Ph.D. Program Educational Philosophy

The school psychology doctoral program is committed to the scientist-practitioner model and is designed to train professionals to contribute to the psychological well-being of children and adolescents. The faculty believe a school psychologist is characterized by the knowledge and ability to bring a scientific approach to the study, assessment, and treatment of children and adolescents to maximize their functioning in educational and other appropriate settings. The program is organized around four broad goals that graduates of the program will learn (a) a solid foundational understanding of broad psychological principles, (b) the profession and professional practice of school psychology, (c) appropriate assessment and intervention methodologies, and (d) to be consumers and producers of research.  Knowing that new information and technologies are always being discovered, inherent throughout the program is the overarching goal to train psychologists committed to being life-long learners. 

The dual emphasis of the scientist-practitioner model is more important than ever in this era of changing roles for school psychologists, and it is the primary goal of the program to provide rigorous training in both of these important roles. The scientist-practitioner role has been a longstanding tradition within psychology (Boulder Conference, 1948; Thayer Conference, 1954); however, the tenets of this model fit nicely with the most innovative of practices. Our training practices follow the principles of the National Association of School Psychologists’ (NASP) publication School Psychology:  A Blueprint for Training and Practice III (Ysseldyke et al., 2006) by training students with a solid basis of knowledge in psychological and educational principles and the application of science and the scientific method.  Additionally, one of the approaches to practice that is emphasized in the program is the data-based collaborative problem-solving approach (e.g., Deno, 2002; Ikeda, Tilly, Stumme, Volmer, & Allison, 1996). The problem-solving approach by nature requires the integration of systematic scientific inquiry and service delivery in meeting the needs of children and adolescents. The program components including research experiences and requirements, courses, and practica allow our students to embody the scientist-practitioner model.

The scientist role is an important one to all professional psychologists. Students in the NIU School Psychology Program are trained to be both critical consumers of psychological research, so that they maintain the highest professional standards of practice, and active contributors to psychological and educational knowledge through the conduct of original research. The scientist role is emphasized throughout the program in multiple ways through a series of sequenced, cumulative, and integrated experiences and processes. Being housed within a comprehensive Ph.D. level Department of Psychology, the School Psychology Program provides its students with rigorous, research-based training not only in the core areas of school psychology, but also in the basic psychological and educational foundation content areas that inform school psychology practice. For example, in addition to completing research-oriented course work from primary school psychology faculty, students also complete rigorous research-based course work from faculty in the other Ph.D. curricular programs within the department (e.g., Social, Developmental, Cognitive, Clinical). Students work closely with faculty mentors and advisors on the completion of a Master’s thesis and Ph.D. dissertation that make a substantial contribution to scientific knowledge. Less formally, students participate in multiple activities throughout the academic year that directly facilitate and model the scientist role. These include participation in ongoing faculty research projects as Research Assistants, participation as both attendees and presenters at a variety of departmental colloquium series (e.g., Cognitive/Instructional-Developmental-School Area, Child Clinical-Developmental, School, Center for the Study of Family Violence), as well as participation in local, state, and national conferences and workshops.  

The practitioner role also is central to the functioning of most school psychologists. It is necessarily a diverse role, requiring skills in psychological and educational intervention, consultation, and assessment. Course work and practica experiences provide a synthesis of theory, research, and applied aspects of school psychology practice. The program is designed to train students as problem-solving professionals who are competent to work in multiple capacities on a wide range of problems encountered in educational and other applied settings. The school psychology program provides students with a comprehensive set of graduated practicum experiences beginning their first semester on campus and continuing until the capstone internship experience. It is during these experiences that students apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired in their academic courses and research to educational and clinical settings. The synthesis of theory, research, and practice forms the foundation of the scientist-practitioner model adopted by the NIU program.

The NIU School Psychology Program has four broad educational goals. From these four broad goals stem 7 specific training objectives.  These 7 training objectives lead to 21 specific competencies that program faculty expect of our program graduates.