“Man is a game playing animal and a computer is another way to play games” -Scott Adams
Markeda Newell (2010) in his article entitled “Exploring the Use of Computer Simulation to Evaluate the Implementation of Problem-Solving Consultation” brings up the concern that problem solving consultation research has proliferated over the last 20 years but there is a severe lack of evidence in the use of this research by front line school psychologists.
Kratochwill, Sladeczek and Plunge (1995) in their article entitled, “The Evolution of Behavior Consultation” state that there are “more advances in research and theory than in actual implementation of consultation in practice.
One is left to wonder what questions are being used in consultation and even more importantly if the questions are the right ones” (p. 146).
Newell (2010) shares that three themes emerged from data analysis and interviews from the school psychologists that participated in this qualitative case study:
- use of behavioral approach to problem conceptualization
- individualized approach to intervention design
- minimal attention to plan evaluation.
Newell found the latter three points disturbing and shares that the divide between current research data and practice techniques used in the field may be to blame.
Gutkin (2002) shares that there is an inability to make comparative or summative analyses about consultation outcomes because different people are doing different things, which fosters uncertainty about whether consultants implement the process effectively.
Newell (2010) shares Gutkin’s premise and believes answers may come from inventive new ways to collect data (computer simulation) and that “qualitative inquiry into the consultation process can lead to better understanding of the implementation and outcomes of problem solving consultation” (p. 229).
Newell (2010) states that one of the major challenges in conducting a qualitative consultation research study in current practice settings is not being able to get a picture of the whole process that school psychologists use in creating an evaluation and implementing a support plan for their clients.
Simulation to Newell represents a midpoint between “the decontextualized artificiality of the laboratory setting and the sometimes intractable and inaccessible real world setting” (Robson, 2002, p. 363).
The beauty to Newell (2010) of using computer simulation is the ability to identify how well consultants “adhered to the problem-solving model, how they conceptualized the problem, and how they selected and evaluated the intervention” (p. 231).
The methods used in this study consisted of:
- recruitment practices used
- research design style
- procedures used
- how data analysis was collected and analyzed
Criterion sampling was used to recruit participants for the study. Patton (2002) in his book Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd ed)” states that criterion sampling is the process of selecting cases that meet specific criteria that can illuminate the focus of the case.
With the latter in mind, recruitment consisted of three important criteria chosen school psychologists need to have to be selected:
- work in an elementary school (case simulations were set up for elementary clients)
- trained in problem solving consultation (and really used it!)
- had access to a personal computer (Newell, 2010).
Research design style was a case study. What has been stated earlier was the need for a “whole picture” snapshot of the variables that affected choices taken by the school psychologists for their clients.
Research style such as case studies specialize focus on being able to “gather comprehensive, systematic, and in depth information about each case of interest” (Patton, 2002, p. 447). Through the use of case study methodology coupled with computer simulation, stage by stage analysis could be conducted to provide data in detail to properly research the problem-solving consultation process used by the four school psychologists chosen for this study (Newell, 2010).