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Open Access Thesis


This is a historical/philosophical critique thesis. Its content and organization differ substantially from the typical research-oriented thesis in school psychology. This paper explores several primary themes in the ongoing development of school psychology as a profession and the issue of the philosophical base for measurement processes used by school psychologists. Chapter 1 reviews societal trends and actions which have facilitated the profession's development, and major role definitions that have come from within the profession. The chapter culminates in a review of surveys which studied the percentage of time spent on various functions performed by school psychologists. Assessment-related activities (testing, report writing, communicating results) occupy the bulk of a school psychologist's time. The second chapter focuses on how theorists have influenced the most prevalent function of school psychologists today--testing. The work of early theorists along with the assumptions they made as they developed their work are discussed. Chapter 3 takes a more contemporary look at the assumptions behind testing. The various conceptions of validity are defined and discussed. Particular attention is paid to construct validity and the implications of certain philosophical tenets on this form of validity. There is an inherent conflict in the formulation of theories within psychology between what can be professed with scientific certainty and what can be professed with only presuppositional certainty. Chapter 4 takes a careful look at this question. The philosophical implications behind two distinctly different theoretical vantage points are clarified by juxtaposing them. The philosophical framework representing the goal of a scientific psychology is discussed in terms of deterministic type assumptions. The framework which asserts the need for and limitation of presuppositions in the understanding of reality is discussed in terms of value-oriented assumptions. These fundamentally different.positions are compared and contrasted. Chapter 5 provides an alternative to the testing practices that are aligned more closely with deterministic type assumptions and the goals of scientific psychology. Some criticisms of value-oriented assumptions as they are applied in school psychological evaluations are considered. Further, a model is presented which outlines how school psychological evaluations could be conducted from value-oriented assumptions. This thesis does not resolve fundamental philosophical conflicts over how human phenomena are to be perceived and understood. It does, however, take a careful look at two basic philosophical orientations and discusses their relevance to practicing school psychologists. It provides the reader with a sense of both the historical and philosophical forces which affect the evaluation based decisions of a school psychologist. By developing the deterministic and value-oriented contrasts in the question of measurement validity, the thesis provides the reader with a choice of a value-oriented or a deterministic model without having to make one more important than the other. Finally, the thesis provides the reader with the ability to apply value-oriented presuppositions to their own evaluation practices.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Specialist in Education


Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations

First Advisor

Donald W. Schmits

Second Advisor

Fred W. Hallberg

Third Advisor

John K. Smith


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