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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Does attachment influence learning? An investigation in to the associations between attachment, executive function and academic attainment

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Lindsey Foy
Submitted: June 2016

Abstract

In the field of psychology there is a growing interest in the relationship between early experiences and neurocognitive development (Schore & Schore, 2008). It has been suggested that early attachment experiences influence the development of a group of cognitive processes known as executive functions (e.g. Bernier, Carlson & Whipple, 2010). This thesis investigates the association between attachment styles and executive function in children and adolescents. Chapters one and two focus on different age groups. The literature review in chapter one explores the existing studies that consider this relationship in children aged 12 months to 11 years. A number of methodological issues in assessing the association between attachment and executive function are identified and discussed. The empirical paper in chapter two examines the associations between attachment, executive function and academic attainment in early adolescence aged 11 years to 14 years. Students (N=32) completed an attachment questionnaire, three executive function tasks and an IQ test. The results demonstrated an association between executive functions and academic attainment. However, the associations between attachment and executive functions did not reach significance and attachment was not found to influence academic attainment indirectly via executive function. The findings are discussed in terms of future research and implications for professional practice.

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The effects of the teacher-child relationship and caregiver attachment security on children’s self-concept in middle childhood

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Sarah Delo
Submitted: June 2016

Abstract

A positive self-concept is associated with a number of outcomes including school adjustment, academic attainment and mental health. Literature suggests individual differences in self-concept derive from children’s relationships with significant others such as parents and teachers. A systematic review of the literature exploring the relationship between teacher-child relationships and children’s self-concept found some associations, however, this was not always consistently found. Furthermore, a number of methodological limitations in the studies were noted. Implications for future research were reported and included using multi-faceted measures of self-concept and teacher-child relationships, as well as controlling for the effect of other social relationships (e.g. parents).

To address some of these limitations, this empirical paper examines whether teacher relationships (as characterised by closeness and conflict) are associated with children’s global, academic, behavioural and social self-concept, and whether teacher relationships may buffer children who are less securely attached to their caregivers against negative outcomes, such as low self-concept. 163 children (aged 7-11 years) and their class teachers participated. Questionnaires measured child reports of the teacher relationship, attachment security to their caregiver and self-concept as well as teacher reports of teacher relationship quality. Results found that although there was no evidence for a moderating effect of teacher relationships, attachment security was related to children’s global, academic, behavioural and social self-concept and positive teacher relationships further contributed to children’s behavioural and academic self-concept. Teacher relationships were found not to contribute to children’s global or social self-concept. Implications for future research and educational psychology practice are discussed.

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What is the relationship between self-determination and the process of managed moves?

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Patrick Mahon
Submitted: June 2016

Abstract

Managed moves were introduced by the DfE (1999) in an effort to lower the rising number of permanent exclusions in schools. Abdelnoor (2007) described a managed move as a process whereby a student, typically during a school year, moves from one school to another, or to an alternate education provision, to avoid being permanently excluded. This study follows on from a small scale research project by Trainee Educational Psychologists (Mahon, MacKenzie, Delo, & Foy, 2014), which found that self-determination, as defined by Deci and Ryan (1985), played an important role in students’ managed move success. Self-Determination Theory (SDT) identified that when a person’s innate needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness were satisfied they experienced intrinsic motivation, which is conducive to optimal learning in an educational setting (Niemiec & Ryan, 2009). The first chapter of this study begins with a literature review of the benefits of intrinsic/autonomous motivation in the classroom. The review confirmed that when a student’s needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness were satisfied in a classroom setting they experienced intrinsic or autonomous motivation. The four main benefits of student intrinsic/autonomous motivation in the classroom consistently found in the literature were willingness to engage, task persistence, increased student well-being and academic achievement. The review highlighted a lack of research on SDT and student exclusions and/or transition. The search was unable to find any studies on SDT and managed moves.

The second chapter responds to gaps identified by the literature review and used an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach to explore the students’ experience of self-determination in their managed move. Findings suggest that when students’ self determination needs are met they are more likely to result in a successful managed move, in terms of their increased engagement, both academically and socially in school, resulting in higher academic achievement, positive wellbeing and future aspirations.

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Exploring the roles of anxiety, sleep and sense of belonging in school attendance and school refusal behaviour

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Sharon McKenzie
Submitted: June 2016

Abstract

Reductions in school refusal behaviour (SRB), defined as a general difficulty with attending or remaining in school, have been a longstanding strategic priority for schools, local authorities and central government. Research into risk factors associated with SRB is vital for the development of effective assessment and intervention practices to address the problem. A systematic literature review, embedded within a theoretical framework of risk and resilience, was conducted to appraise the research evidence into anxiety as a risk factor for SRB. Twenty-one studies were reviewed, spanning the past three decades. Support was gained for anxiety as a significant risk factor for SRB in some cases, but not as an overall or central explanation for the problem. The need was highlighted in future research for collective commitment towards addressing a range of terminological, methodological and reporting issues in order to improve comparability between studies, and increase the generalisability of findings. The incorporation of physiological measures of anxiety in conjunction with self-report measures was proposed as a potentially fruitful extension for future investigations.

The empirical paper presented a pilot study which extended previous research comparing anxious high-attenders with anxious low-attenders. The sample comprised 13 girls in Year 8 (n=9) and Year 9 (n=4) attending an average-sized mainstream secondary school, who reported elevated anxiety. The girls were grouped by attendance: high (n=7, M=99.7%, SD=0.63) and low (n=6, M=92.2%, SD=1.58). Physiological measures of psychological stress (i.e. heart rate variability: HRV) and sleep, assessed using electrocardiogram and wrist actigraphy respectively, were incorporated within an exploration of anxiety, sleep and sense of belonging as factors that may differentiate between the two groups. The groups did not differ on sense of belonging or any indices of psychopathology by self-report, nor on any physiological measures of sleep or psychological stress at the beginning of the week. However, the high attendance group showed non-significant trends towards poorer sleep quality and lower HRV, at the end of the week. The findings tentatively challenge the assumption that anxious students who sustain high attendance in school are demonstrating psychological resilience. Implications for Educational Psychology practice and future research are discussed.

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Encouraging ‘pupil participation’; exploring school practices, benefits and challenges

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Abi Sharpe
Submitted: November 2017

The requirement for schools to listen to pupils’ views on their education is now endorsed in both government policy and law. Researchers have found that young people have useful things to say about their education, and yet pupil participatory practices are not embedded in schools. Throughout this essay, Hart’s (1992) ladder of participation is used as a framework to consider the different levels of effective participation. School councils are a popular participatory practice in schools but are not always seen as an effective method of eliciting pupils’ views. Studies suggest that appropriate planning and a change of school ethos is key to their success. Research has also been conducted into how teachers engage pupils in giving feedback on teaching and learning. Findings indicate that individual differences amongst teachers can impact on their engagement in participation, and resulting practices can vary in the degree to which they would be considered participatory. The limited research into democratic schools highlights promising outcomes for their pupils but the prospect of similar approaches working in mainstream schools raises a number of challenges. This essay concludes that engaging in effective pupil participatory practices in schools has the potential to result in a range of positive outcomes. Policy makers and schools need to consider the degree of decision-making or influence they want to give to pupils. They may also require more training and guidance to make participatory practices effective. Educational Psychologists are well placed to support this process both at a whole school and policy level.

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The hypothesised female ASC phenotype: Implications for research and practice

Authors: Henry Wood & Bonnie Wong
Published: 2017
Publication: Educational Psychology Research and Practice

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the behavioural manifestation of autism spectrum condition (ASC) differs between males and females, and there may be a female-specific phenotype of the condition (Lai, Lombardo, Auyeung, Chakrabarti, & Baron-Cohen, 2015). However, current conceptualisations of ASC have been developed predominately from samples of males, meaning our understanding of the condition may be male-biased (Kirkovski, Enticott, & Fitzgerald, 2013). Consequently, ASC in females may be under-diagnosed because current assessments are based on a male-specific manifestation of the condition (Mandy et al., 2012). This paper begins with a review of qualitative literature exploring the experiences of females with ASC. Building upon identified themes, quantitative research is reviewed to ascertain whether there are sex/gender differences in four areas of the hypothesised ASC female phenotype. Preliminary evidence suggests there may be sex/gender differences in ASC, but more research is needed to fully substantiate this conclusion.

Wood, H., & Wong, B. (2017). The hypothesised female ASC phenotype: Implications for research and practice. Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 3(2), 50–58. Available at: https://www.uel.ac.uk/schools/psychology/research/educational-psychology-research-and-practice/volume-3-no-2-2017

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Objective structured professional assessments for trainee educational psychologists: an evaluation

Authors: Sandra Dunsmuir, Cathy Atkinson, Jane Lang, Amy Warhurst & Sarah Wright
Published: 2017
Publication: Educational Psychology in Practice

Objective Structured Professional Assessments (OSPAs) were developed and evaluated at three universities in the United Kingdom, to supplement supervisor assessments of trainee educational psychologists’ placement practice. Participating second year students on three educational psychology doctoral programmes (n = 31) and tutors (n = 12) were surveyed. Scenarios, developed with experienced practitioners, were considered authentic and relevant. Tutor feedback indicated that the marking scheme was a good basis for judgements, but required further calibration and standardisation. Strengths and limitations relating to authenticity of scenarios and practical arrangements were identified. Students considered OSPAs to be a valid assessment of communication and perspective-taking skills, although some found them to be anxiety provoking. Levels of authenticity and complexity were deemed appropriate, although there were concerns over time allowed and how the assessment criteria were interpreted. The discussion highlights how OSPAs address issues relating to assessment reliability by improving objectivity, reducing bias and providing uniformity to student assessment experiences.

Dunsmuir, S., Atkinson, C., Lang, J., Warhurst, A. & Wright, S. (2017) Objective structured professional assessments for trainee educational psychologists: an evaluation. Educational Psychology in Practice, 33(4), 418-434, DOI: 10.1080/02667363.2017.1352490

Reinforce, reframe or remove? What should psychologists do with diagnostic labels?

Author: Klair Norman
Published: 2017
Publication: Assessment and Development Matters

Over the past 50 years, the range of diagnostic labels has relentlessly expanded, through iterations of psychiatric diagnostic systems like DSM and ICD, underpinned by a massive medicalisation engine, criticised for overpowering alternative interpretations and discourses (Solvag, 2007). As a result, there has been a startling increase in the number of individuals labelled as having a disorder or disability (Frances & Batstra, 2013). This has led to much debate over the utility and validity of diagnostic labels. For some, labels are seen as desirable commodities, enabling more timely and effective services. Others argue that labels work against the inclusion agenda by positioning the problem ‘within-person’, stigmatising diversity and further marginalising those with difficulties. Surrounded by this controversy, psychologists are faced with the dilemma of deciding how to shape their own professional choices and actions. This article considers arguments for three possible options.

Norman, K (2017) What should psychologists do with diagnostic labels? Assessment and Development Matters. 9(4), 7-10.

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Social Information Processing: A Useful Framework for Educational Psychology

Author: Tim Cooke
Published: 2017
Publication: Educational Psychology Research and Practice

The Social Information Processing (SIP) model (Crick & Dodge, 1994; Dodge, 1986; Lemerise & Arsenio, 2000) offers a detailed framework for understanding the way that a child makes sense of and acts in social situations. When applied in the context of a wider biopsychosocial conceptualisation (Dodge & Pettit, 2003), it offers a comprehensive model that is in accordance with current ways of thinking about human behaviour. This article reviews the history of the SIP model and considers the evidence for each step of the SIP model. In the light of these findings, the article considers possible reasons for the relative oversight of this model by the educational psychology profession. After presenting some reasons why it is still of contemporary relevance, this article sets out the ways that an SIP-informed approach offers a range of questions for assessment and intervention.

Cooke, C. (2017). Social Information Processing: A Useful Framework for Educational Psychology. Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 3(1), 50–69. Available at https://www.uel.ac.uk/schools/psychology/research/educational-psychology-research-and-practice/volume-3-no-1-2017

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How does teacher well-being affect student learning?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Fiona Marsh
Submitted: November 2017

Teacher well-being is predominantly explored in terms of its deficits, due to reports of stress and burnout being highly prevalent across the teaching workforce. Teacher well-being (and lack of) is considered to have a small influence on student learning and achievement. The research on mechanisms which underlie this influence mostly report indirect links, through teacher engagement, teacher student relationships (TSRs) and teacher quality. However, there are massive gaps in the literature, and concerns over methodology (especially causality and generalisability), defining constructs (teacher quality) and weak links to student learning (teacher engagement). Currently TSRs appear to be the most plausible mediator between well-being and student learning. EPs are in a good position to support teacher well-being and facilitate positive effects on student learning. Helping to foster positive TSRs and school climates, promoting the use of supervision, and delivering stress management programmes may be particularly useful. Future research should focus on how teacher well-being can positively influence student learning. By knowing what works, this may then aid interventions to help stressed teachers and develop positive environments for learning.

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Exploring the interrelationship between anxiety, interpretation bias and parenting factors in military families

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Sarah Owen
Submitted: June 2015

Abstract

Theoretical frameworks suggest that increased anxiety symptoms are associated with a cognitive interpretation bias; anxious individuals are more likely to interpret ambiguous information as threatening and dangerous. Several models have considered the role of parents and parenting in the aetiology of cognitive biases that place children at increased risk for the development of anxiety. For example, parenting characterised by overprotection/emotional overinvolvement and over control has been associated with anxiety disorders in children. The present research explored the association between parent and child anxiety, interpretation biases and parent-child relationships within military families, a population at greater risk of experiencing enduring anxiety.

Twenty children aged 8-11 years and their mothers reported their anxiety symptoms and completed a homophone task. Words could be interpreted as either threatening or non-threatening and were categorised into separation and general threat themes. Parents also completed the Five Minute Speech Sample, where they expressed thoughts and feelings about their child. Results revealed that parent and child anxiety was significantly positively correlated as expected. Children’s anxious cognitions were significantly positively correlated to self-reported and maternal anxiety (ps<.05). In contrast to the expected hypothesis, children and parent interpretation biases were not significantly correlated. Although the research set out to examine the extent to which interpretation biases could act as a mediator between parenting and child anxiety, evidence for a mediated pathway could not be established within the present research. The impact of these findings are discussed with particular reference to the importance of understanding the aetiology of anxiety and exploring the role of the intergenerational transmission of anxiety.

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What factors influence the use of a controlling motivational style in the classroom?

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Chantelle Nattrass
Submitted: June 2015

Abstract

Research has suggested that controlling motivational styles in teachers are related to poorer outcomes for pupils (Assor, Kaplan, Kanat-Maymon, & Roth, 2005). It has been suggested that teachers behave in more controlling ways due to ‘pressure from above’ (e.g. from school performance standards), ‘pressure from below’ (e.g. from limited pupil engagement), and ‘pressure from within’ (e.g. from the teachers’ personality traits; Reeve, 2009). The present systematic review analysed 26 papers and confirmed the relevance of these three categories. It was also highlighted that research into pressures from within was inconsistent and largely unreplicated, with the exception of research suggesting that limited self-efficacy was related to increased teacher control.

Whilst a considerable amount of research has been dedicated to control in teachers there has been an absence of literature related the teaching styles utilised by Teaching Assistants (TAs). Recent research into the role of TAs has suggested that pupils can become dependent on the high level of support that TAs provide (Blatchford et al., 2009), and the present study aimed to explore whether such dependency could be due to TAs using a controlling motivational style. The study also investigated whether levels of control were related to self-efficacy as well as anxiety. Participants were established dyads of TAs and pupils with learning difficulties who took part in an etch-a-sketch activity in order to examine their interactions, alongside completing measures of negative affect and self-efficacy. The findings suggested that increased TA control was related to diminished pupil academic self-efficacy, which reinforces the impact the pressures from below can have on teaching style. However teacher self-efficacy and child negative affect were not found to impact on TA control. In addition a relationship was identified between TA autonomy supportive behaviours and the child initiating more problem solving behaviour. This further highlights the importance of supporting TAs to use less controlling teaching approaches in order to improve the outcomes for children with learning difficulties.

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Using Facebook to self-enhance: narcissism and psychological outcomes

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Camellia Kojouri
Submitted: June 2015

Abstract

This thesis explores adolescents’ use of social networking sites and associated psychological outcomes. A systematic review of the literature in the field revealed some positive, and some negative relations between online social networking and indicators of psychological wellbeing. Research into motives underpinning Facebook use is in its infancy, however, emergent findings suggest that motives for using social networking sites may influence psychological wellbeing more than the specific online behaviours themselves. This chapter is supplemented with a narrative overview of the literature exploring consequences of Facebook use on academic outcomes.

The empirical study explores the relationship between narcissism, Facebook use, motives for Facebook use, and psychological indicators among a sample of adolescents in the UK. A sample of 218 adolescents, aged 13-18 years, completed an online survey and the data were analysed using a correlational design. The findings show that narcissism was positively related to Facebook use. Different motives for using Facebook were also related to narcissism, such that narcissists used Facebook to fulfil self-enhancement, as opposed to affiliative motives. Moreover, these self-enhancement motives mediated the relationship between narcissism and indicators of wellbeing; high narcissists were more likely to pursue self-enhancement goals, leading to reduced satisfaction with life, less positive relations with others, and higher levels of depression. Implications are discussed, particularly in relation to the importance of exploring motives for online behaviours.

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Expressive writing interventions for children and young people: a systematic review and exploration of the literature

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Jerricah Holder Spriggs
Submitted: June 2015

Abstract

Literature review: This systematic review explored the existing research literature concerning the effectiveness of expressive writing interventions for children and young people. The review found that the expressive writing intervention was associated with a range of psychological and health benefits for studies that involved participants of secondary-or college-age. However, the research regarding the effectiveness of expressive writing interventions with primary-aged participants was less consistent. Analysis of the key features of the studies included in the review revealed that the discrepancy in findings could be due to the age differences of participants and the ability of the child to create the type of narrative associated with the well-being outcomes (i.e. a coherent, cohesive and emotionally disclosing narrative; Reynolds, Brewin & Saxton, 2000). It was therefore suggested that younger children may be better supported through more guided expressive writing interventions, such as therapeutic story writing (Waters, 2004), in which the child receives support from an adult to create more causal-explanatory and emotionally disclosing narratives (Fivush & Sales, 2006).

Empirical paper: Researchers have suggested that anxious children may underperform at school because their worrisome thoughts reduce the capacity of their verbal working memory (Eysenck et al., 2007; Hadwin et al., 2005; Ng & Lee, 2010). It was therefore hypothesised that anxious children may benefit from interventions, such as therapeutic story writing (Waters, 2008), that provide the child with the opportunity to discuss their worries in a manner that reduces anxiety. A total of 26 participants, all experiencing anxious affect that was above the average range (T score > 50), took part in the study (7 females and 19 males, M= 10 years 2 months). A mixed measures design was conducted and the results suggested that the therapeutic story writing intervention was associated with a significant reduction in child-rated anxiety and a trend for an increase in verbal working memory capacity, but not an increase in reading or writing attainment when compared to the control group.

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The universal benefits of a sense of school belonging during adolescence: an exploration of the relationships between parental and peer attachment security, shame and pride

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Alicia Halton-Nathan
Submitted: June 2015

Abstract

A cross-sectional design was used to explore the associations between adolescent attachment relationships with parents, and peers and their sense of school belonging, on the role of self-conscious emotions (shame and pride), within a school context. An adolescent sample of 13-16 year olds (n=121) was recruited from two secondary schools in the South of England. Participants completed a daily online diary to measure shame and pride experiences. Results found that adolescents with insecure parental attachments experienced more shame on a daily basis than their securely attached peers; however, this relationship was significantly moderated by a sense of belonging in school. Adolescents with secure parental attachment experienced more pride on a daily basis. Sense of belonging in school was found to significantly moderate the positive relationship between secure parental attachment and pride. No significant relationships were found between peer attachment and shame and pride. Implications for Educational Psychologists and suggested directions for future research are also discussed.

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The Relationship Between Emotional Regulation, Language Skills, and Internalising and Externalising Difficulties in Adolescence

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Jessica Butcher
Submitted: June 2015

Abstract

Internalising and externalising difficulties are associated with negative outcomes for young people, such as school refusal, school exclusion, educational underachievement, and mental health problems in adulthood. It is therefore important to find ways to support young people with such difficulties. Difficulties in emotional regulation (ER) and language difficulties are reported to be associated with internalising and externalising difficulties in children and young people. However, there has only been a limited amount of research in this area and previous studies were subject to methodological limitations. This thesis had two aims: firstly, to explore the associations between ER strategies and adolescent mental health problems. This issue was examined in a systematic literature review which found that ER strategies were related to internalising and externalising difficulties in adolescents. However, the review highlighted the lack of research in this area, particularly in relation to externalising difficulties. Secondly, the empirical study described in this thesis explored the role of ER strategies and expressive language skills in young people and their associations with internalising and externalising difficulties. Fifty-five participants completed a range of measures exploring their expressive language abilities, use of ER strategies, and an experimental frustration task examining emotional reactivity, recovery and intensity. It was found that the language measures were not associated with internalising or externalising difficulties. However, there was a tentative suggestion that functional language skills may increase adaptive ER strategies and reduce non-adaptive ER strategies. Internalising difficulties were strongly associated with non-adaptive cognitive ER strategies following stress, whereas externalising difficulties were strongly associated with fewer adaptive ER strategies. Emotional intensity during frustration was related to both internalising and externalising difficulties. Conclusions and implications for educational practice are discussed.

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Understanding Adolescent Shame and Pride in a School Context: The Impact of Perceived Academic Competence and a Growth Mindset.

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Ellen Cook
Submitted: June 2015

Abstract

Shame has important implications in educational contexts for educators, children and young people. The first paper presented here is a review of the current literature on shame and explores the implications of this self-conscious achievement emotion within educational contexts. The systematic literature review demonstrated that shame experiences can have both a dysfunctional and functional role, are independent of acculturation status and are influenced by parental attitudes. Crucially, shame management can reduce bullying within schools. The review concludes by drawing attention to implications of these findings for educators and educational psychologists.

The second paper reports empirical research carried out in the field of self-conscious achievement emotions. This study investigated whether holding a growth (intelligence) mindset could reduce shame experiences and/or promote pride experiences, within a secondary school context. The study also focused on the role of perceived academic competence (i.e. the perception that one has sufficient skills and knowledge) on young people’s feelings of shame and pride. Secondary school students (N = 121, Mage = 14.3 years) completed the Scale of Personal Conceptions of Intelligence to measure their mindset, and then completed a 10-day online diary, to rate their daily shame and/or pride experiences. Participants also rated their daily perceptions of academic competence. Results revealed a negative relation between growth mindset and daily shame intensity, and a positive relation between growth mindset and daily pride intensity. Both associations were mediated by perceived academic competence. That is, a growth mindset predicted increased perceived academic competence, which, in turn, predicted reduced shame and increased pride. The findings have far-reaching implications for educators. This research also makes a novel connection between growth mindset, perceived academic competence and self-conscious emotions within a school setting.

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Effects of a positive psychology intervention on the subjective wellbeing and efficacy beliefs of teaching staff

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Francesca Nagle
Submitted: June 2015

Abstract

A variety of interventions have been developed based on the positive psychology principle of building positive emotion and subjective experience. Specifically, interventions designed to promote reflection on positive experiences have been cited as an effective way to increase one’s subjective wellbeing. A systematic review of the existing literature was conducted to examine the efficacy of such interventions within non-clinical populations. Findings demonstrated a range of positive outcomes, including increases in positive affect, decreases in negative affect and improved life satisfaction. However, the review identified a number of methodological limitations within the current evidence base, including variation in intervention methods and aspects of implementation, which make it difficult to draw firm conclusions regarding the efficacy of such interventions in improving wellbeing. Consideration was also given to a number of factors which may moderate intervention efficacy, including participant motivation, continued effort and preference for specific interventions. Research has also begun to identify a range of individual difference factors which may influence the effectiveness of such interventions. Directions for future research include improvements to existing methodologies, as well as a need for systematic exploration of how features of both the individual and intervention may interact to influence wellbeing outcomes.

The empirical paper evaluated the effects of a positive psychology intervention on the subjective wellbeing and efficacy beliefs of teaching staff. Primary and secondary teaching staff (N= 49) were assigned at the school level to a daily ‘Three Good Things’ intervention (Seligman et al., 2005) or a neutral events diary control condition. Components of subjective wellbeing (positive and negative affect, satisfaction with teaching), self-reported efficacy in teaching and work-related burnout were assessed at pre and post-intervention. Contrary to previous findings, no significant differences were
observed between the two intervention conditions in relation to the identified outcome measures, and results were not in the expected direction. Changes in positive affect were associated with changes in efficacy beliefs. Findings extend the evidence base regarding the application of positive psychology interventions in educational contexts and outcomes in relation to self-efficacy. Future research directions and relevant implications for practice are considered.

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Supporting the attachment needs of looked after children in education settings

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Kelly-Marie Underdown
Submitted: June 2015

Abstract

For decades, researchers have identified looked after children (LAC) as a particularly vulnerable group with regards to both their academic attainment and social, emotional and mental health outcomes (McAuley & Davis, 2009). This is often attributed to the impact of adverse early life experiences on their attachment relationships with primary caregivers. Given encouraging findings regarding the impact of teacher-student relationships on children’s learning and behavioural outcomes (see McGrath & Van Bergen, 2015), in chapter one the current researcher conducted a systematic approach to a literature review examining implications for education professionals in supporting the attachment needs of LAC. Eleven texts were identified which provided implications for staff in supporting students’ learning and behaviour. Furthermore, the texts suggested a possible lack of understanding of attachment theory among education staff; hence, providing a potential training role for Educational Psychologists (EPs). Given the lack of empirical studies identified there is a call for more robust research in this field.

Secondly, the empirical study (chapter two) explored one of the recommendations for supporting LAC in schools; namely, the practice of implementing staff as ‘key adults’ (who are intended to provide an additional attachment figure). As there is a lack of research in this field, the researcher explored the experiences of secondary school staff acting as key adults for LAC in one local authority in south-east England. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven participants. Thematic analysis of the interviews revealed a rich picture of experiences captured within five interrelated themes: professional responsibilities; approach to the role; personal perspective; knowledge/understanding of LAC; and the wider school context. The findings provided implications for education professionals (e.g. EPs) in supporting both the policy and practice of key adults working with LAC. Additionally, suggestions were made for researchers to further explore whether this relationship fulfils an attachment function (as intended theoretically).

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Phobic, fearful, or refusing? Exploring adult constructions of young people’s extended non-attendance and their impact on the young person’s lifeworld

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Matthew Baker
Submitted: June 2015

Abstract

Extended non-attendance (‘school phobia’ or ‘school refusal’) involving apparent fear of school was first documented and differentiated from truancy in the early 1900s. Despite subsequent research, few effective remedies have been found, and little is known regarding the relative efficacy of the various interventions trialled to date. Further, although the extant literature identifies the importance of aligning adult understandings and listening to the young person’s voice, little previous research has focused on these areas. Hence, the current study begins with a literature review focused on exploring the relative efficacy of the various psychosocial interventions trialled to date. This concludes that intervention type is less important than other factors, such as working closely with the young person and adults involved, exploring the function of the young person’s non-attendance, and intervening early. The subsequent research chapter responds to gaps identified in the evidence base by the literature review, utilising a discursive approach to explore adult understandings (parents, teachers, etc) of extended non-attendance, and an interpretative phenomenological approach to explore young people’s experiences of being situated within these understandings. In both instances, data was gathered via semi-structured interview. Findings suggest that adult understandings vary and are sometimes incompatible, that affected young people feel more judged than supported, and that support can be very slow and difficult to access; they further question whether current practice is informed by the evidence base. A variety of suggestions for practitioners are discussed.

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Neglected children: what does it mean to be not noticed in school?

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Jeremy Brown
Submitted: June 2015

Abstract

Sociometrically neglected children are not noticed by their peers in class. They have few nominations for being liked most or liked least by their classmates. Considerable research demonstrates the importance of peer relationships in child development and those who have abnormal relationships (such as not-noticed children) should be at risk for poorer adjustment. However, not-noticed children have not been identified as being at risk for maladaptation and show few differences in behaviour from average children. A systematic review of the literature since 1991 was conducted focusing on not-noticed children and their sociability with peers in school. Eighteen studies were identified that investigated their social interactions, social understanding and social characteristics. Findings indicated very few differences between not-noticed children and average children for all three areas of sociability. A mixed-methods study investigated 202 primary school children’s social lives outside school and their social competence in school as well as not-noticed children’s conceptualisation of friendship. There were no differences between not-noticed children and average children for social competence in school or loneliness and friendship outside school. Two case studies provided insight into not-noticed children’s experiences and potential explanations for their lack of difficulties. Future areas for exploration with not-noticed children are their motivation to interact and their social lives outside school. Implications for educational psychology are discussed.

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Looked After Children’s experience of a group intervention to promote resilience

Assignment type: Research Project (Small Scale Research Project, Year 1)
Authors: Chantelle Zilli, Rebecca Neudegg, Eleanor Hayes, Ed Sayer and Hanna Kovshoff
Submitted: Spring 2017

The objective of this study was to understand children’s experience of a therapeutic programme designed to build resilience in Children Looked After (CLA), aged 8 to 12 years old. Researchers show that compared to the general population, CLA are at risk of poor outcomes such as mental health difficulties (McAuley & Davis, 2009), low academic achievement (O’Sullivan & Westerman, 2007) and youth offending behaviour (Jonson-Reid & Barth, 2000). This may be due to adverse experiences both pre-care and within the care system which are associated with poor social, emotional and educational development in CLA (Sempik, Ward, & Darker, 2008; Ward, 2009). It is therefore important to develop interventions which remediate these risks. Continue reading

The effectiveness of a gratitude diary intervention on primary school children’s sense of school belonging

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Tara Diebel
Submitted: June 2014

Abstract

The review evaluated whether gratitude interventions can improve well-being among adults and children. A systematic search of the literature yielded 31 studies. The majority of studies used adult participants, with only four published studies using child or adolescent participants. It was found that gratitude interventions elicited desirable outcomes, such as increases in positive emotions, decreases in negative emotions and improvements in life satisfaction. The review highlights many methodological limitations within the literature, which makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the intervention to promote well-being. Emerging evidence suggests that factors such as recruitment strategy, participant motivation and preference for intervention can influence the intervention’s effectiveness. Finally, the literature is starting to consider how participant characteristics can influence the efficacy of gratitude interventions.

The empirical paper has examined the effectiveness of a school-based gratitude diary intervention to promote school belonging for primary school aged children (M = 9.4, SD = 0.47). The intervention took place across three primary schools for two weeks and involved participants writing a diary about things that they were either grateful for in school that day or about neutral school events. Participants who completed the gratitude intervention demonstrated a trend towards an increased feeling of belonging towards school. Supplementary analysis provided a model, which aimed to increase understanding of the process that leads to changes in school belonging, as well as the boundary conditions that influenced this process. It was found that nostalgia proneness had a significant impact both at a direct level; influencing the intervention’s impact on sense of belonging, but also at an indirect level through changes in levels of felt gratitude towards school. There was no effect of baseline affective empathy at any stage of the analysis. The findings extend the evidence base concerning the use of gratitude interventions with children and the efficacy of these interventions to build social resources. It also makes a novel connection between nostalgia proneness and gratitude.

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Pillars of Parenting: Exploring Adoptive Parents’ Lived Experiences.

Assignment type: Research Project (Small Scale Research Project, Year 1)
Authors: Alex Gregory, Nikki Samos, Leanne Curreli, Cath Lowther and Hanna Kovshoff
Submitted: Spring 2017

Flawed social, care and education systems have been linked to a high incidence of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and lower educational attainment for children who have been looked after (Jackson & Martin, 2004). Rather than failing care and education systems, an alternative theoretical explanation for poorer outcomes observed in looked after children, Cameron and Maginn (2011) propose that these children experience “’rejection’ in general and ‘parental rejection’ in particular” (p. 46). This conclusion is based on Parental Acceptance-Rejection Theory (PA-RT), which highlights the need for children to receive positive acceptance from their parents to avoid negative impacts on mental health and well-being (Rohner, Khaleque & Cournonoyer, 2004). Continue reading

Using Personal Construct Psychology to Explore Young Peoples’ Experiences of SEN Support in a Mainstream School

Assignment type: Research Project (Small Scale Research Project, Year 1)
Authors: Kate Brant, Rosa Gibby-Leversuch, Catherine Goodchild, Cate Mullen and Hanna Kovshoff
Submitted: Spring 2017

The 2015 Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice mandates that pupils’ views on their educational experience should be sought and used to inform practice. Practitioners have responded to this recommendation by actively including pupils in planning meetings for statutory assessments and annual reviews. However, there is no clear process in place to capture the views of pupils with SEN who receive support at school but do not have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or Statement of SEN. Continue reading

Experiences of person-centred planning meetings as part of the education, health and care plan (EHCP) process: An IPA investigation.

Assignment type: Research Project (Small Scale Research Project, Year 1)
Authors: Ashleigh Shuttleworth, Anna Doedens-Plant, Helen Jones and Hanna Kovshoff
Submitted: Spring 2017

Background: Eliciting pupil and parent views and encouraging their participation in planning is considered a vital tool in pursuit of a more inclusive culture in education (Mitler, 2000). A range of tools known as person-centred planning (PCP) tools have been designed to enable this. Educational psychologists (EPs) in a local authority in the South of England have developed a format for conducting Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) planning meetings inspired by an established PCP format (Promoting Alternative Tomorrows of Hope [PATH]; O’Brien, Pearpoint & Kahn, 2010). Continue reading