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

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

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

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

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

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Mental health beyond the school gate: Young people’s perspectives of mental health support online, and in home, school and community contexts

Authors: Natalie Jago, Sarah Wright, Brettany K. Hartwell and Rachel Green
Published: 2020
Publication: Educational and Child Psychology

Aims: This study sought to develop a greater understanding of what young people identify as essential components of mental health support.
Rationale: Children and young people’s mental health has been identified as an area of concern and highlighted by the government as a priority area for improvement. In the United Kingdom (UK), increased importance has been placed on capturing their views. However, research suggests this group is not always asked for their views by decision-makers leading to a discrepancy between what is provided and what children and young people want from support. Incorporating the views and perspectives of children and young people in the design of appropriate support approaches is an important way to give them a voice in issues that affect them, as well as ensuring provision is suitable.
Method: A two-round Delphi method was used whereby a panel of young people aged 16-25 who had previously experienced a mental health difficulty rated a series of statements. A consensus level of 75% across the panel was set to include/exclude statements in a final framework of recommendations. To gain feedback on the feasibility and utility of the framework, interviews with adult stakeholders were carried out.
Findings: The competencies identified were used to form a framework of recommendations for practice. The importance of relationships, the need for trust and confidentiality, and the need for further mental health awareness and training were key themes identified.
Conclusions: This study provides a helpful insight into what young people value from mental health support. Implications of the research include a need for further awareness raising of children and young people’s views regarding mental health and larger scale participatory research to expand upon the findings of the current study.

Jago, N., Wright, S., Hartwell, B. K. & Green, R. (2020) Mental Health Beyond the School Gate: Young People’s Perspectives of Mental Health Support Online, and in Home, School and Community Contexts. Educational and Child Psychology, 37(3), 69-85.

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A systematic review and meta‐analysis of sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents

Authors: Henry Wood-Downie, Bonnie Wong, Hanna Kovshoff, Samuele Cortese and Julie Hadwin
Published: 2020
Publication: Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Background: Evidence increasingly suggests that ASD manifests differently in females than males. Previous reviews investigating sex/gender differences in social interaction and social communication have focused at the level of broad constructs (e.g. comparing algorithm scores from pre‐existing diagnostic instruments) and have typically reported no significant differences between males and females. However, a number of individual studies have found sex/gender differences in narrow construct domains.
Method: We conducted a systematic review and random effects model meta‐analyses (in January 2019 and updated January 2020) that investigated sex/gender differences in narrow construct measures of social communication and interaction in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents, and adults. Study quality was appraised using the Appraisal Tool for Cross‐Sectional Studies (AXIS, BMJ Open, 6, 2016, 1).
Results: Across 16 studies (including 2,730 participants), the analysis found that female (vs. male) individuals with ASD had significantly better social interaction and social communication skills (SMD = 0.39, p < .001), which was reflective of a similar sex/gender profile in nonautistic individuals (SMD = 0.35, p < .001). Nonautistic males had significantly better social interaction and communication than males with ASD (SMD = 0.77, p < .001). Nonautistic females also had significantly better social interaction and communication than females with ASD (SMD = 0.72, p <.001). Nonautistic males had better social interaction and communication than females with ASD, though this difference was not significant (SMD = 0.30, p = .07).
Conclusions: This systematic review and meta‐analysis highlighted important sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication for individuals with ASD, likely not captured by pre‐existing diagnostic instruments, which potentially contribute to the under recognition of autism in females, and may need to be reflected in the diagnostic process.

Wood-Downie, H., Wong, B., Kovshoff, H., Cortese, S. & Hadwin, J. A. (2020) Research Review: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.13337

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Establishing the effectiveness of a gratitude diary intervention on children’s sense of school belonging

Assignment type: Research Project (Applied Research Project, Year 1)
Authors: Tara Diebel, Colin Woodcock, Claire Cooper & Catherine Brignell
Submitted: 2011

Aim: The promotion of wellbeing in schools using evidence-based interventions from the field of Positive Psychology is a growing area of interest. These interventions are based on the principle that sustainable changes in wellbeing can be achieved through regularly engaging in simple and intentional activities. This study examines the effectiveness of a school-based gratitude diary intervention to promote school belonging for primary school aged pupils (age range 7-11 years). Continue reading

Out of school: a phenomenological exploration of extended non-attendance.

Assignment type: Research Project (Applied Research Project, Year 2)
Authors: Matthew Baker & Felicity Bishop
Submitted: Summer 2014

The concept of ‘extended non-attendance’ (‘school phobia’ or ‘school refusal’) was distinguished from truancy by Broadwin (1932), and refers to children who fear school and avoid attending. Subsequent research has established that instances of extended non-attendance tend to be highly individual and multi-factorial in causation (Nuttall & Woods, 2013), but despite this improved understanding, outcomes for those affected are often poor and the child’s voice remains largely absent from the evidence base. The current study sought to address these shortcomings by examining the experiences of four children with extended attendance difficulties. Data consisted of semi-structured interviews conducted in the participants’ homes, and was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009). Emergent themes include being disbelieved, experiencing fragmented support, and feeling blamed and punished. Various implications for practitioners are discussed, among them the importance of early intervention and the need to consider the voice of the child.

This assignment has been revised and published as an article:

Baker, M. & Bishop, F. L. (2015) Out of school: a phenomenological exploration of extended non-attendance. Educational Psychology in Practice, 31(4), 354-368. DOI:10.1080/02667363.2015.1065473

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Maintaining an interactionist perspective of undesirable behaviour: What is the role of the Educational Psychologist?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Larissa Cunningham
Submitted: May 2015

Special Educational Needs (SEN) legislation has recently undergone the largest reform in over a decade. Whilst several key changes have been widely discussed, the shift in terminology to describe children’s behavioural difficulties has received less attention. A greater emphasis has been placed on encouraging school staff and professionals to see beyond the observable behaviour and to give consideration to possible underpinning factors. However, the explicit focus on identifying undiagnosed learning difficulties, speech and language difficulties or mental health issues may serve to encourage a paradigm shift towards a more ‘within-child’ rather than interactionist perspective of undesirable behaviour. This paper will discuss this possibility, and with specific reference to speech and language difficulties, it will consider how through their five core functions educational psychologists can seek to maintain an interactionist perspective of undesirable behaviour.

This assignment has been revised and published as an open access (free to download for all) article:

Cunningham, L. (2016). Maintaining an interactionist perspective of undesirable behaviour: What is the role of the Educational Psychologist? Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 2(1), 49–58.

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