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Innovative School Psychologist Recognized for “Contributions to Practice”

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dawn P. Flanagan, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, has received many awards over her 25-year career, including the 2013 Outstanding Contributions to Training award by the nationally recognized Trainers of School Psychologists and the 2014 New York Association of School Psychologists (NYASP) Gil Trachtman Leadership Award in School Psychology. To this impressive list of accomplishments, she now adds the inaugural American Psychological Association (APA)’s Division 16 Contributions to Practice Award.

Dawn FlanaganThis award recognizes innovations in practice and significant contributions to the field of school psychology. “Dawn not only checks off but far exceeds many of those examples and is well-deserving of this recognition,” said Mark D. Terjesen, Ph.D.,  Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in School Psychology.

Dr. Flanagan was chosen for having developed and disseminated the Cross-Battery assessment approach and an operational definition of specific learning disability, both of which have made a considerable impact on the field.

Using Cross-Battery assessment, rather than relying on a single measure to identify learning disabilities, allows for a broader range of measurement and the ability to pair diagnosis with intervention—but it was controversial when Dr. Flanagan first proposed the idea. “School psychologists were shocked at the time,” she said, “but it’s now considered common practice.”

She has also developed state-of-the-art training materials, including a 21-hour continuing education online program, for the interpretation of assessment data and the implementation of the Cross-Battery approach. Dr. Flanagan has conducted innovative inservice training programs in nearly all 50 states, as well as in several other countries.

According to Catherine A. Fiorello, Ph.D., ABPP, President of APA Division 16, Dr. Flanagan’s “work is widely cited and she is one of the most sought-after educational and psychological consultants in the world. Dr. Flanagan is recognized as one of the most influential leaders and trainers in the field of school psychology and the impact of her work has benefitted school psychologists, and the children and families they serve, in immeasurable ways.”

Dr. Flanagan received her award at the APA Division 16 Business Meeting on August 5 at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Washington, DC, where she also gave a brief presentation. As part of the award, she is invited to submit a manuscript for the annual awards issue of The School Psychologist.

“This strikes me as both a prestigious and meaningful award that is very well deserved,” said William Chaplin, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Psychology.

“I’m extremely honored by this award,” said Dr. Flanagan. “It’s not easy to change well-entrenched practices, and I’m pleased that my peers nationally have recognized my contributions.”

Her interest in research and assessment methods began while completing the internship requirement for her Master of Science program in School Psychology at The Ohio State University. She realized that the method at that time for identifying learning disabilities by analyzing the difference between IQ and achievement test scores functioned on circular logic and didn’t provide enough information about why a student struggled academically. “It also didn’t tell me what I could do to help,” said Dr. Flanagan. “I realized that I needed more knowledge to practice. Once you understand why a learning disability exists, you also understand better how to intervene. More research was needed to guide practice.” Following her internship experience, Dr. Flanagan returned to The Ohio State University to begin a program of research designed to improve the process of evaluating students with learning difficulties and disabilities.

Throughout her 25-year career, she has thought of herself as a bridge between researchers and practitioners in the field, and the development of training programs has helped her bring more knowledge to psychologists in schools, who may not have the time or resources to stay abreast of current research. She has also served as a valuable resource to graduate students at St. John’s, who benefit from her mentorship and considerable expertise. “I am proud of the students I’ve trained, who have taken that knowledge and used it to make a positive difference in the schools where they work,” she said.

Though celebrated for the advances she has already made to the field of school psychology, Dr. Flanagan sees more work to be done in streamlining the identification of learning disabilities. “I very much want to be a part of that,” she said.

We look forward to the breakthroughs and innovations she has yet to contribute.