How can we use an understanding of individual differences to support children with selective mutism?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Lauren Craik
Submitted: March 2022

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Craik, L(2023, 23 January). How can we use an understanding of individual differences to support children with selective mutism? University of Southampton Educational Psychology research blog. http://blog.soton.ac.uk/edpsych/2023/01/23/how-can-we-use-an-understanding-of-individual-differences-to-support-children-with-selective-mutism

How Can We Best Promote a Culture of Compassion in Schools?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Jenny Gu
Submitted: March 2022

In recent decades, there have been increasing calls to cultivate compassionate cultures in school settings. Much of this is driven by the wealth of research linking greater compassion with a range of positive psychological outcomes in both children and adults, including improved wellbeing, mental health, and interpersonal relationships. However, relatively little attention has been paid to how we can best promote a culture of compassion in schools. The aims of the current essay are twofold. First, relevant psychological theory and research in the field of compassion are summarised. Specifically, key theoretical conceptualisations and definitions of compassion, normative developmental trajectories of core compassionate capacities, and individual differences in the development and expression of compassion are explored. Second, insights derived from compassion theory and research are used to present evidence-informed recommendations for how we might best promote a culture of compassion in schools. It is argued that efforts to build compassionate cultures should take a multifaceted, developmentally sensitive, and inclusive and systemic whole-school approach. Such an approach should embed principles and practices to develop both compassion for the self and for others throughout the school community and curriculum. Further research is needed to evaluate such an approach and to additionally clarify, strengthen, and extend the different strands of compassion theory and research which underpin this approach. The essay concludes with implications for educational psychologists.

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Gu, J(2023, 23 January). How Can We Best Promote a Culture of Compassion in Schools? University of Southampton Educational Psychology research blog. http://blog.soton.ac.uk/edpsych/2023/01/23/how-can-we-best-promote-a-culture-of-compassion-in-schools

Teachers’ beliefs: How they shape the support offered to trans-spectrum young people (2023)

Authors: Beckett Markland, Cora Sargeant and Sarah Wright
Published: 2023
Publication: Teaching and Teacher Education

Focus groups and an individual interview were carried out with 15 secondary school teachers in South East England, exploring their beliefs regarding gender identity and how this influences the support offered to trans-spectrum young people. Through a process of reflexive thematic analysis, six themes were developed, indicating that lack of confidence, fears of community resistance and implicitly held views of gender identity underscored a hesitancy in teachers’ practice. However, teachers expressed a strong desire to develop their knowledge and through reflection within their focus group or interview, began to construct ideas of how to be inclusive in their work.

Click here to visit the web page from which this edition of the journal can be downloaded (open access).

Markland, B., Sargeant, C., & Wright, S. (2023) Teachers’ beliefs: How they shape the support offered to trans-spectrum young people. Teaching and Teacher Education, 124. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2023.104019

What can Teachers do to Challenge Heteronormativity? A Systematic Literature Review (2022)

Authors: : Beckett Markland, Cora Sargeant and Sarah Wright
Published: 2022
Publication: Psychology of Sexualities Review

Research indicates there is a gap between teachers’ positive beliefs about LGBTQ+ inclusive education and how they demonstrate this in practice. Teachers often feel limited in their capacity to implement inclusive practices, constrained by dominant heteronormative narratives in schools. Through a three-stage thematic synthesis approach, a review was conducted to explore: what can teachers do to challenge heteronormativity? The developed themes indicate that teachers can work strategically within their community context, integrate non-normative representations throughout the curriculum, role model inclusivity and acts of social justice, and facilitate a co-constructive learning environment. These themes are discussed in the context of facilitators and barriers around LGBTQ+ inclusive education, leading to a discussion of implications relevant to educators across a range of settings.

This is a pre-publication version of the following article:

Markland, B., Sargeant, C. & Wright, S. (2022) What can Teachers do to Challenge Heteronormativity? A Systematic Literature Review. Psychology of Sexualities Review, 13(1), 43-68.

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The Benefits of Children’s Gratitude: Identifying Mediators and Designing a New Measure

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Sophie Smith
Submitted: October 2021

Abstract

School-based gratitude interventions show evidence of enhancing student well-being but there is limited research suggesting how gratitude increases well-being. There is also the need for a suitable tool to measure children’s gratitude and evaluate the impact of gratitude interventions. The researcher sought to address these literature gaps. A systematic literature review was used to address the question ‘which variables mediate the association between young people’s gratitude and well-being?’. Stronger evidence was found for cognitive and social resources as mediators, compared to mediators related to affect. A lack of experimental and longitudinal studies in the current evidence base was identified, highlighting avenues for future research.

In an empirical study, the researcher designed and screened a new questionnaire of children’s gratitude, the Questionnaire of Appreciation in Youth (QUAY). Items were developed using the literature to identify a comprehensive definition of gratitude and its key features, and through discussion with the research supervisors who have extensive experience of studying gratitude. The initial items were screened in a focus group with three children aged eight to nine. Exploratory factor analysis was then conducted with responses from 107 children aged eight to 10. This led to the development of an 11-item scale with good reliability and convergent validity with an existing measure of gratitude, the GQ-6. A three-factor structure was retained, with subscales addressing gratitude, appreciation, and sense of privilege. Limitations include the lack of a more diverse sample, the absence of reverse-scored items, positive skew in responses, and the need to establish discriminant validity. Implications include new insights into the structure of children’s gratitude, providing a working tool which could be further developed in order to measure children’s gratitude more effectively.

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Spotlighting Strengths: An Exploration of Character Strengths Interventions and the Impact for Young People with ADHD

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Louise Boeckmans
Submitted: September 2021

Abstract

As part of this thesis, a review was conducted to investigate the impact of character strengths interventions (CSIs) on students’ well-being and academic outcomes. Whilst a large body of research exists with adults, few studies have focused on school-based CSIs. Through a systematic search, 13 articles were identified. Overall, positive findings emerged for classroom engagement and several measures of well-being, with the exception of negative affect. School-based CSIs appear to be most effective when conducted by teachers over time. Whilst research with specific populations is lacking, there is some evidence that the intervention can improve the well-being of at-risk students. There is mixed evidence as to whether the method of strengths identification is influential. A need for further research is considered important, particularly regarding the use of CSIs with primary-aged pupils and its use in a one-to-one format. Furthermore, it is not yet known whether the specific strengths focused upon impacts the effectiveness of this intervention.

Empirical research was also conducted for this thesis in which the concept of strengths- based practice is applied to ADHD. Research suggests that school staff are more likely to make within-child attributions of behaviour and have lower expectations for children with this diagnosis. The current research aimed to replicate this finding and investigate how perceptions alter when the characteristics of ADHD are presented as strengths, not deficits. In an online survey, 271 members of school staff read a vignette describing a child, with or without an ADHD label present, and whose behaviours were either positively or negatively framed. Staff’s attributions for the child’s behaviour and their predictions of the child’s future life satisfaction were collected. It was found that, when the characteristics of ADHD were negatively framed, staff expressed greater certainty in making both internal and external attributions and believed that the student would have lower life satisfaction as an adult. The label itself had no significant effect. These findings suggest that the framing of ADHD characteristics, rather than the label, impacts school staff’s beliefs.

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Social Media Activity, Number of Friends, and Relationship Quality: The Effects on Young People’s Sense of Belonging and Wellbeing

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Lindsey Elder
Submitted: June 2021

Abstract

Positive relationships are essential in meeting the fundamental need to belong. In adolescence, peer relationships become increasingly important for belonging as the risk of experiencing loneliness increases. However, the rising popularity of social media has added to the complexity of adolescents’ peer experiences, as it presents a number of interpersonal challenges and opportunities. In this thesis, I (1) introduce the thesis research and present a rationale for the chosen topic area, (2) explore the relationship between friendship quantity and quality and young people’s sense of belonging, and (3) consider how social media can be used to enhance wellbeing and belonging during adolescence.

The first chapter is an introduction to my thesis research. In this chapter, I summarise my thesis journey; I explain how my personal experiences inspired my chosen research area, what questions I wanted to answer, how I chose to answer them, and what I learned from the process. In the second chapter, I present the findings of a systematic literature review investigating the evidence for relationships between friendship quantity and quality and adolescents’ sense of belonging over time. The results of the 13 reviewed studies suggest that having more friends indirectly reduces loneliness by giving teenagers more opportunities to develop high quality friendships. However, more rigorous longitudinal research needs to be conducted to make reliable conclusions about these complex associations. In the third chapter, I present the findings of my empirical research, where I investigated how social media can be used to promote adolescents’ sense of belonging and wellbeing. In this research, 49 11- 18-year-olds took part in a randomised controlled study, where they were asked to either (1) interact on social media, (2) lurk passively without interacting on social media, or (3) interact face-to-face. The results show that changes in belonging and wellbeing did not differ significantly between the groups. However, the findings do suggest that using social media to maintain existing relationships positively predicts later belonging. Conversely, using social media to pass time predicts lower belonging and wellbeing. Overall, the study provides some preliminary evidence to suggest that using social media to interact with friends and family is more beneficial for adolescents than passive use. However, repeating the research after the coronavirus pandemic and with a larger sample size will be important to make more reliable conclusions and recommendations for practice.

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How can schools support the education of children and young people experiencing chronic pain: Perspectives of teachers and other school staff.

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Lauren Baggley
Submitted: June 2021

Abstract

Chronic pain (CP) is a prevalent health problem in school aged children and young people (CYP). A body of evidence suggests CP has a profound impact on many aspects of CYP’s lives including in an academic context. CP is associated with poor school attendance, poor academic performance and overall impairment in school functioning. Research commonly uses attendance to measure this impact however, school functioning is a multi-dimensional concept including social, cognitive and emotional aspects. There is also disparity in the measures used to determine school functioning. Given the wide ranging impact of CP, it is important that CYP experiencing CP are well supported in school by adults who feel competent supporting their needs. However, to date there has been limited research eliciting school staff’s perspectives on managing CP in school. In this thesis, I sought to address the gaps in the literature through two studies. In a systematic literature review I explored the assessment and measurement of the impact of CP on the school functioning of school aged CYP. Overall, CP was found to negatively impact numerous aspects of school functioning including attendance, performance, academic self-efficacy, limiting physical activities, emotional and social functioning and overall school functioning. Wide and varied outcome measures were used to determine the impact of CP. In an empirical study, I conducted semi structured interviews with 12 members of school staff in various roles about their experiences supporting children and young people with CP at school. Through thematic analysis, four themes were developed concerning staff’s perceived misunderstanding of chronic pain as a biopsychosocial phenomenon, the wide ranging impact of chronic pain, lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic and managing chronic pain in a school setting. Promising implications were identified for supporting students with CP with greater flexibility and a blended learning approach in future.

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The Use of Social Media in Identity Development for LGBTQI+ Individuals and the Factors That Shape Young People’s Attitudes Towards the Transgender Population

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Kirsty Russell
Submitted: June 2021

Abstract

Despite the legislative progress and increased visibility of LGBTQI+ individuals in society, research continues to highlight the prejudice and victimisation that this population can face. According to the minority stress model, sexual minorities can face hostile stigma-related stressors which can compromise the mental health of LGBTQI+ individuals. Additionally, LGBTQI+ individuals face a distinct path of navigating identity development compared to nonLGBTQI+ peers. Chapter one begins by outlining the context, rationale, and scope for this research. As identity development takes place in a contemporary world of widespread social media use, chapter two presents the systematic literature review conducted to answer ‘how do LGBTQI+ individuals use social media as part of their identity development?’ The review included 16 studies and adopted a thematic synthesis methodology. LGBTQI+ individuals used social media for: gaining a sense of belonging, developing my identity, managing my identity, and broadcasting my identity. Furthermore, understanding the mechanisms which underly transprejudice has implications for the outcomes and mental health of transgender individuals. Consequently, chapter three presents the findings from an online survey with 129 young people, to investigate the factors which predict young people’s attitudes towards transgender individuals. A multiple regression analysis revealed that several previously identified factors from the adult literature formed a comprehensive model in explaining a large amount of variance in young people’s attitudes. The importance of discomfort felt with violations of heteronormativity, hostile sexism, and gender were emphasised. Implications to inform support across different ecological and contextual systems and scope for further research is discussed.

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The Voice of Service Children: A Systematic Review of Service Children’s Experiences and a Study Exploring School Belonging in Children of Service Personnel

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Kirsty Daniels
Submitted: June 2021

Abstract

Chapter 1 provides an account of the research background and how understanding the needs of UK service children sits within the national context and personal position of the researcher. Chapter 2 presents a systematic review of existing research that gathered the voices of service children in the UK. Searches for this review identified six research papers that were critically appraised in order to better understand the experiences of service children in the UK. A number of common themes emerged relating to the highs and lows of service life, recognising both the challenges and positive outcomes being a service child can bring. These themes were referenced in relation to parental deployment and mobility, and key findings emphasised the importance of social relations as both a risk and protective factor for these individuals. The findings highlighted the need to examine the impact of parental deployment and school transition on the relational needs of service children. Chapter 3 presents a qualitative study that explores school belonging in children of service personnel. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to explore the lived experiences of six service children and their sense of school belonging. IPA was viewed through a critical realism lens. Five main themes developed from the analysis: defining school belonging; fostering connections and improving communications (at the individual and systemic level); school support: positive attitudes and understanding of the issues facing service children; transition; and impact on child’s phenomenon. From these findings a number of practical suggestions were identified.

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Exploring the importance of early care-giving experiences on children’s socio-emotional functioning: the role of empathy

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Derek Hanley
Submitted: October 2021

Abstract

The parent-child relationship is considered a critical context for children’s socio-emotional development. While it is understood that this relationship is interactive and bi-directional in nature, parenting practices and behaviours, specifically, parental socialisation styles, have been consistently linked to children’s development, including emotional competence and social skills. Empathy, which describes an innate capacity to understand and resonate with others’ emotional experiences, is regarded by some as being at the core of what it means to be fully human, as it is central to social interaction, lays a foundation for moral judgement, and acts as a precursor to prosocial behaviour. Evidence has shown that individual differences in child empathy are related to and affected by the socialisation practices of parents. Building upon this research, this thesis presents two related, but individual papers that aim to further our understanding of how early care-giving experiences influence children’s socio-emotional functioning, specifically empathy. Firstly, a systematic literature review was conducted to consider the association between the quality of the parent-child relationship, as defined by the indices of attachment security, parent warmth, and parental sensitivity, and the development of empathy in toddlers and pre-schoolers. 16 articles were included for review. Overall, the review highlights that the evidence-base exploring the association between child empathy and the quality of the parent-child relationship among toddlers and pre-schoolers is small and strikingly inconsistent. Put broadly, the most consistent associations were found in longitudinal studies with pre-schoolers where attachment security was linked with higher scores of empathy. Secondly, an empirical study was carried out to test a proposed mediational model, whereby lower empathy is a pathway between childhood maltreatment and peer relationship problems. Using a combination of parent-report, child-report measures, and behavioural measures, empathy and peer relations were assessed in a sample of maltreated (n = 29) and non-maltreated children (n = 82). Findings show that maltreated children scored significantly lower on parentreport measures of empathy and scored significantly higher on parent-report peer relationship problems than non-maltreated children. The behavioural data showed similar group level differences for child empathy, however, no differences were found for child-report peer relations. In terms of the proposed mediational model, empathy was found to mediate the relationship between maltreatment and poor peer relations. Taken together, both studies highlight the importance of early care-giving experiences on children’s socio-emotional functioning, specifically empathy. The implications of this are discussed broadly and within the context of educational psychology.

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The Impact of Early Experiences on Empathy and Emotion Regulation Development: Markers of Vulnerability and Resilience

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Amber Newell
Submitted: September 2021

Abstract

Experiencing maltreatment in childhood can have detrimental and long-term effects on a child’s development. Maltreatment is the main reason for children to be removed from their family settings and to be looked after by alternative caregivers. Research has demonstrated that even after removal from the maltreating context, many children continue to experience persistent socioemotional difficulties. Less is known about the impact of maltreatment on children’s development of empathy and emotion regulation (ER) specifically and the ways that alternative caregiving protects against negative effects of maltreatment. Empathy and ER are key competencies that underpin a wide variety of other socioemotional skills. This thesis presents two related studies. Firstly, a systematic literature review was conducted to consider the literature exploring the impact of alternative caregiving on ER development. Eight studies were included that compared ER between children with and without experiences of maltreatment and subsequent transition to alternative care arrangements. Half of the studies concluded that maltreatment is associated with significantly less ER and an additional two studies found similar, but non-significant results. There are very few studies that have this focus, highlighting a need for further research. Secondly, empathy was assessed in 27 school-age adopted children with a history of maltreatment and compared with empathy measured with 72 non-adopted, non-maltreated children who live with their biological parents. It was hypothesised that maltreatment would have a negative impact on empathy development resulting in the adopted children scoring lower on empathy measures. It was also hypothesised that caregiver and child empathy would be associated and that this relationship would be moderated by maltreatment (group) status. The findings were that adopted children scored lower on parent-report questionnaire and behavioural measures of empathy. There were significant associations between parent and child measures of empathy, but maltreatment status did not significantly moderate this association. Taken together, both studies identify difficulties maltreated children have even within a context of adoption and fostering with empathy and emotion regulation development. The implications of this are discussed broadly and more specifically related to an educational psychology context.

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What can Teachers do to Embed LGBTQ+ Inclusive Practices in Schools?

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Beckett Markland
Submitted: June 2021

Abstract

Teachers are well positioned to positively influence the school experiences of the young people they work with, which has known connotations for young people’s social, emotional and academic outcomes. Indeed, teachers’ direct interactions with pupils, the formal and informal learning opportunities they provide, and the classroom climate they create culminate to influence the school experiences of their pupils. How teachers navigate their practice may be of particular value to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other sexual and gender diverse identified (LGBTQ+) young people whose school experiences are known to be challenging relative to their peers, and who often experience adverse outcomes related to these experiences. However, research shows that teachers do not regularly practice in ways which make LGBTQ+ young people feel supported or included in the school environment. Teachers are not always aware of their own capacity to facilitate LGBTQ+ inclusive practice and may feel limited in doing so, constrained by restrictive school systems, wider community resistance, and limitations in guidance as well as their own confidence in adopting such practices. The aim of this thesis was to shift the focus away from barriers that restrict teachers’ practice towards understandings of how they may be overcome. While the contexts and systemic constraints within teachers’ schools cannot be disregarded, the individual teacher has the potential to positively influence the young people they directly work with and it was the aim of this thesis to explore how this may be done.

With this endeavour in mind, two research enquiries were undertaken. Using a three-stage thematic synthesis approach, a review was conducted to explore: what can teachers do to challenge heteronormativity? This placed the emphasis on teachers’ position to de-construct dominant discourses within the school environment that typically position heterosexuality and binary models of gender as the norm. Alongside this, an empirical research project was undertaken to explore teachers’ beliefs regarding gender identity, their beliefs about their own abilities to support trans- spectrum young people, and additional supports and barriers that influence their practice. The targeted focus on gender identity was chosen due to a notable gap in the research base, in which LGBTQ+ identities are often amalgamated, despite evidence that trans-spectrum young peoples’ experiences differ from others in the LGBTQ+ community. Through the course of each research enquiry, implications for teachers’ practice were developed with consideration to the relative facilitators and barriers that might exist in different schools. This included suggestions for teachers to integrate non-normative representations throughout the curriculum, role model inclusivity and acts of social justice, and facilitate co-constructive learning environments with pupils. It was also suggested that teachers can work strategically in their schools, engaging in relational work with parents to co-create possibilities for LGBTQ+ inclusive practices. To support teachers in their own professional learning journeys, possibilities for training and reflection are also suggested. Strengths and limitations of each research enquiry are discussed.

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How the implementation of a secondary school nurture group relates to whole-school approaches and ethos: a case study (2022)

Authors: Karen O’Farrell, Larissa Cunningham, Brettany Hartwell and Jana Kreppner
Published: 2022
Publication: The International Journal of Nurture in Education

Nurture Groups (NGs) have been widely implemented with vulnerable young people in mainstream primary schools to support the development of secure relationships and so promote a sense of wellbeing and readiness for learning. Success of the intervention within the primary school environment has led to increasing interest in the applicability of NGs to secondary schools. Within this single-school case study, the experiences and perceptions of NG and non-NG pupils and school staff were explored through individual semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Thematic analysis of the data produced three main themes and nine subthemes, developed across the three stakeholder groups. Findings suggested that the successful implementation of secondary NGs is related to whole-school approaches and ethos. Secondary NGs can provide extensive support for vulnerable pupils and support a positive approach to whole-school wellbeing. Recommendations for developing secondary NG practice include: embedding NG practice into whole-school culture, adopting a more flexible approach to how NGs are organised and how they operate, and considering the particular needs of Year 11 pupils

Click here to visit the web page from which this edition of the journal can be downloaded (open access).

O’Farrell, K., Cunningham, L., Hartwell, B. & Kreppner, J. (2022) How the implementation of a secondary school nurture group relates to whole-school approaches and ethos: a case study. The International Journal of Nurture in Education, 8, 48-66.

Academic Critique of the ‘FUN FRIENDS’ programme

Assignment type: Academic Critique
Author: Lauren Dobson
Submitted: April 2021

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Dobson, L.(2022, 29 September).Academic Critique of the ‘FUN FRIENDS’ programme. University of Southampton Educational Psychology research blog. http://blog.soton.ac.uk/edpsych/2022/09/29/academic-critique-of-the-fun-friends-programme

Silencing the stigma of hearing voices: Implications for Educational Psychology understanding and practice

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Ffion Davies
Submitted: March 2021

There is a great deal of stigma surrounding the experience of hearing voices despite findings that it is common, especially among children and young people. In children it is often transient, possibly part of normal development, and can be a positive experience. The Hearing Voices Movement urges a move away from a medical model and towards understanding hearing voices as part of a meaningful human experience. Possible explanations as to why people hear voices include coping with trauma, to serve a social function, or part of normal development. Evidence suggests different underlying mechanisms for positive vs negative experiences. More research is needed on how best to support young people in school and it is important that young people are included in research. Educational Psychologists are in a unique position to provide support on several levels, including individual, school and societal with an emphasis on normalising the experience and removing stigma.

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Davies, F(2022, 1 August)Silencing the stigma of hearing voices: Implications for Educational Psychology understanding and practice. University of Southampton Educational Psychology research blog. http://blog.soton.ac.uk/edpsych/2022/08/01/silencing-the-stigma-of-hearing-voices-implications-for-educational-psychology-understanding-and-practice/

Flipped learning in secondary school mathematics- is it worth the flip? (2021)

Authors: Hannah Edwards and Sarah Wright
Published: 2021
Publication: DECP Debate

There is a growing argument that the traditional method of teaching maths is ineffective at developing fluent and adaptive mathematical skills (Boaler et al., 2015; Weiss & Pasley, 2004), resulting in disengaged and dissatisfied students (Boaler et al., 2015; Brown et al., 2008; Clark, 2015; Nardi & Steward, 2003). Flipped learning provides an alternative pedagogy, whereby digital instructional content is digested by students before lessons, freeing-up in-class time for more engagement with teachers and peers on real-life maths problems, promoting higher-level thinking skills (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). In this critique, theories underpinning flipped learning are described and a systematic search of the evidence-base exploring the effectiveness of flipped learning as a maths pedagogy for students aged 11-16 years is conducted and reviewed. Implications for using flipped learning in educational practice are discussed, including implications following the COVID-19 pandemic. With education experiencing unprecedented challenges since 2020 due to national lockdowns, increased student and teacher self-isolation, and reduced time in the classroom, the potential of flipped learning is considered as an alternative or additional supplement to traditional maths teaching.

This is a pre-publication version of the following article:

Edwards, H. & Wright, S. (2021) Flipped learning in secondary school mathematics- is it worth the flip? DECP Debate, 179, 7-15.

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First prize research poster: Investigating equitable access of minoritised groups to EP services

Assignment: Small Scale Research Project Poster, presented at the 2022 Southampton Psychology Post Graduate Research Conference
Authors: Selma Vieira, Sophie-Jane Stanwyck, Ffion Davies, Cora Sargeant
Submitted: June 2022

There is limited research into equity of access to Educational Psychology Services (EPS) for marginalised groups. The academic outcomes of some minoritised groups can be lower than the average student e.g. Looked After Children (LAC), Pupil Premium (PP), Free School Meals (FSM) and some ethnically minoritised groups. Therefore, this study aimed to address the following research questions: How do minoritised group referral rates to the EPS compare to the local community population data? Is there any under or over representation in those accessing the traded EPS?

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Vieira, S., Stanwyck, S., Davies, F. & Sargeant, C. (2020, June 23-24). Investigating equitable access of minoritised groups to EP services: A comparative analysis of county wide and service user data. [Poster presentation]. University of Southampton Post Graduate Research Conference (Psychology), Southampton, UK. https://bit.ly/3z9sy0z

Should Parents be Discouraged from Raising Their Autistic Children to Be Bilingual?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Elizabeth Atkinson
Submitted: November 2020

Due to increased diversity in British classrooms there is an upsurge of parents struggling to decide whether to speak one or two languages with their autistic children. Some practitioners advise parents to limit language use to English, even if this is not their first language. Even when practitioners advise that dual-language exposure is not problematic, some parents feel there is not enough information and are worried about the implications of their choice.

Parents have reported concerns that dual-language exposure will further delay language development or would be too confusing for their autistic child. This essay evaluates the growing body of research in the area in relation to these concerns. The essay concludes that the current evidence-base suggests that being bilingual, is at the very least, not harmful for most autistic children. This essay also discusses possible social and cultural implications of limiting language exposure. It is argued that parents should not be discouraged from raising their autistic child bilingual, rather educational psychologists (EPs) should provide a clear synopsis of the research so that parents can make an informed decision. Possible explanations for the discrepancy between the literature and practitioner advice are explored, as are recommendations for future research and how EPs can support families making the complex and personal decision.

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Tree of Life: A Tool for Therapeutic Growth? (2021)

Author: Husna Kasmani
Published: 2021
Publication: Educational Psychology Research and Practice

This paper presents a review of the Tree of Life (ToL) — a strengths-based tool rooted in narrative therapy — as an intervention for children and young people (CYP). Originally developed to support vulnerable young people in Zimbabwe, ToL is now used to support children and adults in many countries and contexts across the world. This paper discusses key aspects of the tool, evaluates the evidence base of ToL with young people, shares the views of CYP and parents, and suggests implications for schools and educational psychology practice in the UK.

Kasmani, H. 2021. Tree of Life: A Tool for Therapeutic Growth? Educational Psychology Research and Practice. 7 (1), pp. 1-9. https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.899yx

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Dyslexia or Literacy Difficulties: What Difference Does a Label Make? Exploring the Perceptions and Experiences of Young People (2021)

Authors: Rosa Gibby-Leversuch, Brettany K. Hartwell and Sarah Wright 
Published: 2021
Publication: Educational Psychology Research and Practice

This study explores the views of young people (YP), with and without self-reported dyslexia or literacy difficulties, focussing on the impact of labels. Qualitative data were gathered through an online survey and individual interviews. The study highlights how the presence or absence of a label can impact people’s perceptions. Dyslexia was perceived as biological in origin; therefore, YP with the label were seen as not to blame for their difficulties. However, more negative judgements were made about YP without the label but with the same difficulties. Participants viewed the label as important for gaining support, yet highlighted the potential for discrimination in terms of access to diagnosis and resources. What was important to participants with dyslexia was not necessarily the label but the support that they received and how they were viewed by others. Implications for school professionals are discussed in terms of ensuring that YP feel empowered by the way they are described.

Gibby-Leversuch, R., Hartwell, B. K. and Wright, S. 2021. Dyslexia or Literacy Difficulties: What Difference Does a Label Make? Exploring the Perceptions and Experiences of Young People. Educational Psychology Research and Practice. 7 (1), pp. 1-15. https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.899yq

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Educational psychologists’ involvement in critical incidents: self-efficacy and influencing factors (2021)

Authors: Joanne Bennett, Hannah Edwards, Charlotte Finnegan, Rebecca Jones, Caroline Carpenter and Cora Sargeant
Published: 2021
Publication: Educational Psychology in Practice

Supporting school communities following a critical incident (CI) is a stressful, yet established, part of an educational psychologist’s (EP’s) role. The authors aim to explore whether emotional intelligence (EI), the number of CIs worked, and coping strategies predict EPs’ CI self-efficacy, and to gather EPs’ views on CI training. Ninety-five EPs working for UK local authorities completed an online survey that measured their self-efficacy towards CIs, their EI, and coping strategies. Information about how CIs are allocated, supervision, training received, and suggestions for future training were obtained. EI, approach coping strategies, and avoidant coping strategies were all predictors of CI self-efficacy. Results showed that 76.5% of EPs considered they needed more CI training and expressed they would benefit from knowledge- and experiential-based training. Implications are discussed, using a training framework informed by sources of self-efficacy, emphasising the need to be consciously aware of the EI and coping strategies that EPs already possess.

Bennett, J., Edwards, H., Finnegan, C., Jones, R., Carpenter, C. & Sargeant, C. (2021) Educational psychologists’ involvement in critical incidents: self-efficacy and influencing factors. Educational Psychology in Practice, DOI: 10.1080/02667363.2021.2000371

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The perspectives and experiences of children with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools regarding their individual teaching assistant support (2021)

Author: Hayley Pinkard
Published: 2021
Publication: European Journal of Special Educational Needs

This paper reports a small-scale qualitative research project, carried out in the south of England. Ten children (aged ten-eleven) with a range of SEN, from mainstream primary schools, took part in individual semi-structured interviews about their TA support. Child-friendly interviews utilised toy props and a creative ‘Ideal TA’ activity to aid communication and engagement. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Participants’ perspectives highlighted the ways in which their TAs had been deployed, which they perceived to enable helpful scaffolding of learning, but also caused a significant degree of separation from teachers. The nurturing characteristics of TAs were appreciated, and the positive impacts of TA support on pupils’ social inclusion and emotional well-being were emphasised.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the European Journal of Special Educational Needs on 20/04/21, available online:

Pinkard, H. (2021) The perspectives and experiences of children with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools regarding their individual teaching assistant support. European Journal of Special Educational Needs, 36(2), 248-264. https://doi.org/10.1080/08856257.2021.1901375 

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Is there a relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Reading Comprehension Difficulties mediated by Executive Function?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Rosalind Keefe
Submitted: October 2020

Research has shown that children affected by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are more likely to have difficulties with executive function. Research has also highlighted that reading comprehension is a complex process that is supported by executive functions including working memory, inhibition, shifting, planning and metacognition. In this essay I propose that ACE exposure may increase reading comprehension difficulties mediated by poorer executive functioning. ACE exposure is known to predict poorer academic outcomes, including reading ability but, at present, limited research has attempted to investigate specific factors underpinning this relationship.

In this essay, I outline research that has explored the relationship between executive function and ACEs and also executive function and reading comprehension. I will then bring these topics together to consider what the evidence is to directly support the essay question.

Overall, there is a lack of research in this area and this prevents firm conclusions from being drawn, at present. However, I argue that despite this, the current research suggests this is an important area for future research. I highlight a number of challenges within this topic including; the challenges with defining and measuring executive function, a lack of research within the topic of ACEs, as a whole, and variation in developmental outcomes depending on the ACE. These are important considerations for future research in this topic. In the final section, I highlight some potential implications for educational psychologists and teachers.

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Which Language-Learning Environment is the Most Advantageous for Deaf Children with Cochlear Implants?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Lynn De La Fosse
Submitted: November 2018

The use of paediatric cochlear implants has increased significantly over the last decade. The outcomes of deaf children with cochlear implants tend to surpass the outcomes of non-implanted deaf peers; however, they remain highly variable, and may be influenced by a number of different factors. One factor is the language-learning environment children are exposed to post-implantation. The evidence into which environment is most advantageous for children’s outcomes is mixed, with different studies recommending either spoken language-only, bimodal bilingual, or simultaneous communication models. In this essay, recent research comparing the outcomes of children from different language-learning environments is presented and discussed. There is strong evidence that bimodal bilingualism has a number of advantages for linguistic, cognitive, and social-emotional outcomes. However, there are significant barriers to its development in all children. This essay concludes that use of simultaneous communication in schools and at home is a viable alternative, but that further research within the UK context is needed. The wider implications of this approach are discussed.

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