Meet Professor Nicholas Benson: Preparing Future School Psychologists in Practice and Research

January 24, 2024
Dr. Nicholas Benson

Dr. Nicholas Benson is an Associate Professor of School Psychology and the Director of the School Psychology Ph.D. Program at Baylor University. Dr. Benson received the Award for Excellence in Research from the Mensa Foundation in 2017 for demonstrating excellence in research on human intelligence. He was also selected to be a member of the Society for the Study of School Psychology for his sustained contributions to the field of school psychology and its impact on science.

Dr. Benson’s research interests focus broadly on psychological and educational assessment. Specific research areas include examining the validity of interpretations and uses of test scores, how professionals use assessment information when making diagnostic and treatment decisions, and the extent to which practitioners’ practices and decisions align with research findings. Dr. Benson stated, “The only way to know if children in schools receive effective services is to implement evidence-based practices and monitor their effects on students receiving these services.  Circumstantial impressions gleaned from clinical experience are not a trustworthy source of knowledge.  Although such impressions tend to be misleading, it is common for practitioners to rely on them. The unintended outcome is continued use of ineffective, and sometimes harmful, practices.”

School psychologists are trained to address the educational and mental health needs of children in schools. In the field, there is a national shortage of school psychology practitioners and faculty, which ultimately impacts the service provision and the various needs of children in schools. There needs to be a greater awareness of the field among college students, as the ratio of school psychologists to students can only be improved by significantly increasing the number of students who pursue this career option. School districts nationwide, especially in Texas, are in great need of school psychologists. Likewise, there is a growing need for school psychology faculty to prepare future generations of school psychologists and conduct research that moves the field forward. 

Throughout his 20-year career, the most impactful experiences for Dr. Benson included identifying the special education needs of students and students who were in special education but didn’t belong there. Dr. Benson said, “These students often felt out of place, and correcting such issues within schools was very impactful, especially when you see students succeed in environments with students without disabilities.”

As a professor, Dr. Benson hopes to mentor students to translate research into fair and effective interventions for students in schools. He enjoys conducting research, teaching, and mentoring students, many of whom he hopes will go on to work in academia, such as assessing school psychologists’ multicultural competency, cognitive ability in children with autism, and the effectiveness of interventions targeting anxiety and sleep disorders. Some of his most recent graduates have obtained very prestigious positions, including postdoctoral fellowships at the Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorder and UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.