The impact of same and separate classroom placements on the social adjustment of identical and non-identical same-sex twins at school entry

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Katy Goymour
Submitted: June 2017

Abstract

Educators, parents and researchers continue to deliberate whether twins should be educated in the same classroom or placed in different classrooms when they start school (Alexander 2012; Segal & Russel, 1992). The twin relationship is one of the most intimate of interpersonal bonds (DiLalla & Mullineaux, 2008; Woodward 1998), more so than other sibling‐relationships and is thus considered in the context of attachment theory (Tancredy & Fraley, 2006). Yet the nature of the twin bond serves as argument both for and against placing twins in the same classroom. At present, it appears that decisions regarding classroom placement are primarily based on viewpoints, rather than any evidence‐base. A systematic review of the literature exploring the impact of classroom placement on behavioural and academic outcomes in young twins has highlighted inconsistent findings. However, no research to date has considered the importance of the twin relationship and the focus of empirical studies has been on behavioural and academic outcomes. No study has yet explored the associations between classroom placement, the quality of the twin relationship and the development of their social competence at school. This empirical paper therefore examines the impact of classroom placement on twins’ social adjustment at school, taking into account the quality of their relationship prior to school entry. Results showed that there were no significant associations between these variables, although there was some evidence that the quality of twin relationship varied as a function of zygosity. However, conclusions were interpreted with significant caution due to the very small sample and lack of statistical power. Implications for future research, educational practitioners and parents are also considered.

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Understanding the role of parent factors and interpretation bias in children from military families who show symptoms of anxiety

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Camilla Jerrard
Submitted: June 2017

Abstract

The aetiology of SA is complex; its onset is impacted on by several factors and their interaction including genetic (e.g., temperament), environmental risk (e.g., maternal overprotection) and cognitive risk. This review examined research that explores the impact of acute and chronic environmental risk and resilience factors (e.g., parenting style, SES, parental separation experiences, paternal absence and traumatic experiences) on the aetiology of SA symptoms and SAD, specifically for school-aged children and adolescents (aged 2-18). The review used three electronic databases for the literature search, a combined search in Psychinfo and Medline via EBSCO and ERIC. Following a systematic method, 18 papers were selected for analysis. Eight risk factors in school-aged children and adolescents were identified. These linked to themes of parenting styles, parent separation, traumatic experiences, socioeconomic status and early risk. Three potential resilience factors were also identified through the process of this review: parent-offspring relationship, access to therapeutic support and planned separation experiences. Findings are discussed in relation to theory and research to inform intervention for SA and SAD in educational settings and Educational Psychologist’s (EPs) practice. Limitations are explored and future research is discussed.Cognitive models of anxiety propose a cognitive-behavioural representation of information processing biases, demonstrating the inter-relationship between the thoughts and actions of an individual. Theoretical models highlight family and parenting factors that contribute to intergenerational transmission of anxiety (parent to offspring) and cognitive processes. Little research has focused on the emergence of specific anxiety disorders in high-risk groups and investigated these interrelationships. Military families have been described as being at greater risk to threat exposure due to unique family and environmental factors (e.g., transitions and deployments). The present research explored the association between parent and offspring anxiety, interpretation biases and parenting variables in a military family population. Twenty-nine mother/child dyads (8-11 years) completed a word interpretation bias task of threatening (general and separation themes) and neutral words and reported their negative affects via questionnaires. Parenting was measured via the Five-Minute Speech Sample, which assesses expressed emotion (e.g., warmth and relationship). Positive and significant correlations between parent- and children’s- self-reported negative affects were found (ps<.50). Child cognitive interpretation bias was associated with children’s reports of anxiety. No associations for parent cognitive biases were found. Parent reports of child separation anxiety were positively and significantly correlated with number of deployments (ps<.50). Parenting variables were not associated with increased reports of negative affect in mothers or offspring. Mediation models explored the association with mothers’ own anxiety and the development of biases in offspring via increases in the child’s reports of their own anxiety. Two indirect effects approached significance. Findings are discussed in relation to the development of anxiety and explore the mechanisms involved in the transmission of anxiety from parent to offspring.

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Parental involvement in Primary School interventions to support children’s mental health and emotional well-being: a systematic review of the literature and exploration of StoryLinks

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Joanna Spragg
Submitted: June 2017

Abstract

There is considerable emphasis in research literature and educational policy on the importance of parental involvement in supporting children’s academic and social outcomes. Much of this is based on correlational, rather than experimental evidence. Also, the focus has been on children’s academic outcomes and attainment, as opposed to emotional and social outcomes. A systematic review of existing literature was conducted to evaluate recent empirical studies of school-based interventions that actively involve parents in supporting and promoting children’s mental health and emotional well-being. It aimed to describe the characteristics of such interventions and to consider whether there is research evidence supporting the ‘added value’ of these. Results suggested the interventions promoted a range of positive outcomes related to children’s mental health and emotional well-being. However, further work is needed to understand to what extent positive outcomes are related to the specific approaches and methods used, especially as there is much variation in the types of interventions used. Currently there is little robust empirical evidence for the additional benefits of actively involving parents in interventions to support children’s emotional well-being. Also, further research needs to be undertaken that seeks to consult with the parents, children and professionals facilitating these complex interventions to better understand potential barriers and facilitating factors of parental involvement in school-based programmes.

The empirical paper aimed to explore the experiences and views of parents, children and facilitators who have been involved in the StoryLinks intervention. StoryLinks is an individualised, parent-partnership intervention that involves children, parents and school in the co-creation of stories to support children’s emotional well-being and literacy skills (Waters, 2010). StoryLinks is based on the principles of therapeutic storywriting and attachment theory, including the use of metaphor to explore feelings and story-making as a way of supporting relationships. There is some preliminary evidence that the intervention may have a positive effect on children’s emotional and social well-being, behaviour and rates of exclusion, as well as the parent-child relationship (Water, 2014). The current exploratory study drew on the multiple perspectives of parents, children and facilitators who have been involved in the intervention. The research aimed to gain a better understanding of their experiences of the implementation, process and outcomes of StoryLinks. Semi-structured interviews with eight participants (four facilitators and two parentchild dyads) were conducted and thematic analysis was applied to the transcripts. The findings for each group were analysed and presented separately. There were some commonalities between groups, suggesting that participants had mostly had a positive experience of StoryLinks and considered it to be a collaborative intervention. Outcomes identified by participants included that StoryLinks had supported relationships and adults felt they had developed greater insights into their child’s emotions and behaviour. Findings were discussed in the context of relevant literature and research related to therapeutic storywriting approaches and parental involvement in interventions. Consideration was also given to implications for future practice and research.

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Understanding the experience of social anxiety in adolescent girls with autism spectrum disorders

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Leanne Pickering
Submitted: June 2017

Abstract

Literature Review: Pathways to social anxiety often reflect a set of complex and interacting factors including intrinsic and environmental factors. Theoretical models of social anxiety have highlighted that children and adolescents’ peer experiences can increase risk for social anxiety. This systematic review explored the role of peers in the development of social anxiety in adolescent girls. It aimed to identify peer-related risk factors (i.e., peer acceptance, peer attachment, friendship quality, peer support, and victimisation) that place adolescents at risk for social anxiety, including those specific to girls. The results showed that while some peer experiences were relevant to understanding risk across genders, others placed girls at increased risk. For example, low peer acceptance was significantly associated with increased social anxiety in boys and girls, both concurrently and over time. Those factors that placed girls at increased risk of social anxiety and avoidance, relative to boys, included limited close friendships, negative friendship experiences and relational victimisation. The review suggested that researchers might usefully start to develop frameworks that capture generic as well as gender-specific risk for social anxiety. These will facilitate the development of prevention and intervention methods to support girls at increased risk, that focus on improving the quality of their peer relationships.

Empirical Paper: The onset of adolescence represents an age where young people are at risk for the development of social anxiety. Increasingly, research has highlighted an increased risk of social anxiety in girls with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). However, there remains a lack of understanding of their experiences and the extent to which they are consistent with current models of anxiety in ASD. This qualitative study aimed to develop an understanding of the experience of social anxiety in adolescent girls with ASD from the perspective of young people themselves, their parents and teachers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four triads, with girls interviewed using an ‘ideal classroom’ activity to explore their perception of school-based social situations. Four interrelated themes emerged from the data across all four triads including (1) barriers to social situations, (2) quality of relationships, (3) coping with social situations, and (4) desire to ‘fit in’. The results found that girls’ experiences were underpinned by factors present in typical pathways to social anxiety (e.g. negative peer experiences and poor social skills) and that girls’ sensory sensitivity to noise acted as an autism-specific pathway. Implications for professionals who work with adolescent girls diagnosed with ASD were discussed, including the delivery of targeted training and workshops to increase staff understanding and raise peer acceptance.

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Primary school children’s perspectives and experiences of Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) support

Authors: Bonnie Wong, Danielle Cripps, Hayley White, Laura Young, Hanna Kovshoff, Hayley Pinkard and Colin Woodcock
Published: 2020
Publication: Educational Psychology in Practice

This study explores primary school aged children’s perspectives and experiences of their Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) support. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with 12 Key Stage 2 participants, who had had a minimum of one month’s ongoing ELSA support. Four core themes were identified: positive relationships, unique qualities, facilitates skill development, and positive impact. The findings suggest the importance of a positive therapeutic relationship with an ELSA, and that children value ELSAs teaching specific individualised coping strategies in particular. The findings may also be pertinent to practitioners outside of ELSA related work, highlighting the importance of listening to children of all ages and employing alternative methods, such as drawing, to support them in sharing their views. Since the evidence base for ELSA support is limited, this study contributes children’s views to this area, and should be used to inform future research.

Wong, B., Cripps, D., White, H., Young, L., Kovshoff, H., Pinkard, H. & Woodcock, C. (2020) Primary school children’s perspectives and experiences of Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) support. Educational Psychology in Practice. DOI: 10.1080/02667363.2020.1781064

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University of Southampton Psychology Post Graduate Research Conference – posters

The Southampton PGR conference concluded today – the ninth psychology conference but the very first to be carried out online. We were delighted by (and very proud of) the contributions of the Ed Psych Trainees to the conference, which included Year 2 research posters, Year 3 thesis presentations and two members of the Year 2 cohort – Sophie Smith and Amber Newell – sitting on the four person conference planning committee (and what an incredible job they did under these exceptional circumstances).

Please find below the Ed Psych SSRP research posters. These are:

  • EBSA (Emotionally Based School Avoidance) Professionals’ Perception of Group Supervision by Lauren Baggley, Beckett Markland, Amber Newell, Cora Sargeant and Andrea Morgan.
  • Emotional Literacy Support Assistants’ (ELSAs) experiences of the Resilience Ball Framework in Schools by Lindsay Elder, Alex Hampstead, Cara Hens, Cath Lowther and Hanna Kovshoff.
  • Non-statutory Educational Psychology Reports: Views of Key Stakeholders by Louise Boeckmans, Husna Kasmani, Kirsty Russell, Sophie Smith, Liz Robinson, Caitriona Scully and Cora Sargeant.
  • Exploring the Views and Experiences of Adolescents with ADHD in Mainstream Schools by Stephanie Lewis, Lynn de la Fosse, Derek Hanley, Tammy Valberg and Hanna Kovshoff – Awarded third prize in the conference poster competition.

Bob Stratford

It was with great sadness that the course learned today of the passing of Dr Robert Stratford on Saturday, following a period of illness.

Bob was Programme Director for professional Educational Psychology training at Southampton from 1975 until 2009, overseeing 31 years of the Masters programme and  then three years of the subsequent doctorate. In total, nearly 250 ex-trainees will have known him as Programme Director during this period, including four of the current course tutor team. His work in preparation for the transition from the one year masters to the three year doctorate was instrumental to the creation of the bursary system now used nationally.

Bob was a kind and gentle man and will be remembered with great fondness for his encyclopedic knowledge, his enthusiasm for educational psychology in general and for his firm belief in taking a problem-solving approach to EP work (still a key element of the course today, whilst past trainees will likely always remember ‘the four Ps’), also his general calm and of course his love of rugby. He was hugely proud of the Southampton course and of all the trainees who passed through it. His impact on the wider profession goes way beyond the easily measurable. Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with his sons, Mark and Rolf.

If you would like to leave a message or memory of Bob, please contact Sarah Wright sfw1@soton.ac.uk. 

What beliefs influence children and young people’s attitudes towards the transgender population?

Authors: Jenna Read, Cora Sargeant and Sarah Wright
Published: 2020
Publication: Educational and Child Psychology

Aims: This review aims to identify and explore the specific beliefs that influence children and young people’s (CYP’s) attitudes towards the transgender population.
Method: A systematic review of the literature was undertaken and a total of 14 studies were included in the review. The review included studies from the United States, Europe, and Asia. Each study was appraised using Gough’s (2007) Weight of Evidence Framework and awarded a quality assurance rating of low, medium, or high quality.
Findings: The review identified three sets of beliefs that appear to influence CYP’s attitudes towards the transgender population: Heteronormativity, conservatism and gender essentialism. Gender differences in beliefs were found to influence attitudes towards the transgender population as a whole and towards Male-to-Female (MtF) individuals and Female-to-Male (FtM) individuals.
Limitations: The key limitation within this review is that the mechanisms through which beliefs influence CYP attitudes are hypothetical. Further insight using qualitative approaches would deepen the understanding of the underpinnings of attitudes towards the transgender population, particularly transprejudice. A variety of measures were used across the included studies which limits the comparability
of the finding and conclusions drawn
Conclusions: This review identified three sets of beliefs that influence attitudes towards the transgender population. These beliefs represent a traditional, binary model of gender that contrasts with the experiences of gender-diverse populations. A more inclusive model of gender is proposed whereby acceptance, diversity and belonging are promoted.

Read, J., Sargeant, C. & Wright, S. (2020) What beliefs influence children and young people’s attitudes towards the transgender population? Educational and Child Psychology, (37)1, 11-36.

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Teaching Early Reading Skills to Children with Severe Intellectual Disabilities Using Headsprout Early Reading

Authors: Emma Herring, Corinna Grindle and Hanna Kovshoff
Published: 2019
Publication: Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities

Background: Beginning reading skills are often taught using phonics. Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of phonics with typically developing students, but less research has evaluated this method with students with intellectual disabilities.
Method: This paper evaluated the computerized phonics‐based intervention Headsprout Early Reading® with eight students aged 7–19 years with severe intellectual disability. Six children were verbal, two were non‐verbal. Four students completed Headsprout as it was designed for typically developing children, and four students accessed two adapted version of the intervention. Additional table‐top teaching was used to support the intervention for some participants.
Results: Verbal students improved in initial sound fluency, nonsense word reading, and word recognition, but did not show improvements in phonemic segmentation, regardless of whether or not they accessed the original or adapted intervention.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that Headsprout Early Reading can be used to support the development of reading skills for students with intellectual disability.

Herring, E., Grindle, C. & Kovshoff, H. (2019) Teaching Early Reading Skills to Children with Severe Intellectual Disabilities Using Headsprout Early Reading. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. DOI: 10.1111/jar.12603

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To What Extent Is the Thrive Intervention Grounded in Research and Theory?

Authors: Rosa Gibby-Leversuch, Jasmine Field and Tim Cooke
Published: 2019
Publication: Educational Psychology Research and Practice

The Thrive approach is an assessment and planning based intervention that aims to develop children’s social and emotional wellbeing. Despite the increased popularity of Thrive, there is limited research that has investigated its effectiveness. After reviewing the assessment, training and intervention elements of Thrive and the evidence base for the underpinning assumptions, this article considers the evaluative research. Thrive is rooted in attachment theory and assumes that infant development is vulnerable to disruption by poor attachment experiences and that these disruptions can be ameliorated in later life through the development of secure relationships with school staff. The article concludes that, while Thrive is based on attachment theory, which itself is well supported by evidence, how Thrive applies and interprets this theory is less well supported. There is currently limited evidence of the impact of Thrive on children’s development. Other issues and implications of this critique are also discussed.

Gibby-Leversuch, R., Field, J., & Cooke, T. (2019). To what extent is the thrive intervention grounded in research and theory? Educational psychology research and practice, 5(2), 1–8. Available at: https://www.uel.ac.uk/research/educational-psychology-research-and-practice/volume-5-no-2-2019

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Academic self-concept and sense of school belonging of adolescent siblings of autistic children

Authors: Alexandra Gregory, Richard P. Hastings and Hanna Kovshoff
Published: 2020
Publication: Research in Developmental Disabilities

Background: Whilst there is a growing body of research on the psychological outcomes for siblings of autistic children (autism siblings), few studies have considered the school context.
Aims: To explore group differences on two school-related self-reported outcomes for autism siblings and siblings of non-autistic children: sense of school belonging, and academic self-concept. Data on self- and parent/carer-reported behavioural and emotional problems were also collected.
Methods and procedures: 65 autism siblings and a comparison group of 57 siblings of non-autistic children aged 11–16 years completed questionnaires measuring sense of school belonging, academic self concept, and behaviour problems. 73 parents in the autism sibling and 67 parents in the comparison sibling group completed the behaviour problems measure.
Outcomes and results: Autism siblings reported significantly lower school belonging and academic self-concept, and had significantly poorer self- and parent- reported behaviour problems. When controlling for demographic variables and internalising and externalizing behaviour, robust sibling group differences on academic variables remained.
Conclusions and implications: Autism siblings reported poorer school-related outcomes and increased behavioural difficulties relative to siblings of non-autistic children. There was wide variation in autism siblings’ outcomes, highlighting the importance of taking an individualised and contextualised approach to understanding the varying needs of autism siblings.

Gregory, A., Hastings, R. & Kovshoff, H. (2020) Academic self-concept and sense of school belonging of adolescent siblings of autistic children. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 96, [103519]. DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2019.103519

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Keys to engagement: A case study exploring the participation of autistic pupils in educational decision‐making at school

Authors: Chantelle Zilli, Sarah Parsons and Hanna Kovshoff
Published: 2019
Publication: British Journal of Educational Psychology

Background: the UNCRC (1989) established the importance of listening to children’s views globally. In England, seeking the views of pupils with special educational needs and disability about their education, and involving them in decision-making, has been mandatory since 2015. Autistic children’s views and experiences are particularly underrepresented in this context.
Aims: to provide a detailed, exploratory analysis of practices that enable autistic pupils to participate in educational decision-making; and to generate new knowledge about pupil participation in a school context, using the Framework for Participation (Black-Hawkins, 2010) as an analytical frame.
Sample: Four male pupils aged 11-15, with autism spectrum diagnoses, and 11 staff members from a specialist, independent school took part in this case study.
Methods: Observations were made of pupils in lessons, and pupils completed a photo-voice activity focusing on where they felt ‘most listened to’ in the school. Staff members participated in semi-structured interviews.
Results: A range of practices supported pupils’ participation in everyday decision-making, underpinned by a respectful and positive culture led by the senior management team. The focus was on what learners can do, and how they make decisions to facilitate achievement. Pupils and staff developed mutually respectful relationships, within which boundaries were negotiated and compromises offered. Flexibility through decision making was provided within the timetabling and content of the curriculum. Pupils’ special interests and expertise were valued as ‘keys’ to supporting their engagement.
Conclusions: These insights provide a tool for reflection by educators and Educational Psychologists for considering how they might promote the participation of autistic pupils in different educational contexts.

Zilli, C., Parsons, S. & Kovshoff, H. (2019) Keys to engagement: A case study exploring the participation of autistic pupils in educational decision‐making at school. British Journal of Educational Psychology doi:10.1111/bjep.12331

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The Role of Peers in the Development of Social Anxiety in Adolescent Girls: A Systematic Review

Authors: Leanne Pickering, Julie A. Hadwin and Hanna Kovshoff
Published: 2019
Publication: Adolescent Research Review 

Pathways to social anxiety often reflect a set of complex and interacting factors that include both intrinsic and environmental factors. Theoretical models of social anxiety have highlighted that children and adolescents’ peer experiences can increase risk for social anxiety. This systematic review explored the role of peers in the development of social anxiety in adolescent girls. It aimed to identify peer-related risk factors (i.e., peer acceptance, peer attachment, friendship quality, peer support, and victimisation) that place adolescents at risk for social anxiety, and to highlight those that are specific to girls. The findings showed that while low peer acceptance was significantly associated with increased social anxiety for boys and girls, limited close friendships, negative friendship experiences and relational victimisation were highlighted as risk factors specific to girls. The review suggested that researchers might usefully start to develop frameworks that capture generic, as well as gender-specific risk for social anxiety in adolescence. These will enable the development of prevention and intervention methods to support girls at increased risk and that focus on improving the quality of peer relationships.

Pickering, L., Hadwin, J.A. & Kovshoff, H. The Role of Peers in the Development of Social Anxiety in Adolescent Girls: A Systematic Review. Adolescent Res Rev (2019) doi:10.1007/s40894-019-00117-x

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The advantages and disadvantages of digital books to children’s emergent literacy.

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Lawrence Taylor
Submitted: November 2019

The UK public and schools are spending millions of pounds on digital books every year. Touch screen devices and reading apps that host digital books might have been adopted by families without the parents necessarily considering the functional efficacy. This is potentially detrimental to children’s development of emergent literacy; especially considering that children who are in this stage are more vulnerable to possible negative features of digital books, compared to children who are proficient readers. Shared reading of digital books within parent-child dyads, has shown associations with: greater story content being recalled by children, increased operational and vocabulary-related discourse, but reduced dialogic reading when compared to print books. Some digital books now come with an array of multimedia and interactive features with varying effects on emergent literacy. The review of the literature highlighted that multimedia features that are congruent to the story carried additive benefits for children compared to digital books more broadly. Interactive features, however, are not currently associated with any benefits so should be excluded from digital books designed to foster emergent literacy. Due to the attention and engagement interactive features can afford, future research should aim to find beneficial interactive features.

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Fact sheet for schools: Autism (undergraduate assignment)

This year, for the mid-term assignment of the undergraduate module in Educational Psychology at the University of Southampton, we asked our third year students to create information fact sheets for schools on the topic of either working memory or Autism.

We are delighted to present three of our favourites from the top scoring pieces of work on Autism here:

Sarah Bristow
Joshua Hyde
Gemma Tikkoo

Copyright note: we believe that images used in these leaflets – sourced by students on the web – constitute ‘fair use,’ since they are of reduced resolution, comprise only a small percentage of the overall work and are a used here non-commercially for educational purposes. If you wish to discuss this further, please email c.woodcock@soton.ac.uk. 

Dyslexia, Literacy Difficulties and the Self-Perceptions of Children and Young People: a Systematic Review

Authors: Rosa Gibby-Leversuch, Brettany K. Hartwell and Sarah Wright
Published: 2019
Publication: Current Psychology

This systematic review investigates the links between literacy difficulties, dyslexia and the self-perceptions of children and young people (CYP). It builds on and updates Burden’s (2008) review and explores how the additional factors of attributional style and the dyslexia label may contribute to CYP’s self-perceptions. Nineteen papers are included and quality assessed. Quantitative papers measured the self-reported self-perceptions of CYP with literacy difficulties and/or dyslexia (LitD/D) and compared these with the CYP without LitD/D. Qualitative papers explored the lived experiences of CYP with LitD/D, including their self-views and how these were affected by receiving a dyslexia diagnosis. Results suggest that CYP with LitD/D may be at greater risk of developing negative self-perceptions of themselves as learners, but not of their overall self-worth. Factors found to be relevant in supporting positive self-perceptions include adaptive attributional styles, good relationships with peers and parents, and positive attitudes towards dyslexia and neurodiversity. In some cases, CYP with LitD/D felt that others perceived them as unintelligent or idle; for these CYP, a diagnosis led to more positive self-perceptions, as it provided an alternative picture of themselves. There is a need for further research to explore the impact of attributional style and the potential for intervention, as well as CYPs’ experiences of diagnosis and the associated advantages or disadvantages.

Gibby-Leversuch, R., Hartwell, B.K. & Wright, S. (2019) Dyslexia, Literacy Difficulties and the Self-Perceptions of Children and Young People: a Systematic Review. Current Psychology https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-00444-1

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Creating a Culture of Kindness: How Might Schools Promote Children’s Prosocial Acts?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Sophie Smith
Submitted: March 2019

Children’s pro-social behaviour is related to their peer status. Peer acceptance is associated with wellbeing and achievement in school, yet evidence suggests that many children are not aware of this and may attribute peer status to more dominant or materialistic orientations. Therefore, it is important that schools not only promote children’s pro-sociality, but draw their attention to its value. Given that social and emotional learning (SEL) programs appear to facilitate more positive pupil outcomes than anti-bullying initiatives, positive psychology approaches which focus on building social and emotional skills can be considered useful. Encouraging children to perform kind acts for one another has recently gained research attention as a positive psychology intervention particularly beneficial for social relationships. Self-determination theory (SDT) suggests that enacting kindness may temper individuals’ psychological needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness. Currently however, there is little evidence-based guidance for schools on how to go about promoting children’s kindness. In this essay, relevant research is synthesised with the aim of bridging this gap. It is argued that adults can support children’s intrinsic motivation to enact kindness, in two key ways. One is by providing information about what kindness is and how it can be used. The other is by fostering experiences of the emotional motivations of gratitude and empathy. Methods to achieve this are described with consideration to the role of self-determination needs. Ideas for future research and the contribution of the educational psychologist are proposed.

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The Impact of Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH) for Children and Young People

Authors: Henry Wood, Karen O’Farrell, Caroline Bjerk-Andersen, Cate Mullen, and Hanna Kovshoff
Published: 2019
Publication: Educational Psychology in Practice

This small-scale research project investigated the impact of a Person-Centred Planning (PCP) tool – Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH) – with children and young people (CYP) with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in mainstream settings. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore the perceived impact of the PATH process for three secondary-aged male students, three parents and the member of school staff who conducted the students’ PATH. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data, which resulted in four main themes: usefulness of the graphic, positive effects, child-centeredness, and possible barriers to successful implementation. PATH was described as having a variety of useful benefits, such as increasing CYP’s confidence and motivation. In addition, barriers to successful implementation of PATH were identified by participants, which in turn may limit its impact. In particular, families and children identified that they would benefit from receiving additional information and guidance about the process before the meeting to maximise its utility.

Wood, H., O’Farrell, K., Bjerk-Andersen, C., Mullen, C. & Kovshoff, H. (2019) The Impact of Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH) for Children and Young People. Educational Psychology in Practice, DOI: 10.1080/02667363.2019.1604323

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Print Concept Knowledge in Young Children with Autism: Why Should it be Impaired and What are the Implications for Intervention?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Sophie Smith
Submitted: November 2018

Emergent literacy skills are developmental precursors to formal literacy. They are predictive of later reading and writing ability. Identifying children with poor emergent literacy can increase the likelihood of timely intervention. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are a group at risk of poor reading comprehension. However, there is relatively little research into their emergent literacy. It is often cited that they show a pattern of strong code-related and poor meaning-focused skills. There is a problem with using these composites, as children with ASD show strengths and weaknesses within the code-related domain, where letter naming is good, but print concept knowledge (PCK) is impaired. PCK relates to knowledge of print function and conventions and the organisation of books. In this essay, reasons for this discrepancy are explored. It is argued that weak central coherence in children with ASD can account for their ability to process local features such as letters but not global book features such as the front cover. This is exacerbated by adults who may find it challenging to engage these children in literacy activities, and therefore show an instructional bias towards the skills they already show aptitude and interest in. Based on this explanation, possible interventions are considered. These include systematic, explicit instructional techniques such as print referencing and task analysis, as well as interest development strategies to encourage motivation for looking at books. It is concluded that educational psychologists (EPs) should play a role in evaluating and promoting these strategies to improve PCK in children with ASD.

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The Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) Programme: Can you develop an evidence base for an adaptive intervention?

Authors: Leanne Pickering, Joanne Lambeth and Colin Woodcock
Published: 2019
Publication: DECP Debate

This article considers different aspects of the Emotional Literacy Support Assistant Programme. Specifically, it critiques the evidence base for the intervention and discusses issues relating to the adaptability of the programme..

Pickering, L., Lambeth, J. & Woodcock, C. (2019) The Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) Programme: Can you develop an evidence base for an adaptive intervention? DECP Debate, 170, 17-22.

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Exploring the Impact of Nurture Groups on Children’s Social Skills: A Mixed-Methods Approach.

Authors: Larissa Cunningham, Brettany K Hartwell & Jana Kreppner
Published: 2019
Publication: Educational Psychology in Practice

Nurture Groups (NGs) are a short-term, psychotherapeutic intervention aiming to provide reparative attachment experiences for children within an educational setting (Boxall, 2002). The social skills of 16 children (aged between 6.0 and 9.75 years) were assessed through teacher ratings and children’s self-report to hypothetical and challenging social situations. Thematic analysis was also used to explore six children’s experiences and perceptions of NG intervention on their social skills. Over time, children attending NGs used significantly more socially appropriate responses. Teachers’ ratings of children’s social skills also improved, approaching statistical significance. In their interviews, children suggested that they enjoyed attending NGs and that this helped them improve their social skills. However, they reported challenges engaging with peers outside of the NG, particularly in the playground. Implications for practice include the need to identify how practitioners can help to facilitate the generalisation of children’s developing social skills beyond the NG context.

Cunningham, L., Hartwell, B. K. & Kreppner, J. (2019) Exploring the Impact of Nurture Groups on Children’s Social Skills: A Mixed-Methods Approach. Educational Psychology in Practice, DOI: 10.1080/02667363.2019.1615868

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Can Interactive Media Replace the Parent as the ‘More Knowledgeable Other’ in Early Language Development?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Kirsty Russell
Submitted: November 2018

Society is currently living in a screen age. Interactive media devices are increasingly being used by young children, often independently, without the presence of a parent. Parental reasons for this focus on educational, entertainment and babysitting purposes. Building on behaviourist and socio-constructivist understandings of young children’s language development, this is problematic for two important reasons. Firstly, it reduces the amount of parental linguistic input that a child receives in their early years, that is essential for language development. Secondly, features of parent-child interactions that drive language development cannot be replicated by interactive media use when children are alone (including scaffolding techniques, promoting joint attention, providing gestural clues and providing a familiar voice). Ultimately, interactive media cannot replace the parent as the More Knowledgeable Other in young children’s language development. Parents need to apply what is known about language development and be aware of their important role as the More Knowledgeable Other in interactive learning experiences before it is too late. Parents should engage in learning activities that revolve around parent-child interactions, before passing the responsibility of children’s language learning to interactive media becomes normalised. Implications for Educational Psychology practice and potential areas for further research are also discussed.

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Leaflets for schools and parents: Dyslexia and ADHD (undergraduate assignment).

In 2018, a new, mid-term assignment has been introduced to the undergraduate module in Educational Psychology at the University of Southampton.  We asked our third year students to create information leaflets for schools and parents on the topic of either dyslexia or ADHD.

We are delighted to present the top three scoring pieces of work here:

Jemma Johnston (ADHD)
Amy Peters (Dyslexia)
Olivia Sutherland (Dyslexia)

 

Copyright note: we believe that images used in these leaflets – sourced by students on the web – constitute ‘fair use,’ since they are of reduced resolution, comprise only a small percentage of the overall work and are a used here non-commercially for educational purposes. If you wish to discuss this further, please email c.woodcock@soton.ac.uk. 

Could sharing gratitude on Facebook improve the well-being of young people?

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Rebecca Horner
Submitted: June 2016

Abstract

The first chapter presents a systematic review of the literature around expressing gratitude and Facebook use and the impact of these behaviours on the well-being of young people. Studies were included if they evaluated the effects of Facebook use, keeping a gratitude log or sharing gratitude (online or otherwise) on measures of well-being. The review searched three electronic databases for peer-reviewed journal articles from 1995 onwards. No reports were found concerning the specific intervention of sharing of gratitude on Facebook. A total of seven Facebook interventions and 14 gratitude interventions were included. The analysis of these 21 interventions showed that overall, Facebook usage appears to have a negative impact on participants’ well-being whilst gratitude interventions appear to have a positive impact on well-being. Based on these findings it is concluded that now is a good time to begin a new program of research exploring effect of sharing gratitude on Facebook.

The empirical paper examined the effectiveness of a Facebook based gratitude intervention to promote well-being in young people aged 16-18 (N = 70). Participants completed online questionnaire measures pre and post intervention as well as at a six-week follow up. Participants posted grateful or neutral learning status update to Facebook daily for ten consecutive college days. ANOVAs revealed no significant effect of condition. Moderation analysis found that the intervention has a positive impact on well-being but only for individuals who perceived peer reactions to be positive. This tentatively suggests that simply expressing gratefulness is not enough to boost well-being, expressed gratitude needs to be positively acknowledged by others. The findings extend the evidence base in the fields of post-16 well-being, Facebook use and gratitude sharing.

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

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Hayley Frisby
Submitted: June 2016

Abstract

Over the past twenty years there has been a continuous and significant rise in the number of teaching assistants (TAs) working within English schools and they are increasingly taking on a more pedagogical role, often working with pupils with special educational needs(SEN). A systematic review of the international literature was conducted, exploring the impacts of TA support on pupils’ academic, social and emotional/behavioural outcomes(including 24 papers published between the years 2000 and 2015). Key stakeholders’ views about the impacts of TA support were found to be largely positive, as were evaluations of TA-led targeted academic interventions. A number of quantitative investigations of regular TA support for specific pupils indicated a negative relationship between TA support and pupils’ academic progress. Pupil perspectives regarding their TA support were rarely documented within the literature. A qualitative empirical study was conducted to contribute more of a pupil voice. Ten Year Six pupils with SEN took part in individual semi-structured interviews, discussing their one-to-one TA support. Props(such as a ‘Judge’ figurine)helped to set expectations and reassure participants, whilst a creative, visual activity supported their communication and engagement. Participants’ discussions highlighted that they were almost constantly accompanied by a TA and saw the TA as their ‘teacher’. There was a significant degree of separation from the class teacher and a perception that the TA knew participants better than the teacher did. Pupils had rarely been consulted about their TA support in school. However, great admiration was shown for TAs,who were often considered to epitomise their ideal TA. Participants’ discussions suggested that TAs advocated for pupils and possibly looked beyond theirlabels of SEN. They talked passionately about the emotional support provided by TAs (including building their sense of belonging with in school) and suggested that TAs support more positive interactions with peers.

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Supporting children with insecure attachment in school: the teacher-child relationship as a protective factor against the development of behavioural difficulties in middle childhood

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Beth Turner
Submitted: June 2016

Abstract

Internalising and externalising difficulties in childhood have been linked with negative outcomes in later life including criminal behaviour and mental health difficulties. Individuals who have insecure attachments to caregivers are at a heightened risk of developing such behaviours. A systematic literature search was conducted to investigate whether the teacher-child relationship could protect children with insecure attachments from developing into behaviour difficulties. A total of eleven studies were reviewed and nine indicate that the teacher-child relationship can protect students if they are at risk due to negative caregiving experiences or insecure attachments to caregivers. The methodological difficulties of multi-informant reports and low risk samples were explored. Evidence for a protective effect in early childhood was found in two studies however future research should explore whether this impact persists into middle childhood and adolescence and obtain the child’s perception of relationship quality. Thus the current empirical study investigated whether this protection continues into middle childhood. Participants included 163children (aged 7-12) and their teachers (N=41). Children completed measures of attachment security with a primary caregiver and relationship quality with their teacher. Teachers also reported on relationship quality and rated the children’s internalising and externalising behaviours in school. Results indicate that there is a significant correlation between attachment security and externalising behaviours but not internalising. There is also a significant correlation between teacher-child relationship quality and attachment security. Teacher perception of conflict is the biggest predictor of behavioural difficulties. There was no evidence that the teacher-child relationship moderates the relationship between attachment security and behaviour difficulties in middle childhood. Implications for educational psychology and future research are discussed.

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Exploring the experiences of typically developing siblings who have a brother or sister with Autism Spectrum Condition

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Kirsty Underwood
Submitted: June 2016

Abstract

This thesis explores the experiences of typically developing siblings (TD-Sibs) who have grown up with a brother or sister with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). The first chapter presents a systematic review of the literature, using an Interactive Factors Framework (IFF) approach (a framework that is used to guide Educational Psychology practice), to consider TD-Sibs’ experiences from a holistic perspective. A total of 22 studies were identified from the systematic search process. The review highlights many inconsistencies in findings, and methodological limitations. Within the sampled research, the quantitative studies tended to focus on potential behavioural, social and emotional difficulties for TD-Sibs, however, there is currently insufficient, consistent evidence to conclude that TD-Sibs, as a group, will experience difficulties in these areas. Through eliciting sibling voice directly, qualitative studies revealed positive aspects for TDSibs, as well as, previously unconsidered challenges. The review identifies gaps in the research base and concludes with an IFF diagram to visually represent and synthesise the positive and challenging experiences from the 22 studies as a whole.

The empirical paper explores the views of young adult siblings, who have grown up with a brother or sister with ASC, to gain a greater understanding of their lived experience and how this may interact with their education. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six participants (aged 19 to 21), and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Five super-ordinate themes were identified: Striving to do well; Sense of responsibility; Self-Management; Voice and Acceptance. These exploratory findings identified some positive aspects of being a TD-Sib, however participants predominantly recounted a number of struggles and hidden challenges, which influenced some aspects of their educational experiences. Practical implications and avenues for future research are discussed.

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