Continuing Professional Development: A Foundation for the Future of School Psychology
By Patti L. Harrison
Continuing professional development (CPD) in any type of career is necessary to prevent knowledge and skills from becoming obsolete and to remain on the forefront of theory, research, applied techniques, and other advances in the profession. Completion of a graduate degree program is an initial starting point for a career in school psychology, and a school psychologist’s strategic plan for life-long learning is necessary for continued effective services and responsive professionalism (Armistead, 2008). NASP’s (2000) practice standards emphasize that a school psychologist’s annual CPD plan should address individualized priorities, including needs of the population and community served, competencies required to implement initiatives of the school or agency, and specific professional interest areas. CPD documentation also is a requirement for renewal of credentials in many states and for National Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) recognition. Providing opportunities for school psychologists to engage in CPD activities is one of NASP’s most important functions in achieving its mission, and a priority initiative for NASP in 2009–2010 is to expand availability of quality CPD that is affordable and accessible.
NASP provides numerous resources and a variety of learning approaches to support CPD of school psychologists (see http://www.nasponline.org/profdevel/index.aspx). Our annual NASP conventions, including the March 2–6, 2010 convention in Chicago, present keynotes, featured sessions, workshops, symposia, papers, and other meetings on many topics relevant for school psychologists’ individual CPD plans. Convention audio recording packages, NASP’s annual summer conferences (scheduled for summer 2010 in Denver, July 12–14, and in Nashville, July 26–28), and additional training opportunities (e.g., Public Policy Institute, PREPaRE) expand CPD opportunities. NASP has many organized and comprehensive CPD activities on our website, including Online CPD Modules, Best Practices V Online Resource Center, and Online Learning Events on current topics in school psychology, which are accessible in the busy schedules of NASP members. Our extensive online library (http://www.nasponline.org/resources/index.aspx) of documents, podcasts, and audio articles highlight numerous specific topics to enhance the knowledge base of school psychologists. Our NASP periodicals—School Psychology Review, School Psychology Forum, and Communiqué—and books published by NASP feature the latest research and issues in our field and serve to update school psychologists’ expertise in evidence-based practices for children, families, and schools. NASP members may learn more about the latest advances in psychology and education by purchasing access to the affordable NASP EBSCO Online Library, which includes access to searchable databases containing more than one million full-text articles from peer-reviewed journals.
NASP also contributes to CPD opportunities sponsored by state school psychology organizations and other agencies. The NASP Speakers Bureau is a service through which speakers volunteer to be listed, and state associations may schedule a conference presenter on the list. The NASP-Approved Provider system permits sponsors to offer “NASP approved CPD” for school psychologists and recognizes quality factors in CPD. The Approved Provider system has a growing number of approved providers including school psychology graduate programs, state school psychology associations, school districts, and commercial and nonprofit agencies. (A total of 75 CPD hours are required for NCSP renewal every 3 years. Beginning in 2010, NCSPs must document that a portion of their CPD credits are from a NASP or APA-approved provider. See http://www.nasponline.org/certification/renewing_NCSP.aspx.) According to Dubin (1972), “The half-life of a professional’s competence can be described as the time after completion of professional training when, because of new developments, practicing professionals have become roughly half as competent as they were upon graduation to meet the demands of their profession” (p. 487). The half-life of what school psychologists learned in graduate school is impacted by advances in intervention and assessment practices, new legal and ethical guidelines, reauthorization of legislation, school-based accountability practices, research related to effective school services, characteristics of students with learning and behavioral problems and disabilities, and expanded mental health programs in schools, among many other factors. Well-planned CPD activities throughout our careers address the inevitable half-life of graduate training, retain our value as indispensable professionals in schools, and allow us to respond to the changing needs of children, families, and schools.
Armistead, L. (2008). Best practices in continuing professional development for school psychologists. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best Practices in School Psychology V (pp. 1975–1989). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Dubin, S. S. (1972). Obsolescence or lifelong education:A choice for the professional. American Psychologist, 27, 486–498.
National Association of School Psychologists. (2000). Professional conduct manual. Bethesda, MD: Author. Retrieved December 1, 2009, from http://www.nasponline.org/standards/ProfessionalCond.pdf
Patti L. Harrison, PhD, NCSP, is a faculty member in the University of Alabama’s school psychology program and an Alabama certified school psychologist.