Roles & Functions


There is substantial agreement within the profession that this document provides a realistic and progressive statement of the role and functions of school psychologists and that this statement is consistent with the training and competencies of the school psychology profession. The material is presented in three sections: a global statement related to the school psychologist’s role; considerations related to the delivery of services; and, an outline of activities and outcomes of school psychological services.

School Psychologists’ Role in Education

School psychologists emphasize a problem-solving orientation toward the provision of direct and indirect services to resolve identified concerns.

Problem-Solving Orientation

School psychologists bring to education knowledge of child development, the psychology of learning, progress monitoring, and program evaluation. School psychologists apply these domains of knowledge to the educational community through a problem-solving perspective. This perspective is focused on enhancing psychological and educational competencies by:

  • clearly identifying problems
  • analyzing the factors contributing to a problem, setting goals and analyzing the resources available to attain the goal
  • utilizing data to develop and implement interventions
  • monitoring progress towards goals and modifying interventions as needed
  • evaluating outcomes and concluding interventions when warranted

Service Provision The problem-solving perspective benefits children through an array of services provided by school psychologists. Direct services may include individual and group counseling, skills training, brief family therapy, and crisis intervention. Indirect services may include consultation with parents and educators, functional assessment, evaluation of programs and learner outcomes, and staff development. The expected outcome of these services is the enhanced functioning of children and the increased application of psychological principles to education by parents, teachers, and other professionals.

Considerations Related to the Delivery of

School Psychological Services

Children from birth to school age, students in regular and special education and adults may need school psychological services. Psychologists work in a collaborative relationship with parents and other professionals in education to improve the educational climate so that students will benefit from learning opportunities. School psychologists empower educators and parents through collaborative decision-making. Psychologists work with colleagues to focus resources and interventions on the clientís behaviors and other variables in order to improve educational performance. When conflicts occur in understanding and implementing the intervention alternatives available for students, psychologists facilitate resolution of such conflicts.

When evaluating a situation, the school psychologistís primary focus is on the specific behaviors of concern, but it also includes family, cognitive and affective issues when they are thought to be related to an identified problem. Assessments reflect the interactive effect of expectations for performance, the instructional or home environment, and the individualís characteristics. School psychologists, based on their professional judgment, draw from a variety of assessment techniques to adequately evaluate a student and the conditions affecting that student.

School psychologists work to develop effective interventions in a collaborative relationship. Effective interventions contain a precise definition of the goal and specific actions needed to bring about the desired behavior change. The intended result of an intervention is the improvement of performance and resolution or adjustment of the presenting problem. Direct and frequent monitoring of the target behavior is an essential component in the ongoing decision-making process. School psychologists utilize their skills in measurement to assist in the development of valid means to monitor progress.

School psychologists are typically employed by the educational system but their training is also applicable to work in other settings. Some school psychologists work in private practice, hospitals, teaching institutions, and other settings.

School Psychologists’ Primary Functions


School psychologists carry out service functions that benefit learners, parents, and educators and professional functions which support the school psychology discipline. For each function there are statements of specific activities performed by school psychologists and outcome statements that describe effects of professional actions. It is anticipated that within any given school psychological services unit, the skills necessary to carry out all listed activities would be available. This list is not intended to be comprehensive of all services that might be available, but does provide the major activities one could expect. The activities are presented as discrete elements. In reality these activities are integrated into a unified approach, combining consultation, assessment, intervention and progress monitoring applied to problem-solving efforts.


Service Functions Activities Outcomes
School psychologists utilize collaborative consultation procedures with educators and parents (a) to define problems and link assessments to intervention activities, (b) to improve educator and parent understanding and implementation of interventions, and (c) to modify the educational system.
Assessment activities are guided by needs identified through the consultation resulting in tailored assessments unique to the student, family or system needs.

Increased skills and understanding result for the consultee as educational approaches are modified.

System wide adaptations positively impact on students, teachers, families and others related to the educational community.

Assessment for intervention
School psychologists provide assessments that are (a) relevant to the presenting concern, (b) meaningful within an educational context or at home, and (c) intervention oriented.
Assessment activities are designed to answer specified questions about the factors influencing the behaviors of concern.

Better understanding of studentsí need produce focused intervention efforts which result in successful change in student performance.

School psychologists assist clients through developing tailored interventions to improve or resolve the clientís problem. Intervention may focus on the student, family, or educational system.
Students show measurable improvement in the problem area when interventions are well designed and carried out as planned.

Interventions will include: (1) definition of the problem, (2) direct measure of the behavior, (3) systematic intervention plan, (4) measurable goals, and (5) means of monitoring the clientís improvement across time and settings.

Performance monitoring
School psychologists provide support and ongoing monitoring of student progress toward measurable goals.
When goals are attained, student needs are reviewed and services are adjusted or concluded as appropriate.
Counseling and skill development
School psychologists provide direct services when appropriate to the clientísí needs and the professionalís training. Counseling may be provided to individuals or groups.
Improvement of students’ functioning is the primary measure of success. Some examples are improved understanding of oneself and others, development and use of relaxation techniques to decrease stress, assertiveness skills to increase the effectiveness of personal responses, development of new knowledge such as study skill strategies, or other behaviors.
Staff development
School psychologists share knowledge with individuals and in groups.
Recipients of training display greater skills leading to the improvement of student performance and system functioning. Improved cooperation and collaboration between professionals and parents occurs.
School psychologists use research in their school practice by (a) reading research literature, (b) distributing, and synthesizing research findings, and (c) conducting applied research, including program evaluation.
Research data is used for guiding interventions with individuals, groups, or systems, for programming decisions, and for establishing policy and decision-making frameworks for educational agencies.
Collaboration and liaison activities
School psychologists collaborate with professionals in other disciplines (e.g., teachers, mental health specialists, DHS personnel, AEA support staff) to improve client services.
Improved consistency in services across agencies, development of cohesive plans, and improvement in communication is achieved. Duplications in services are reduced.
– Professional Functions – Activities Outcomes
Public awareness
School psychologists engage in public awareness activities to assist consumers in understanding the services and outcomes of the profession.
Increased use and recognition of psychological services will occur within the educational and general community.
Communication with other professionals
School psychologists work cooperatively and collaboratively with other professionals.
Client services are improved and conflict between groups is reduced.
Professional development
School psychologists provide for their continuing professional development through independent reading, training opportunities and active participation in statewide networks to improve and enhance professional knowledge and skills.
School psychologists will have increased knowledge of recent issues (e.g. cocaine babies, family systems interventions, organizational change) and awareness of new developments with established concepts (e.g. counseling techniques, working with parents, intervention strategies).

School psychologists will be better able to develop interventions with special populations.

School psychologists will continue to supply relevant services to the consumer.

Legal and ethical
School psychologists are knowledgeable about, and act in concert with, legal requirements and ethical codes of their profession.
The rights of individuals are preserved and interventions are matched with needs.
Understanding student diversity
School psychologists understand the diverse issues and needs of children from a variety of racial, cultural, ethnic, experiential, and linguistic backgrounds.
Diverse backgrounds and perspectives are merged to create successful learning environments and opportunities.

The educational, social and emotional needs of the student are addressed without bias.

Extraneous factors that are impacting student performance will be identified and addressed appropriately.