Department of Psychology at Illinois State University

Best Practices Experiences

Systematic, collaborative problem solving is also emphasized throughout the doctoral program. Doctoral trainees receive training that allows participation in and facilitation of the problem solving of others’ functioning in a variety of settings. This approach to problem solving includes systematically moving through a sequence of steps. Although the specific labels for the stages may differ, they typically include problem identification, problem analysis, plan development, plan implementation, and plan evaluation. Trainees are educated to use information from a variety of sources to develop and monitor the effectiveness of research-supported interventions for one or more of the various systems (e.g., individual child, family, or school). Trainees are also taught that psychological tests represent only one source of information; other sources include a review of existing records, observations of child behavior in multiple settings, interviews of all significant adults in the child’s life, and empirically based broad- and narrow-band behavior ratings.

The doctoral program seeks to train school psychologists who demonstrate generalist competencies in the areas of psychological assessment, intervention, program evaluation, consultation, and supervision. Trainees may develop additional expertise in specialized areas, guided by a trainee’s interest, availability of faculty expertise, and field experiences.

In addition to practical applications of school psychology, doctoral trainees are well grounded in research methodology. The success of our training model lies in the integration of science and practice. This integrated model leads to a unique focus on psychology as a mental-health profession and aids both researchers and practitioners in the performance of their respective functions. Integrated training provides trainees with knowledge relevant to a variety of applied settings, and such training provides trainees with an applied perspective to their empirical activity. One of the goals of the doctoral program is to educate psychologists to integrate their knowledge of scientific principles with their clinical skills to improve the lives of children and families, and to serve as system-level change agents. This integrated approach to science and practice promotes the development of complementary skills fostering a career-long process of psychological investigation, intervention, and evaluation.

Training as a scientist/practitioner requires that trainees be given integrated clinical and research experiences beginning in their first year of graduate study. The scientist-practitioner model is emphasized and reflected in experiences that include fieldwork associated with practica, the philosophical emphasis of professional seminar and other required courses, and the research orientation of the research apprenticeship or master’s thesis, and doctoral dissertation. In addition, all first-year doctoral trainees are enrolled in a year long research seminar designed to facilitate their focus on an area of research interest as well as the preparation of their first research project (i.e., the apprenticeship or thesis).

In the process of demonstrating and supervising clinical activities, faculty members actively integrate research and clinical work. For example, grants obtained by School Psychology faculty related to violence prevention, autism, problem solving, and Response to Intervention combine clinical training and research. Coursework, clinical and research supervision, and attendance and participation in national conferences demonstrate to trainees the intersecting roles of practitioners, consumers of research, and research innovators.

Our graduates are taught to assume leadership positions in professional psychology. As health care providers, graduates will deliver a variety of psychological services directly to children, parents, and families. Some graduates will be supervisors of other school psychologists and school- or clinic-based administrators responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of educational and mental health programs. As academic school psychologists, our graduates may supervise and educate graduate students enrolled in pre-service training, and advance the state of scientific knowledge. Regardless of the setting in which our graduates will work, they will function as scientist-practitioners well versed in collaborative problem solving.

The Department of Psychology at Illinois State is committed to the support and promotion of diversity on many dimensions. This commitment is fulfilled through our courses and content, faculty and trainee research, practical and applied experiences, and the recruitment and retention of a diverse body of students, faculty, and staff. The department is committed to providing equal opportunities and an educational and work environment free of any form of discrimination, and respectful of individual differences, as outlined in Illinois State’s diversity policies. Consistent with APA accreditation and NASP program approval training and professional standards, the department recognizes the importance of cultural and individual differences, and the role of diversity in the training of school psychologists. By providing a respectful and inclusive environment, the department prepares its doctoral trainees to be culturally sensitive, and prepare its graduates to function effectively in professional settings where diversity is embraced.