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Supervision & Mentoring in School Psychology

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

This lesson defines 'supervision' and 'mentoring', and their importance as they relate to a person beginning his or her career as a school psychologist. We will learn the difference between these two necessary training components, and also how they complement each other.

Defining Terms

Nobody can argue that the school psychologist is an important member of a school staff. Not only do they administer tests, but they also frequently counsel students and meet with parents, teachers, and administrators to ensure that students are functioning well and receiving any services that they may require. But to learn these skills well, the psychologist requires supervision and mentoring from those who have been in the field longer. Supervision, as defined by the National Association of School Psychologists (2011) is an ongoing relationship between a new school psychologist and one with more experience, in order to promote effective growth and sound professional practices. Mentoring, on the other hand, deals with the advising and training of a school psychologist who may be new to the field.

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Purpose of Supervision and Mentoring

So why not let a graduate, fresh out of college with his master's degree in school psychology, jump right into the new job? The truth is that graduate (and undergraduate) programs have a tendency to teach a great deal of theory, but give people little experience to actually 'do' the job for which they are studying. And dealing with students' feelings, problems, abilities, etc. is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Therefore, it is essential that psychologists, especially those who are just starting out, have a supervisor to monitor their work.

Josh is a school psychologist fresh out of school, and has just landed his first job. He will need both a supervisor and a mentor. While the supervisor will ensure that Josh's interactions with his students are ethical and positive, and that he is growing as a professional, the mentor keeps Josh up-to-date on the administrative tasks that the job requires. In other words, the mentor will teach Josh how to do the job, and the supervisor will see to it that he is doing it correctly.

Ideally, Josh's supervisor should have at least three years of experience as a school psychologist and be in close proximity to where Josh is working. The person functioning as Josh's mentor would also ideally be on the same campus. The supervisor acts as a sounding board and discusses specific cases with the newly-trained psychologist. He is there to ensure that everything is being done ethically and according to best practices, which are outlined by the National Association of School Psychologists (2011). Best practices include maintaining client confidentiality, keeping relationships positive, and reporting unethical behavior.

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