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Sally Grapin

Montclair State University


Social Justice in School Psychology

My approach to teaching integrates theory and research in experiential learning, multiple mentorship models, and multicultural education. My undergraduate service learning course, Social Justice in School Psychology (SJSP), engages students in an in-depth exploration of social issues facing contemporary U.S. public schools (e.g., racial disparities in disciplinary practices). Students build preliminary advocacy skills through a variety of means, including the following:

  1. School-based Service Learning

Students engage in a 16-week, school-based internship under the supervision of a qualified school psychologist (practitioner mentor). All internship sites serve a culturally diverse student population. The internship comprises a series of structured educational experiences that create opportunities for meaningful situational learning. Examples of such activities include mentoring students with disabilities, assisting with classroom instruction, and observing assessment and group counseling sessions.

On alternating weeks, students meet with 3-4 classmates and their faculty mentor for group supervision. They complete regular readings on social justice issues and discuss potential connections to their field experiences. Supervision activities encourage students to critically examine personal beliefs related to culture and individual difference. Materials for a sample activity are provided below (Body Ritual Among the Nacirema; Miner, 1956). In this activity, students first read Miner’s article, which describes American culture from the perspective of an “outsider.” They then discuss how the article illustrates concepts such as cultural relativism and ethnocentrism.  

  1. Multi-mentor Networks

Because service learning relies heavily on feedback, scaffolding, and guided reflection, mentorship is an essential component of SJSP (Giles & Eyler, 1994). Moreover, access to multiple mentors is associated with increased professional growth (Packard, Walsh, & Seidenberg, 2004). SJSP provides students with a multi-mentor network that comprises a faculty mentor, practitioner mentor, and graduate student mentor. Collectively, these mentors support students in reflecting on social justice issues in their respective internship sites.

  1. Active Reflection

Students should have multiple, structured opportunities to reflect on their experiences alone as well as with peers, mentors, and community partners (Eyler, 2002). As they complete course readings, SJSP students are encouraged to consider field experiences related to their readings (“what?”), the significance of these experiences (“so what?”), and next steps for exploration (“now what?”; Eyler, 2002). At the end of the internship, they complete a comprehensive reflection paper.

In summary, SJSP engages undergraduates in an intensive exploration of social issues in schools. It is my hope that this course will assist students in developing the foundations of a social justice-oriented professional identity.


References/Additional Resources

Eyler, J. (2002). Reflection: Linking service and learning—linking students and communities. Journal of Social Issues, 58, 517-534.

Giles, D., & Eyler, J. (1994). The theoretical roots of service-learning in John Dewey: Toward a theory of service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 1, 77-85.

Miner, H. (1956). Body ritual among the Nacirema. American Anthropologist Magazine 58(3), 503–507. Retrieved at

Packard, B., Walsh, L., & Seidenberg, S. (2004). Will that be one mentor or two? A cross-sectional study of women’s mentoring during college. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 12, 71-85.