requires full-time participation, five days per week for one academic year. Interns must log a minimum of 1,200 clock hours (1,500 for Ph.D.). Internship sites follow guidelines established by the National Association of School Psychologists, as outlined in the Internship Guidelines.
The internship is a collaboration between the training program and field site that assures the completion of activities consistent with the goals of the training program. A written plan specifies the responsibilities of the training program and internship site in providing supervision, support, and both formative and summative performance-based evaluation of intern performance. Students typically handle a case load roughly half of that required for a certified school psychologist. They must participate in a minimum of 4 hours of weekly supervision from a certified school psychologist (or someone with other appropriate credentials for placements in non-school settings) and log at least 1,200 clock hours (1,5000 for Ph.D.) that document a full range of experiences and services with a diverse population of students.
During the internship, competencies in the domains of school psychology are assessed not only by field supervisors using the Field Experience Checklist Evaluation Form, but also by the University supervisors’ evaluation of a comprehensive portfolio that includes counseling and consultation tapes, a psychological report, a comprehensive case study (documenting positive outcomes), documentation of professional development activities, and a PowerPoint presentation (to school psychologists and students) on a system-wide intervention or evaluation project that they completed.
Finding an appropriate internship site is the joint responsibility of the university supervisor and the student. While every effort is made to arrange for a paid internship, paid internships are not guaranteed. However, over the past ten years all interns have been offered paid internships (averaging about $18,000). While most students have completed their internships in Delaware, others have gone to Maryland, New Jersey, Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
Placements must be approved by the university supervisor. Although the supervisor attempts to place interns in locations that they most desire, the program’s obligations to local school districts must be respected. As such, the University may require that an internship be completed in a local school district. Likewise, quality of the site is always considered to be more important than a high salary.
Students should become thoroughly familiar with the Internship Guidelines (Appendix D of the School Psychology Handbook) prior to beginning their internship search. Assistance with finding internship sites is provided during group supervision meetings in the third practicum.