Conor Barker, a school psychologist from Swift Current who is currently pursuing a PhD in Education (Education Psychology) from the University of Regina, is the recipient of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowships Program Award of $40,000 for his research study entitled “Using communities of practice to develop clinical competency with rural school psychologists.”
Abstract: The practice of a rural school psychologist is challenging, and can be fraught with aspects of isolation, role confusion, and burn out. In many rural communities the only qualified mental health professional may be a school psychologist, and as such, these psychologists require a great number of skills in order to meet the diverse needs of their community, as a referral to a specialist outside the community may not be feasible. To determine the competencies required of rural school psychologists, Conor is conducting a collective case study of rural school psychologists from across Saskatchewan using a Communities of Practice (Wenger, 1998) conceptual framework. Preliminary results have focused on the Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes, and Behaviours (KSABs) required of rural school psychologists, the ways in which rural psychologists gather in communities to maintain their competency, and their ability to use creativity when faced with difficult situations so that they can support students, schools, families, and communities. This study acknowledges the general-practitioner role that rural school psychologists play within the field of psychology, when present discourses tend towards a more specialized practice and discussion of clinical competency. It further describes the ways that rural psychologists can gather within communities of practice in order to sustain competent and ethical practices in psychology.
Conor says, “I would like to acknowledge the support from my committee, supervisors Dr. Laurie Carlson Berg and Dr. Joel Thibeault, and committee members Dr. Kristi Wright (Psychology), Dr. Jenn de Lugt, and Dr. Scott Thompson who assisted with the development of the SSHRC application. I also must acknowledge the work of Tania Gates who made sure the application was perfect before final submission. This was truly a group effort and I am very appreciative to the staff and faculty within the Faculty of Education.”