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What Are Educational Psychologists?
What conditions, biological and environmental, contribute to learning? What is the role of motivation? Educational psychologists explore these questions as they relate to different populations. They are experts in the science behind how people learn.
Educational psychology is one of several psychological specialties focused on youth and education. One difference between a school psychologist and an educational psychologist is that school psychologists are trained to work directly with children who have learning and behavioral issues; educational psychologists concentrate on the “macro".
Educational psychologists may also focus on adult learners. Educational psychology is considered the older field; some trace it as far back as Plato ( Often educational psychologists are researchers. They may also be consultants and educators. PhD level school psychologists can practice at the macro level, but a good portion of their training is spent learning to administer assessments and interventions and preparing to meet state licensing requirements.
An educational psychologist may not be qualified to provide diagnostic assessments to a school child -- but still be qualified to analyze data and "diagnose" a school district. A psychologist may collect and study many forms of data and make recommendations for improved performance. Indiana State University, which offers both a school psychology degree and a PhD in “inquiry methodology”, notes that inquiry graduates may be employed as research specialists for testing companies and state level education departments.


Bay Area LEP Dena McManis

What Training Do School Psychologists Receive?

School psychologists receive specialized advanced graduate preparation that includes coursework and practical experiences relevant to both psychology and education. School psychologists typically complete either a specialist-level degree program (at least 60 graduate semester hours) or a doctoral degree (at least 90 graduate semester hours), both of which include a year-long 1200 hour supervised internship (see an Overview of Differences Among Degrees in School Psychology).

What Do School Psychologists Do?

School psychologists provide direct support and interventions to students, consult with teachers, families, and other school-employed mental health professionals (i.e., school counselors, school social workers) to improve support strategies, work with school administrators to improve school-wide practices and policies, and collaborate with community providers to coordinate needed services.

They help schools successfully:
Improve Academic Achievement
    Promote student motivation and engagement
    Conduct psychological and academic assessments
    Individualize instruction and interventions
    Manage student and classroom behavior
    Monitor student progress
    Collect and interpret student and classroom data
    Reduce inappropriate referrals to special education.

Promote Positive Behavior and Mental Health
    Improve students communication and social skills
    Assess student emotional and behavioral needs
    Provide individual and group counseling
    Promote problem solving, anger management and conflict resolution
    Reinforce positive coping skills and resilience
    Promote positive peer relationships and social problem solving
    Make referrals to and help coordinate community services provided in schools

Support Diverse Learners
    Assess diverse learning needs
    Provide culturally responsive services to students and families from diverse backgrounds
    Plan appropriate Individualized Education Programs for students with disabilities
    Modify and adapt curricula and instruction
    Adjust classroom facilities and routines to improve student engagement and learning
    Monitor and effectively communicate with parents about student progress

Create Safe, Positive School Climates
    Prevent bullying and other forms of violence
    Support social-emotional learning
    Assess school climate and improve school connectedness
    Implement and promote positive discipline and restorative justice
    Implement school-wide positive behavioral supports
    Identify at risk students and school vulnerabilities
    Provide crisis prevention and intervention services

Strengthen Family-School Partnerships
    Help families understand their child's learning and mental health needs
    Assist in navigating special education processes
    Connect families with community service providers when necessary
    Help effectively engage families with teachers and other school staff
    Enhance staff understanding and responsiveness to diverse cultures and backgrounds
    Help students transition between school and community learning environments, such as residential treatment or juvenile justice programs

Improve School-Wide Assessment and Accountability Monitor individual student progress in academics and behavior
    Generate and interpret useful student and school outcome data
    Collect and analyze data on risk and protective factors related to student outcomes
    Plan services at the district, building, classroom, and individual levels

Why Do Children Need School Psychologists?

All children and youth can face problems from time to time related to learning; social relationships; making difficult decisions; or managing emotions such as feeling depressed, anxious, worried, or isolated. School psychologists help students, families, educators, and members of the community understand and resolve both long-term, chronic problems and short-term issues that students may face. They are a highly skilled and ready resource in the effort to ensure that all children and youth thrive in school, at home, and in life.

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