The Influence of Study Abroad on School Psychologist Cultural Competence


The Influence of Study Abroad on School Psychologist Cultural Competence



Alexa Marie Irwin



Cultural competence and the ability to effectively serve children and families from diverse backgrounds has increased in importance in social services fields. Professional associations such as the National Association for School Psychologists place particular value on cultural competence for school psychologists due to the lack of diversity in the field and the changing demographics of U.S. schools. Research demonstrates that study abroad experiences during undergraduate or graduate school are an effective way of developing cultural competence in teachers, counselors, and school psychology graduate students. However, there is limited research on the long-term influence of study abroad experiences on the cultural competence of mid-career school psychologists. Ten mid-career school psychologists were interviewed for this qualitative study. The purpose of this study was to examine how a study abroad course, taken during an undergraduate program or graduate program, had any lasting professional or personal impact on mid-career school psychologists. This study further explored other factors that contribute to mid-career school psychologists’ perceived cultural competence. Five themes related to cultural competence emerged following analysis, including: (1) awareness, (2) exposure, (3) cultural immersion, (4) willingness to learn, and (5) professional development. Six themes related to long-term influence of study abroad on perceived cultural competence emerged from the analysis, including: (1) increased openness, (2) different perspectives, (3) learning about other cultures, (4) recognition of our similarities, (5) relating to students from different backgrounds, and (6) contributions to practice. The findings are presented along with implications for future research.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Elana Renee Bernstein, Susan C. Davies, Leslie H. Picca

Primary Advisor's Department

Counselor Education


Stander Symposium project, School of Education and Health Sciences

The Influence of Study Abroad on School Psychologist Cultural Competence