Category: Dissemination / Implementation


Teacher Key Opinion Leaders in Urban Schools: A Key Ally for Community Mental Health Consultation

Saturday, November 18
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom A, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: School | Implementation | Community-Based Assessment / Intervention
Presentation Type: Symposium

Diffusion theory posits that novel interventions are initiated by a relatively small group of key opinion leaders (KOLs) who serve as influential models for others in their social network. Despite the widespread acceptance of diffusion theory in allied health fields, the mental health field has been slow to apply this model. In this presentation, we will review our experiences with KOL teachers based on a series of studies based in schools in high poverty urban communities. We show that KOL influence, but not mental health provider influence, mediates higher rates of teacher report of their use of innovative practices (Atkins et al., 2008). Additionally, we found that teachers’ use of innovative practices was influenced by the use of these practices by colleagues within their social networks, providing implications for the selection of KOL teachers based on their network position (Neal et al., 2011). In subsequent studies, we promoted community mental health providers’ alignment with KOL teachers to capitalize on KOL influence over their peers (Cappella et al., 2008). The KOL teachers, in collaboration with community mental health providers, introduced and endorsed the classroom-based recommendations to their fellow teachers through co-facilitated professional development groups in their schools (Atkins et al., 2015; Neal et al., 2008). In another study, KOL teachers were paired with novice teachers to provide support on classroom management and effective instruction, and to enhance their affiliation with colleagues (Shernoff et al., 2011). This study highlighted the influential role that KOLs played in cultivating and expanding early career teachers’ social networks and promoting shared school wide norms regarding classroom management and effective instruction (Shernoff et al., 2016). We suggest that, taken together, these results provide a compelling rationale for more widespread enlistment of KOL teachers as “boundary spanners” with community mental health providers to enhance access to high quality mental health services and promote quality education for all children.

Marc S. Atkins

Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology and Director of the Institute for Juvenile Research
University of Illinois at Chicago


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Teacher Key Opinion Leaders in Urban Schools: A Key Ally for Community Mental Health Consultation

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