What Happened at Spring Hill? Establishing an Agenda for the Future of Psychology in the Schools

Richard A. Weinberg, James E. Ysseldyke

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Abstract

The Spring Hill Symposium on the Future of Psychology in the Schools took place in June 1980. The Symposium was the first comprehensive examination of school psychology by US school psychologists since the Thayer Conference in 1954. The latter meeting, like others at Vail and the University of Chicago, focused primarily on guild issues and led to modifications in professional practice and training. It is tempting to think that the Spring Hill Symposium, too, will be considered a historic event and that its influence will be traced in the future applications of psychology to the schools. However, conferences and change may be only correlated; national meetings tend to be called at critical points in time, and the points are critical because change is imminent. School psychology appears to be at such a point.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-130
Number of pages6
JournalSchool Psychology International
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1984

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Weinberg Richard A. Ysseldyke James E. University of Minnesota, USA 07 1984 5 3 125 130 The Spring Hill Symposium on the Future of Psychology in the Schools took place in June 1980. The Symposium was the first comprehensive examination of school psychology by US school psychologists since the Thayer Conference in 1954. The latter meeting, like others at Vail and the University of Chicago, focused primarily on guild issues and led to modifications in professional practice and training. It is tempting to think that the Spring Hill Symposium, too, will be considered a historic event and that its influence will be traced in the future applications of psychology to the schools. However, conferences and change may be only correlated; national meetings tend to be called at critical points in time, and the points are critical because change is imminent. School psychology appears to be at such a point. sagemeta-type Journal Article search-text School PsychologyInternational (1984), 5, 125-130 What Happened at Spring Hill? Establishing an Agenda for the Future of Psychology in the Schools RICHARD A. WEINBERG & JAMES E. YSSELDYKE University of Minnesota, USA The Spring Hill Symposium on the Future of Psychology in the Schools took place in June 1980. The Symposium was the first comprehensive examination of school psychology by US school psychologists since the Thayer Conference in 1954. The latter meeting, like others at Vail and the University of Chicago, focused primar- ily on guild issues and led to modifications in professional practice and training. It is tempting to think that the Spring Hill Symposium, too, will be considered a historic event and that its influence will be traced in the future applications of psychology to the schools. However, conferences and change may be only corre- lated; national meetings tend to be called at critical points in time, and the points are critical because change is imminent. School psychology appears to be at such a point. In many ways, the issues with which school psychologists are currently grappling have not changed since the Thayer Conference, but they have taken on different dimensions owing to significant sociopolitical, economic, legal and societal developments and the growth of the profession. Now, as was true 25 years ago, school psychologists are still contemplating their roles and functions and the purposes of national organizations - two (NASP and Div. 16-APA) as opposed to the one (APA) 26 years ago - that profess to speak for them. Three major themes of the Thayer Conference - limi- ted opportunities for training, standards for certification, and the accreditation of training programmes - are still at issue but at more complex levels. The issues are exacerbated by adjudications and legislation that mandate schools to provide new arrangements for the education of students. Some of the changes in the schools focus on the rights of students, especially of those who are handicapped or members of minority groups. For example, the principles of zero- exclusion, unbiased testing and extended child identification procedures are applicable to all children; specific to handicapped children are the requirements for appropriate educational programming, placement in the 'last restric- tive' environment, development and monitor- ing of individualized educational plans and ex- tension of public educational services to chil- dren between the ages of three and five years and adults between the ages of 18 and 21. In most states, school psychologists are charged with the responsibility of collecting data for and, often, participating in decisions needed to comply with these mandates. Indeed, the re- sponsibilities for bias-free testing and the iden- tification of handicapped children (e.g., those with cognitive deficits) generally rest with psy- chologists, and individualized educational plans for handicapped students are developed by teams of regular and special educators and 125 R.A. Weinberg & J.E. Ysseldyke school psychologists. At the same time, increased awareness and appreciation of individual differences among children in learning style, patterns of intellec- tual abilities and educational needs have stimulated the increased demand for more di- verse psychological services for a wider popula- tion of pupils. The attention being given to pre- vention programmes, curricular interventions and parent education by school people encour- ages the participation of school psychologists. In a broader context, the demands of parents of non-handicapped children for evidence of the benefits of schooling are providing school psy- chologists with opportunities to play key roles in the development of programmes to evaluate the effectiveness of all classroom teaching and educational programmes. The requirements for accountability have become specific and specific to individuals. Thus the pre-eminence given to programmes for handicapped students would restrict school psychologists to 'gate-keeper' functions in trad- itional areas of special education for which few have been adequately trained, whereas the concomitant developments in the application of psychological principles require them to spend greater proportions of time in non-special edu- cation environments providing support ser- vices to regular classroom teachers and admin- istrators; again, not all school psychologists are prepared to take on such roles. The conflict has raised serious questions about the professional role and functions of school psychologists which, in turn, have raised questions about training programmes and standards. The Symposium The Spring Hill Symposium on the Future of Psychology in the Schools was held on 4-8 June 1980 at the Spring Hill Conference Center in Wayzata, Minnesota, a western suburb of Min- neapolis. Situated on the shores of Long Lake amid rolling green fields, the Center provided all the comforts and amenities of a first-class hotel with the peace and seclusion of a small campus. Participating in the Symposium were 69 invited school psychologists from 22 states, the District of Columbia, and Alberta, Canada. The major consideration in inviting partici- pants was to draw from among the leaders in school psychology to insure representation on the basis of sex, race, geographic region of the country, professional position ('practitioner- educator') and professional association membership. The plans for the Symposium were generated by the funding of the National School Psycho- logy Inservice Training Network which func- tions nationally. Its long-range goal is to up- date the practice of psychology in schools, re- train practising school psychologists and estab- lish a national network to provide school psy- chologists with the in-service training they need currently. Another primary goal of the Network is to work through standing struc- tures, including professional organizations at national and state levels and state depart- ments of education, to develop and carry out the programmes of in-service training. As the result of a case made to the Bureau of Educa- tion for the Handicapped (now the Office of Spe- cial Education), the Symposium was in part funded as part of the Network's activities. Within this context, the purpose of the Sym- posium was twofold: (1) to identify major needs that could be addressed in future Network in- service training activities and, more impor- tant, (2) to 'begin an intensive process of seri- ous thought and attention to the future of psy- chology in the schools' (Bardon). The Symposium format was devised to en- hance the exchange of ideas and facilitate indi- vidual participation. The five-day programme comprised an introductory session, which was opened by Elizabeth Abramowitz with an his- torical survey and then was given over to the keynote address by William Bevan; three large group sessions at which the major papers were presented, reacted to and discussed; two ses- sions in which the participants were divided among the three groups for 'creative discus- sions'; and a final meeting devoted to syntheses of the group discussions and the conference as a whole. Donald Peterson, from Rutgers University, reflected on the total experience of the Sym- posium. The dean of a graduate department that includes a school psychology training pro- gramme and the former Chairman of the APA Committee on Accreditation, he attended all the Symposium sessions and, thus, was able to offer an objective commentary on the proceed- 126 What Happened at Spring Hill? ings from a sympathetic point of view. At the large group sessions, all presenters sat at a square of tables (i.e., a 'round' table) and the remainder of the participants formed a semicircle around them to observe, listen and question. After each set of papers was deliv- ered, all the presenters were encouraged to re- flect upon the position paper and the reactions thereto and to speculate 'beyond the data'; then the discussion was broadened to include parti- cipants in the semicircle. Before the Symposium, the presenter of each position paper had been asked to relate his ex- periences to the following three topics on the future training and practice of psychology in the schools: 1. Issues and recent findings in psychoeduca- tional research. 2. Trends and problems in the application of psychology to meeting societal needs. 3. Current issues and practices in general and special education. In contrast, the keynoter had been requested to address the following questions: What are the major forces or factors (social, political, economic, legal, etc.) in our society that are operating now and will continue to shape the direction of our society into the next decade and beyond? - How do/will these factors influence the lives of children, the nature of public education and the demands placed on professionals who work with children? - Can psychology help to meet these demands and, in particular, how must psychologists (and other professionals) define and redefine their roles to meet these demands without becoming too restricted in the kinds of services which are offered? - What are the implications of these issues for the training, practice and accountability of pro- fessionals who work with children? A review of the issues The questions and Bevan's provocative re- sponse provided participants with a broad framework for raising and, sometimes, sugges- ting answers to many other questions and is- sues. The main concerns of the participants, as voiced during the formal sessions and in infor- mal conversations that took place during meals and free periods, centred on (a) the position of school psychologists in the schools; (b) ethical and legal issues; (c) the professionalism of school psychologists; (d) the content of training programmes; and (e) accountability. Goals and roles for thepractice of schoolpsycho- logy. As was true at the Thayer Conference, is- sues of role and function occupied much of the discussion at Spring Hill. Throughout the pro- ceedings at Spring Hill, participants re- peatedly addressed ways in which school psychologioal services could best be provided in the context of current social and economic con- siderations. Reminiscent of the Thayer Confer- ence, participants struggled with the dilemma of serving the largest number of students possi- ble and providing the best possible services to individual students. Perhaps more an issue of debate at Spring Hill than at Thayer was the question of focus. Bardon asked, 'Are the goals and purposes best expressed as those of im- proved mental health in the schools or as im- proved education?' Strong proponents of both views spoke out during the Symposium. Participants at Spring Hill spoke clearly of a need to document models of exemplary school psychological practice and to communicate those 'best practices' to the related professions with whom we work. Some (e.g., Lambert) pointed to the specialty guidelines recently published by APA as a model for service deliv- ery, others (e.g., Hodges) spoke of the need to conduct research contrasting alternative mod- els for delivery of services. Considerable discussion centred on essential competencies required to practise as psycholo- gists in schools. It was recognized that the di- versity of current school psychology training programmes reflects the range in beliefs about competencies needed to function effectively as a school psychologist. Some participants (Bevan; Trachtman) argued that too much specificity in training would be inappropriate; others (e.g., Grubb) argued that a critical issue confronting the profession was that too many school psychologists were 'over-generalized generalists'. There w as consensus on the need for im- proved rela tions with other professionals work- ing in the schools and with advocacy organiza- 127 R.A. Weinberg & J.E. Ysseldyke tions. Specific suggestions for improving inter- professional relations, especially relations with administrators, were delineated by Grimes. Several opinions were expressed on the abi- lity of school psychologists to control their own destiny. Bevan expressed the belief that school psychologists will have much to say about their future roles if they are able to work effectively within the political system. Grimes called for controlling professional destiny by improving everyday practice and demonstrating the con- tributions of school psychologists to the welfare of students and schools. Sewell and Tucker ex- pressed doubt that school psychologists will be able to control their own destiny, indicating that first we must demonstrate that we can an- swer important educational questions. Rosen- field spoke of barriers (e.g., our perception of a knowledge-practice gap) to taking control of our destiny and called on the profession to de- velop psychologists who think like professional psychologists rather than like technicians. Ethical and legal issues. Attention at Spring Hill focused on the extent to which professional standards and/or competencies are com- promised in efforts to respond to current litiga- tion and legislation. Participants expressed the concern that Public Law 94-142 was forcing an increased emphasis on psychometric testing at the expense of activities that would have great- er payoff for individual students. At issue was whether school psychologists could best main- tain professional standards by working with the law, might find it necessary to resort to con- frontation to keep from compromising profes- sional standards, or could best work to modify laws that need to be changed. A major ethical issue addressed at Spring Hill was one of responsibility for making deci- sions about students. 'My-turf-your-turf dis- cussion focused on responsibility for classifying students, for deciding who should be assessed and for specifying diagnostic procedures to be used. It was clear that practising school psycholo- gists face a major ethical dilemma as they en- deavour to work in schools and at the same time try to change 'system' practices viewed as inappropriate. There was agreement on the need to specify who the client is (student, parent, school) and to work to eliminate mediocrity in education. Professionalization of school psychology. Parti- cipants at Spring Hill focused on several issues about the professionalization of school psycho- logy: the extent to which school psychology is a unique professional discipline, the role that professional school psychology organizations should play, school psychologists' role in in- fluencing policy and legislation, problems of credentialling in school psychology, and both inter- and intra-professional communication. While there was general acknowledgement that school psychology is a unique professional discipline that should not over-identify with either parent group, there was also apprecia- tion and acceptance of professional pluralism (Rosenfield). Participants at Spring Hill considered issues related to a breakdown in communication within the profession and with other profes- sions. While the discussion was probably triggered by the introductory remarks of Ab- ramowitz and Bevan, Peterson ended the Sym- posium by urging school psychologists to work together to influence public policy with pri- mary attention to how policy can benefit chil- dren and schools and only secondary emphasis on benefits to the profession (Peterson). Training issues. Abramowitz began the Sym- posium with a challenge, stating that 'the field has contributed little to the application of psy- chology to resolving rather than describing critical recurring problems.' Bevan, in his keynote address, stated that: 'We are doing an increasingly poor job of educating graduate students in psychology as a whole. In my view, our graduates are exces- sively narrow specialists, long on technique and short on a grasp of the fundamentals of our field, short on an understanding of its intellec- tual base, and short on a knowledge of its his- torical traditions. Such persons are likely to be effective when textbook solutions are readily evident but found wanting when the problem solving calls for versatility, that is, for those overarching intuitive insights that profes- sional settings more often than not require. If I were to pick two verbs to summarize my layman's advice about the curriculum, I would 128 What Happened at Spring Hill? say broaden and diversify.' [p. 135] Symposium participants were critical of cur- rent training efforts, although two different voices were heard. There were those who called for increasing specialization in technique- focused, action-oriented training programmes; others called for increasing scope and diversifi- cation. In the context of such discussion, the no- tion of nationally-standardized training was raised and dismissed. Accountability. Finally, school psychologists were concerned about the extent to which they are accountable for the validity of their own practice. There was agreement that psycholo- gists in school settings must begin to validate their services and produce documentation of the value of what they do in schools. Charting a blueprint Spring Hill was a problem-raising, question- asking, issue-clarifying symposium. The con- ference was organized mainly to promote dis- cussion and understanding of contemporary is- sues and not to make formal recommendations. As we stated in an Introduction to Spring Hill Proceedings: 'If neither the "right" answers nor the paths to their discovery were found at Spring Hill, we can take comfort in the knowledge that the sample of trainers, practitioners, and adminis- trators who gathered there for five days raised the appropriate questions. Piaget has taught us that the kinds of questions children ask tell us a great deal about their cognitive develop- ment and the ways they view the world. In the same way, we believe that the questions raised about their profession by its members are indi- cative of the professional posture and issues that are important at a particular time.' [Yssel- dyke and Weinberg, 1981, p.119] The key issues in and problems of contempo- rary school psychology are complex. Specula- tions, alternative solutions and diverse views must be encouraged so that we can chart a workable blueprint for the future of our profes- sion. Indeed, it was the hope of all the partici- pants at Spring Hill that the Symposium would stimulate widespread discussion and further debate among the ranks of school psychologists and colleagues involved in the educational en- terprise. Discussion sessions have been sched- uled at state, local and regional levels and the National Association of School Psychologists and Division 16 of the American Psychological Association sponsored a follow-up national conference in November 1981. At that meeting - the Olympia Conference -350 participants were provided with a better understanding of the possible futures and focus that shape their professional lives and were offered the opportu- nity to work together actively and form net- works for future action. We hope the interest generated at Spring Hill and the follow-up meetings will lead to refinements in the prac- tice of psychology in the schools and to the com- plex questions addressed there. Acknowledgements This article is based in part on an Introduction to J.E. Ysseldyke and R.A. Weinberg (Ed.) (1981) The future of psychology in the schools: proceedings of the Spring Hill Symposium, School Psychology Review, 10, Spring (whole issue). Copies of these proceedings may be or- dered from the National School Psychology In- service Training Network, n532 Elliott Hall, University of Minnesota, 75 E. River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. The cost of the volume is $8.00 including postage, payable to National School Psychology Inservice Training Network. NASP members may obtain a copy from NASP for $7.00, payable to NASP. The Symposium was supported in part by a grant No. G00784657 from the United States Office of Special Education to the National School Psychology Inservice Training Network at the University of Minnesota. Funding was also provided by the National Association of School Psychologists, the School Psychology Division of the American Psychological Associ- ation, the Council of Directors of School Psy- chology Training Programs and the Spring Hill Foundation. Bibliograpjhy All the papers referred to in the following list appear in: Ysseldyke, J. & Weinberg, R. (Ed.) (1981) The Future of Psychology in the Schools: Pro- 129 R.A. Weinberg & J.E. Ysseldyke ceedings of the Spring Hill Symposium; published in School Psychology Review, 10 (Spring issue). Abramowitz, E.A. School psychology: a histori- cal perspective. pp. 121-126. Bardon, J.I. Small group synthesis, Group C. pp.297-306. Bevan, W. On coming of age among the profes- sions. pp. 127-137. Grimes, J. Shaping the future of school psycho- logy. pp. 206-231. Grubb, R.D. Shaping the future of school psy- chology: a reaction. pp. 243-258. Hodges, W. Small group synthesis, Group B. pp.290-296. Lambert, N. School psychology training for the decades ahead, or rivers, streams, and creeks - currents and tributaries to the sea. pp. 194-205. Peterson, D.R. Overall synthesis of the Spring Hill Symposium on the Future of Psycho- logy in the Schools. pp. 307-314. Rosenfield, S. Small group synthesis, Group A. pp.285-289. Sewell, T. Shaping the future of school psycho- logy: another perspective. pp. 232-242. Trachtman, G. On such a full sea. pp. 138-181. Tucker, J. The emperor's new clothes are hand- me-downs. pp. 271-277. Richard A. Weinberg and James E. Ysseldyke National School Psychology Inservice Training Network, n532 Elliott Hall, University of Minnesota, 75 E. River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. 130 Ysseldyke, J. & Weinberg, R. (Ed.) ( 1981 )

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