University of Missouri - Saint Louis

The Graduate School


An oral examination in defense of the dissertation for the degree

Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Jill L. Johnson
Ed. Sp. University of Missouri-Columbia, 1994
M.A. Northeast Missouri State University, 1979
B.S. Northeast Missouri State University, 1978

School Psychology and Cultural Responsiveness: Re-Forming Identities



Competence in being able to provide psychological services to children and families from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds is considered a foundational skill for school psychologists according to the National Association of School Psychologists 2010 standards. Yet a full and accurate description of what cultural competency looks like in the everyday practices of school psychologists is currently not available in the research literature. This study fills this gap by documenting how I and other practicing school psychologists describe our culturally competent professional identities and practices. As a veteran school psychologist of 22 years, I examined my own educational practices and also listened closely to the voices of other practicing school psychologists. Within a socio-cultural theoretical frame, I analyzed constructed meanings around school psychologists’ day-to-day work experiences with diverse students. The design of this qualitative study is both narrative analysis and autoethnography. Data sources include 12 in-depth interviews with a variety of practicing school psychologists, a re-analysis of self-reflection journals collected over two years, and document analysis around the development of professional standards for school psychologists. Three methods of analysis were utilized: 1) Discourse Analysis (DA) to illuminate meanings within the narratives of practice, focusing on examples of culturally competent practice by school psychologists. (DA was also used to examine reflective journaling and documents); 2) The tools of Grounded Theory, including open and axial coding, to develop a substantive model of culturally competent practice from multiple perspectives, interpretations, and voices; and 3) Autoethnography to compare my personal journey of cultural competence to that of others and to encourage the reader to appreciate the experiential component of personal transformation. The goal of the study was to develop a model for change in school psychology preparation and professional practice, provoking a rethinking of school psychologists’ training and documenting entrenched practices that may continue to marginalize children of color and immigrant children and their families.


Date: February 19, 2013

Time: 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Place: E. Desmond Lee Technology and Learning Center


Defense of Dissertation Committee


Virginia Navarro, Ph.D. (Advisor)

Rebecca Rogers, Ph.D.


Brenda Bredemeier, Ph.D.

Michael Bahr, Ph.D.