Dr. Susan Malmquist

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About Me

Dr. Susan Malmquist

Dr. Malmquist’s professional jouney began at Western Michigan University. WMU is where Dr. Malmquist first learned about a very different kind of instructional approach, called Direct Instruction, an instructional approach with solid research to support its effectiveness for a variety of learners, many of whom often did not learn adequately with the typical school curriculum and instruction.  In addition to fulfilling her undergraduate degree requirements with honors, Dr. Malmquist jumped at the chance to serve as a research assistant for a doctoral dissertation study examining a matching-to-sample learning procedure, one of the primary techniques used today in ABA programs for learners with Autism.   

Note: To find out more about why this and the other techniques described here work so well for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and related learning and developmental difficulties, please contact Dr. Malmquist.  

When the decision was made to continue her formal academic preparation at the graduate level, the experiences described above led Dr. Malmquist to the University of Oregon (UO) in Eugene, Oregon. Because of her interest in learning and instructional design,  she wanted to study under Dr. Wes Becker. Dr. Becker was a well-known and greatly respected behavior analyst, who was also one of the founders of Direct Instruction, along with Zig Engelmann.


Part II - Becoming a Duck.  

Dr. Malmquist enrolled in the University of Oregon School Psychology Graduate Program and was granted special admission into the Doctoral Program upon completion of her undergraduate program. Dr. Malmquist had the honor to be awarded full doctoral level funding and support through a series of highly sought after Leadership Training Grants (e.g., Curriculum-Based Measurement, AD/HD Research and Treatment) offered through the U.S. Department of Education to train future leaders in education. She completed her doctoral studies at a time when the faculty in the College of Education at UO included a long list of some of the most celebrated and influential leaders in education - particularly in special education, school psychology, and behavior analysis.  It should also be noted that this standard of excellence continues today.  

Dr. Malmquist's doctoral adviser's at UO were Dr. Mark Shinn, a prominent national leader in School Psychology and Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM), and Dr. Doug Carnine, one of the pioneers of Direct Instruction and most widely recognized national leaders in education reform in the U.S.  The core faculty in the School Psychology Program also included Dr. Roland Good, who Dr. Malmquist remembers as one of her favorite teachers and the reason she learned to love and understand one of her least favorite subjects, Advanced Statistics. At the time, she had little appreciation for how unusual it was to receive such extensive training in both single-subject and group research designs, especially as a behavior analyst.  Dr. Good is known to the rest of the world as the co-author of one of the now most widely used academic progress monitoring systems in U.S. elementary schools, DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills).  

While at Oregon, Dr. Malmquist's primary focus of study was in academic and behavioral assessment, with concentrated training as a Research Associate and Graduate Teaching Fellow under a federally funded Curriculum-Based Measurement Leadership Training Grant through the U.S. Department of Education.  There she learned how to combine psychoeducational assessment methodology with the measurement techniques of behavioral assessment. Through these experiences, she also was able to witness and study the extension of CBM, which Dr. Shinn referred to as "DIBS" - Dynamic Indicators of Basic Skills - into the development of what could reasonably be argued to be the most sound, useful academic measurement systems used in mainstream American education today. Interestingly, it was this work that also laid a critical foundation for the development of what is known as RtI, or the three-phased Response to Intervention approach to student needs assessment now used in our schools.

Additionally, Dr. Gary Stoner served on the core School Psychology faculty at the time and played a pivotal role in Dr. Malmquist's professional training.  Dr. Stoner's research interests were in applied behavior analysis, with particular emphasis in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD).  Dr. Stoner's background included study and collaboration with Dr. Russell Barkley, a psychiatrist who is widely known as one of the most prominent international experts in AD/HD diagnosis and treatment (see also DuPaul & Stoner, 1994).  It is with great appreciation to Dr. Stoner that Dr. Malmquist gained the experiences she had as a Graduate Research Associate and therapist in the AD/HD clinic at UO.

Dr. Malmquist owes the depth of her appreciation and understanding of special education law to Dr. Barbara Bateman, a prominent law professor and scholar who helped the nation translate P.L. 94-142, later to became IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law which guarantees the fundamental right to a free and appropriate public education for all children in the U.S.

Two other primary areas of expertise and specialization were fostered at UO, Instructional Design and Positive Behavior Support.  In addition to Drs. Becker and Carnine, as well as Zig Engelmann, Dr. Malmquist would like to thank Dr. Ed Kameenui, who helped found the Reading First Center at UO, for adding to these truly remarkable training experiences in Instructional Design.  She would also like to acknowledge the influence of Dr. Mary Gleason, co-author with Dr. Anita Archer of one of the most comprehensive, empirically validated study skills programs used at the secondary level, Advanced Skills for School Success (Archer & Gleason, 1992), which turned into the topic for Dr. Malmquist's doctoral dissertation research.

Finally, the influences of Dr. George Sugai, Dr. Rob Horner, Dr. Geoff Colvin, and Dr. Hill Walker made an indelible mark in the way Dr. Malmquist examines social behavior, functional analysis, and positive behavior support, resulting in a skill set that has been used on nearly a daily basis in her professional work to this day.

Part III - Seattle and Morningside Academy.

 Dr. Malmquist credits her experiences at Morningside Academy as pivotal to the development of her true expertise in learning and behavior. Dr. Malmquist began working at Morningside Academy in August, 1995 to fulfill the requirements for a 1500-hour School Psychology Internship toward completion of her Doctorate. Morningside Academy is a laboratory school in Seattle for students in grades K-9 founded in 1980 by Executive Director, Dr. Kent Johnson.  For more information about the remarkable story of Morningside Academy and the thousands of children who have benefited as a result of this school and its staff, visit Morningside's website, morningsideacademy.org.  For more in depth information see Johnson & Street (2004), The Morningside Model of Generative Instruction: What It Means to Leave No Child Behind, with chapters by Joanne Robbins and Susan Malmquist.

While at Morningside Academy, Dr. Malmquist had the rare opportunity to tinker with the techniques she studied at WMU and UO and experience first-hand the different outcomes obtained when the various intervention, teaching, and assessment approaches were configured in slightly different ways.  As a result, Dr. Malmquist was able to study instructional efficiency in depth and incorporate the many lessons and surprises learned into her professional knowledge base.  Most often, she experienced instances in which the methods and procedures well-documented in behavior analytic research literature came to life with almost textbook perfection, resulting in the first real-life examples Dr. Malmquist saw of students closing the gaps between their entering skill levels and that of their same-age, typical peers.  However, perhaps even more valuable were the times when things did not go according to plan.  It was then that she truly was forced to stop and analyze the exact variables contributing to success or failure and help plan instructional changes to alter the learning outcome swiftly.

Dr. Malmquist also designed an innovative Multi-Level System of Assessment at Morningside Academy that could be used not only to evaluate students' entering skill repertoires but for highly sensitive progress monitoring and data-based decision making as well.  This system was unique in its blend of psychoeducational assessment techniques and state-of-the-art behavioral assessment, but with a new twist - the incorporation of an advanced ABA application known as Precision Teaching. Up to this point, the combination of an integrated assessment system with both CBM and Precision Teaching components and levels had not been undertaken in education or in applied behavior analysis in this fashion.  A description of this Multi-Level System of Assessment is included in a chapter Dr. Malmquist wrote for Johnson & Street's 2004 book, The Morningside Model of Generative Instruction: What It Means to Leave No Child Behind, which is also recommended reading for an introduction to Precision Teaching.

Part IV - Increasing Awareness and Building Bridges.

The past decade (2002-2012) was a time during which Dr. Malmquist's professional focus was on the dissemination of the strategies, techniques, and methods acquired along the way at WMU, UO, and Morningside Academy.  While her specific roles and duties varied over this 10- year period, the mission and goal always remained the same ~ to increase awareness and improve access for every child to highly effective, empirically validated instructional systems. Most of the time this work involved what could best be described as the building of bridges and scaffolding from wherever a child, family, professional, or school was at the time to the desired end result - improved learning and greater instructional efficiency. Dr. Malmquist also served as the Director of Educational & Clinical Services at ASTAR Center in Seattle, a non-profit treatment and research center for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families.  ASTAR Center was founded by its Medical Director, Dr. Gary Stobbe, a Board Certified Neurologist specializing in Autism and related developmental disabilities.   The treatment model at ASTAR Center was one of the first of its kind - a groundbreaking synthesis of medically-based treatment for Autism with applied behavior analysis (ABA).  The pieces of the puzzle appeared to be falling into place, with one critical exception - who would pay for this very effective treatment approach?  Unfortunately, too many families appeared to get stuck in the middle of the debate. While it seemed that we now knew what to do, it was much harder to figure out how to make these services available for those who needed them. The barriers to access were at times staggering.

It was at this time that Autism Speaks was founded and the beginnings of autism insurance reform began, one state at a time.  Dr. Malmquist was honored to have the opportunity to testify before the Washington State Senate Healthcare Committee in favor of autism insurance reform on behalf of Washington State children and families.  While we still have far to go, it has been encouraging to see the progress we have achieved in helping families to access critical services for their children through the elimination of the unfair line item policy exclusions that prevented children with Autism Spectrum Disorders from receiving medically necessary services due solely to their diagnosis of Autism.


Part V - A Detour to the Windy City. 

In 2009, Dr. Malmquist accepted the position of Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Behavior Analysis at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, Illinois.  The timing of this offer was particularly compelling due to the rapid growth of the field of ABA.  The demands of training the next generation of Master's and Doctoral students as behavior analysts had become a pressing matter, and The Chicago School offered the particularly attractive option of combining the role of professor with hands-on experience working on reform efforts in The Chicago Public Schools.  

A more detailed account of Dr. Malmquist's responsibilities and experiences while serving as Associate Professor and as Associate Department Chair in the Department of Applied Behavior Analysis at The Chicago School are summarized in her Curriculum Vitae  Her accomplishments there include two faculty research and service grants she was awarded in 2010-2011 for her research and applied professional practice in Precision Teaching and Instructional Consultation.

After an intensely rewarding professional experience at The Chicago School, Dr. Malmquist gave up her comfortable position in academia to return to Washington State at the end of 2011 and her work with children, families, and schools in Puget Sound.  Her husband's passion for rock climbing and the mountains was beckoning.  For her, while it was the deep professional and personal ties she forged in Seattle that called her back, the mountains and lifestyle of the Pacific Northwest ended up being thrown in as a welcome added bonus.

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