An intervention to raise a sense of belonging and associated outcomes for secondary aged pupils with low socioeconomic status

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Joanne Lambeth
Submitted: June 2017

Abstract

The first chapter of this document outlines a systematic literature review regarding the relationship between belonging and academic achievement, specifically in relation to adolescents. Three databases were systematically searched following a clear search strategy and inclusion criteria. Nineteen articles were identified and critically appraised in order to understand the current picture of the research. On balance, the review highlights that belonging is significantly related to academic achievement. This relationship was found across gender and different cultures. In addition, within the concept of belonging, some factors seem to influence achievement more than others, e.g., relatedness to teachers. However taken together, it indicates that relationships in general are important to support achievement. This review also highlights factors that contribute to differences in belonging and achievement such as gender (with girls achieving higher levels of both) and marginalisation by ethnicity and socioeconomic status. In addition, the articles indentified a range of variables that help to explain the relationship including academic emotions, engagement, behaviour conduct, educational efficacy and purpose. Despite the findings reported in the literature, there is a lack of experimental research regarding this relationship and the conclusion remains correlational. Following this review a gap in the literature appears regarding how to increase belonging and consequently achievement, using an experimental design. In addition, it highlights to educational professionals that relationships are important in supporting achievement and should be adequately supported in educational settings.

The second chapter of this document reports on experimental research conducted on the topic of belonging and associated outcomes for young adolescents. Previous research demonstrated that a brief psychological intervention increased belonging and attainment for a marginalised population (individuals from African American backgrounds) upon transition to a new environment (college) (Walton & Cohen, 2011). The current research adapted and used this intervention with a different population, i.e., young adolescents who may experience marginalisation due to low socioeconomic status (SES), upon transition to secondary school. The aim of the intervention is to target individuals who may worry about belonging and implicitly change their attributions about negative experiences, i.e., that perceptions of social adversity are common and time limited, not due to the individual themselves. Three schools based in low SES areas agreed to take part. Year 7 pupils (N = 62) were allocated to either an intervention group (n = 25) or active control group (n = 37). Measures of anxiety about belonging and SES were taken pre-intervention. Measures of belonging, attainment and attendance were taken across a period of six months. Correlational analysis found that SES was significantly related to anxiety about belonging, i.e., those with low SES had higher levels of anxiety. Multiple regression analysis also found that SES significantly predicted attainment. T-tests were used to analyse the difference between the intervention and control conditions in regards to belonging, attainment and attendance. However, no differences were found between the intervention and control groups. Future directions regarding the development of this intervention are discussed.

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Looking ahead rather than behind: exploring the future perspectives and resilience of adolescents who have experience of parental imprisonment

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Catherine Goodchild
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

Adolescence is a period of development when young people begin to prepare for transition from childhood into adulthood creating an increased focus on future potential and aspirations. A systematic review of the international literature was conducted, exploring the relationship between adolescent outcomes and two key areas of future perception studies, future orientation and possible selves. 18 articles were identified and subsequently organised by grouping in relation to school, home and personal factors. Research was conducted cross-culturally and often focussed on at-risk populations related to ethnicity, however only two studies extended to the UK population. A number of quantitative studies suggest a relationship exists between adolescent future orientation and a variety of positive outcomes, as well as acting as a protective factor against negative outcomes, e.g. risk-taking behaviours. Participants’ perspectives were rarely explored through qualitative research, with only two papers included. Limitations include methodological design, leading to calls for more robust research in this area.

The empirical paper (Chapter 2) adopted a qualitative design and explored the future perceptions of children of imprisoned parents. This population have been referred to as ‘silent victims’ in the literature and are suggested to be at risk of multiple negative outcomes, including disruption to relationships, stigmatisation and increased risk of engaging in socially undesirable behaviours. The current study gathered the future perspectives of children of imprisoned parents, as well as their resilience factors including sources of strength and support from their past and present experiences. Five participants, aged 9-12 years were interviewed using semi-structured interviews and a ‘life path’ drawing activity. Deductive thematic analysis identified six overall themes: experience of having a parent in prison, social support, individual coping strategies, beliefs about the future, strategies to reach future goals and potential barriers to reaching future goals. Implications for practice were discussed in light of the heterogeneous nature of the findings and concluded that professionals should consider a bespoke approach to intervention, ensuring children are kept at the forefront of decision-making. Calls for future research included further qualitative studies to explore how children of imprisoned parents construct their own identities, which could be triangulated with data such as the voice of siblings and wider family members.

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Understanding the school outcomes for, and experiences of, siblings of children with autism

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Alexandra Gregory
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

A systematic literature review was conducted to explore the educational outcomes for, and experiences of, siblings of children on the autism spectrum (autism siblings). Whilst there is a growing body of research on the psychological outcomes for autism siblings, few studies have considered how this might influence the school context. Findings were linked to the Siblings Embedded Systems Framework; school factors, psychological internal challenges and resources, peers and other formal and informal social systems, and personal interpretation of events. Overall, school outcomes and experiences showed large variation, suggesting that some autism siblings are at increased risk of difficulties in the school context, but that autism siblings do not automatically experience challenges in school. Nevertheless, the review highlighted a number of methodological limitations of the evidence-base in this area, including the small body of literature, particularly in the UK, studies of low methodological rigour, such as those employing small sample sizes, and reliance on solely parent-reported outcomes. This limits the conclusions that can be drawn.

The empirical study extended the current literature to explore two school-related outcomes; sense of school belonging and academic self-concept. Using online questionnaires, autism siblings and siblings of typically developing children without autism (typical siblings) aged 11 to 16 years in secondary schools across the UK took part.

Data on sibling wellbeing were also triangulated via self-, parent/carer- and teacher reports. Relative to typical siblings, autism siblings self-reported significantly lower school belonging and academic self-concept, in addition to significantly lower self, parent- and teacher-reported wellbeing outcomes. Regression models established that sibling-reported internalising and externalising behaviours significantly predicted both school-related outcomes. Sibling group was also a significant predictor in all models, demonstrating that even once demographic variables and sibling wellbeing were controlled, robust sibling group differences were still present. Despite these findings, there was a greater variation in autism siblings’ school outcomes compared to typical siblings. Therefore, this study highlights the importance of taking an individualised and person-centred approach to understanding the varying needs of, and providing support to, siblings of children on the autism spectrum.

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The impact of small motor activity on attention and learning in children

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Helen Jones
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

Research has suggested that small movements may Improve attention in children by increasing arousal. However, no systematic review has examined this literature. This review aimed to conduct a broad and thorough search, combining relevant evidence in a systematic and critical way In order to establish whether small motor activity improves attention and learning in children. Fifteen studies were reviewed, relating to fidgeting, doodling, chewing gum and alternative seating. The overall evidence was inconsistent with a weighting towards positive findings; however, the insufficient quantity and quality of studies precluded any firm conclusions. A need was identified for further studies using improved designs and including measures of arousal.

The empirical study aimed to investigate links between doodling, arousal and attention in children using a robust, repeated-measures experimental design, including a measure of arousal and exploring moderating effects of other related factors. Fifty-five children (aged 9 to 10 years) individually completed tests of sustained attention (SA) and working memory (WM) under two counterbalanced conditions (doodling/control). Heart rate (HR) was measured during each test. Self-reported state anxiety and fatigue were measured as potential confounders. Self-reported attentional control (AC), trait anxiety and sleepiness were considered as potential moderators. Data were analysed using linear mixed models. Results showed that SA declined while doodling. No main effect of condition on WM was found; however, a near-significant interaction effect indicated that children who reported low AC performed better while doodling, whereas children who reported high AC performed better under the non-doodling condition. HR Increased while doodling; however, changes In HR did not predict changes in SA or WM performance. This study concluded that doodling increases arousal but cannot be recommended to improve SA. Doodling may improve WM for children who struggle with AC. Interference effects may explain the detrimental effects of doodling.

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An investigation into the associations between maths anxiety in secondary school pupils and teachers’ and parents’ implicit theories of intelligence and failure

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Anna Doedens-Plant
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

This research examined the role that teachers’ mindsets, or implicit beliefs about intelligence and failure, play in the development of their pupils’ mindsets and subsequent maths anxiety. A systematic review of fourteen studies investigated the association between teachers’ implicit beliefs about intelligence and their pedagogical practices in the classroom. It showed that teachers tended to report having a growth mindset, but this was not necessarily evidenced by concordant classroom practice, such as the adoption of mastery goals. Fixed mindset beliefs, on the other hand, seemed to lead to more consistent practice, with potentially damaging effects.

The empirical study built on this review to explore mindset (i.e., implicit beliefs about intelligence and failure) in secondary school pupils in Years 7, 8 and 9 (0.859), their parents (N=84) and teachers (0=9). Pupils were also asked about their perceptions of their parents’ and teachers’ goals, as either oriented towards performance or learning. The results pointed to several factors associated with pupils’ maths anxiety (i.e. gender, maths set). Also, pupils’ implicit beliefs that failure is debilitating were associated with pupils’ maths anxiety. Teachers’ implicit failure beliefs were associated with pupils’ beliefs about failure and were indirectly linked via pupils’ perceptions of their teachers’ goals as fixed. Further analysis highlighted that pupils’ intelligence beliefs, their perception of their parents’ goals and their maths set also impacted on whether or not pupils’ viewed failure as debilitating or beneficial for learning. These results suggest that teachers can make a useful contribution to reducing pupils’ maths anxiety, by reflecting on how to translate helpful beliefs into visible practice, to help pupils experience failure as an opportunity for learning.

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Twins: Exploring implications for their interactions with parents and classroom placement at school

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Kate Brant
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

The present thesis considers possible influences on the development of twins in both the home and school environment. The first chapter critically assesses the available evidence on whether parenting twins is associated with differences in parent-child relationship and in associated behavioural and emotional outcomes for twins. The second chapter presents the experiences of parents and school staff of the decision-making process about classroom placements of twins for reception-class entry.

A systematic review was conducted to assess whether there are differences between twin and singleton groups in early infancy. The review focused specifically on assessing differences in parental affect, parent-child interactions and how this could affect the quality of parent child relationship and children’s emotional and behavioural outcomes. The results from this review highlight that parents of twins experience greater and a more prolonged period of stress when their children are in early infancy as well as greater mental health difficulties and reduced feelings of parental efficacy. The review also reports inconsistencies in the identified literature regarding differences in parent-child interactions between twin and singleton groups. However, there are consistent findings within the identified literature which reported that twin and singleton infants’ relationship quality with their parents and emotional and behavioural outcomes do not differ. The results from the systematic search are discussed in relation to emotional sensitive responsiveness and the potential protective factor of the twin relationship.

A qualitative study which involved 12 interviews conducted with parents (i.e. with 11 mothers and one parent-pair) and 15 with school managers. Thematic analysis following Brown and Clark’s (2006) six steps identified a number of important shared and distinct themes. The importance of twins’ individuality was emphasised by both parents and school managers. When deciding on placement, parents and school managers considered a balance between the twins’ needs for support and independence. Parents’ experiences of their interactions with the school relating to their twins’ school placement were often linked to their perceptions of their relationship with the school, especially as parents felt it was an important decision. Thus, the perceived negative experiences of interactions with schools during the decision making process were reflected in more negative perceptions of the school and the home-school relationship during that time. However, these views could change over time. In addition, practicalities of classroom placements were reported by parents; school managers also reported school factors which could influence the decision.School managers used their experiences to inform their views. Their perception of who should make the decision (e.g. school, parents, or collaboratively) influenced their communication with parents, their perception of twin sets as different, and how they balanced children’s support and independence at transition to school. Extracted themes are discussed in relation to the development of identity and autonomy, attachment theory and parent trust in schools. Effective home-school collaboration during the decision-making process is recommended for good practice.

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Dyslexia or literacy difficulties: what difference does a label make? Exploring the perceptions and experiences of young people

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Rosa Gibby-Leversuch
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

This systematic review investigates the links between literacy difficulties, dyslexia and the self-perceptions of children and young people (CYP). It aims to further understanding by building on Burden’s (2008) review and explores how the additional factors of attributional style and the dyslexia label may contribute to the self-perceptions of children and young people. 19 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/Dfelt 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 CYP’s experiences of diagnosis and the associated advantages or disadvantages.

There has been ongoing debate around the use of the term ‘dyslexia’ to describe the literacy difficulties of certain individuals, however, CYP’s perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of the use of the term have not been directly sought. This study aims to explore the views of young people (YP), with and without experiences of dyslexia, with a particular focus on the impact of labels. A qualitative methodology is used to explore the views of a range of individuals currently in secondary education (aged 13-19). The views of 36 YP (12 with self-reported dyslexia, 12 with self-reported literacy difficulties and 12 with no reported literacy difficulties) were gathered using an online survey. In depth one to-one interviews were also carried out with six YP who reported having dyslexia. Results show that YP saw the dyslexia label as an important factor in gaining appropriate support for difficulties, and highlight the potential for discrimination in terms of access to diagnosis and therefore access to support. The dyslexia label led to changes in perceptions and helped to remove the sense that a YP may be to blame for their difficulties, as dyslexia was seen as having a biological origin. This was beneficial for those individuals who had the label, but led to more negative judgements being made in relation to individuals with literacy difficulties but no dyslexia label. Furthermore, the label was associated with permanence, which is discussed in terms of attribution theory. Implications for Educational Psychologists and school staff are discussed in terms of ensuring that YP, and their teachers, have a good understanding of their literacy needs and are empowered by the way their needs are described, and are not subject to selective stigmatisation

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The role of emotion recognition and externalising behaviour for educational outcomes

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Nicola Samos
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

The first chapter of this theses outlines a systematic literature review investigating the relationship between emotion recognition skills and academic outcomes of school age children. Four databases were systematically searched applying clear inclusion criteria. Six articles were identified and critically appraised to assess the existing literature. The review highlights a positive relationship between emotion recognition skills and academic outcomes. This was identified across a range of countries/cultures, however the utilisation and impact of these skills may differ between genders and be moderated by other factors including cognitive ability, motivation and achievement goals. Although this review supported the hypothesis that strengths in emotion recognition skills are associated with increased academic achievement, a gap in the research was identified surrounding the improvement of emotion recognition skills and impact on outcomes for school age children. The review also highlighted to professionals working within education the importance of the development of these skills for school success.

The second chapter reports on research conducted investigating emotion recognition and behavioural outcomes. Previous research highlights challenges experienced by all children during education can be exacerbated for those with challenging behaviour and redirection of this is crucial for development and academic progress. Further findings consistently document associations between deficits in emotion recognition and conduct difficlties (in addition to psychopathology in general). As a result, emotion recognition training has been developed for use with both antisocial and clinical samples. Previous research has suggested that the Training of Affect Recognition intervention programme (Frommann, Streit, & Wölwer, 2003) is effective in improving emotion recognition, executive function skills and may be suitable for those experincing conduct difficulties. The current research aimed to investigate whether brief delivery of the TAR intervention programme could enhance emotion recognition skills in an adolescent experiencing conduct difficulties compared to a matched wait control pariticipant and attempted to explore potential transfer effects on behaviour. Visual analysis highlighted difficulties in specific areas of emotion recognition consistent with previous research for both participants. Results for the intervention participant showed brief significant improvements in accuracy post intervention,specifically for fear, disgust and surprise. The wait control participant was shown to experience no significant improvement in accuracy throughout the duration of the study. A reduction in school reported negative behaviours for the participant who took part in the intervention during and immediately after its implementation were also reported. Strengths, limitations and implications for Educational Psychologists are also discussed.

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An exploration of how the secondary school experience contributes to elevated anxiety levels for adolescents on the autism spectrum

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Eleanor Hayes
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

Children and young people on the autism spectrum show elevated anxiety levels in comparison to typically developing peers and those with other special educational needs. However, despite the significant time spent in school, few researchers have focused on how the school environment contributes to elevated anxiety levels in autism. A systematic review of the literature was conducted, exploring causes of anxious affect for autistic adolescents attending mainstream school. Experiences in the school environment that were highlighted as sources of anxiety included adverse noises, the behaviour of others and the social identity of autistic pupils. Additionally, academic pressure, transitions, disliked subjects, homework and handwriting were highlighted as sources of anxiety. Key frameworks of anxiety and autism (Boulter et al., 2014; Wood & Gadow, 2010) were used to understand these findings.An empirical study was also conducted to explore how the secondary school experience contributed to elevated anxiety following the Intolerance of Uncertainty framework of anxiety and autism proposed by Boulter et al. (2014). A school-based sample of 30 autistic adolescents aged 11-14, took part in the study. Parents completed measures of anxiety, sensory processing, autism symptom severity, and teachers completed a measure of social skills. Participants on the autism spectrum completed a measure of the number and types of experiences causing feelings of anxiety in the school social and learning environment. Indirect pathways from sensory sensitivities and social and environmental experiences in school to anxiety symptoms through intolerance of uncertainty were then tested. Findings supported and extended the key framework of anxiety in autism proposed by Boulter et al. (2014), demonstrating significant indirect pathways from experiences in school, sensory sensitivities and autism traits to anxiety through intolerance of uncertainty.

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Sense of school belonging: How can schools make a difference?

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Ashleigh Shuttleworth
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

The review investigated what school based interventions currently exist for supporting pupils sense of school belonging (SoSB). The search yielded 20 articles to be included in the review, and from these studies, 21 different intervention programmes were identified. Whilst all interventions aimed to increase SoSB, they were variable in many other aspects. To support synthesis of results, interventions were categorised as universal or targeted programmes and further divided based on common themes. Twelve studies reported a positive and significant effect of experimental condition on SoSB scores and one study reported a negative effect of experimental condition. Results support the notion that SoSB is malleable and can be enhanced through intervention support. All studies appear to incorporate aspects of teacher support and/ or personal characteristics, identified as having the largest effects with SoSB within Allen and colleagues’ meta-analysis (2016). In addition, the data presents a trend towards targeted interventions being more effective than universal interventions, presenting particularly positive effects of SoSB for ‘atrisk’ students. Implications are discussed in regards to the utility and effectiveness of having SoSB interventions being led by members of the school community, and in regards to the potential negative effect of peer contagion when running a group intervention with ‘at-risk’ youth.

The empirical paper examined the effectiveness of two experimental school-based diary conditions (gratitude diary and appreciation diary) on the promotion of SoSB and positive affect (PA), in comparison to a control condition (event diary). Participants aged 7 to 11 years (M = 8.76) were recruited from five primary schools in the South of England (N = 287). The intervention was carried out as a class, with pupils randomly allocated to either the gratitude, appreciation or event diary condition. Participants completed the diaries daily for three weeks, leading to 15 possible diary entries. Measures of gratitude, SoSB and PA were obtained at pre-intervention, postintervention and at a three-week follow-up, in addition to a pre-intervention measure of nostalgia proneness. Findings revealed that the intervention had been unsuccessful in manipulating gratitude, and ANOVAs for SoSB and PA revealed no significant effect of condition. However, a moderate positive correlation between gratitude, SoSB and PA change scores was noted, suggesting the existence of a relationship between change in gratitude and change in SoSB and PA. Possible explanations for the lack of condition effect in the current study are presented, in addition to limitations of the study in regards to the validity of the gratitude measures used and fidelity to intervention conditions.

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Adoptive parenting from adolescence to early adulthood

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Leanne Curreli
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

Parenting can be challenging at any stage, but when a child goes through adolescence the many physical, emotional, social and cognitive changes mean these challenges are likely to be magnified. The many changes create increasing opportunities for young people to begin exploring their social roles and identity, as well as the rights and the responsibilities that come with those. Whilst the young people are experimenting during this transition, parents may need to provide supervision whilst simultaneously encouraging autonomy and remaining flexible. Parenting is a dynamic process that involves complex interactions between the parent, the young person and their environment. These factors influence the level of responsiveness and supervision provided by a parent in response to their child’s or adolescent’s needs and situation. Within the adoptive family, adolescents can provide an additional level of complexity. Existing literature suggests this is a time of vulnerability in adoptive placements, a time when adoptions are at high risk of placement breakdown. This systematic review explores the literature on the distinctive features of parenting an adopted adolescent. Two main themes were highlighted: parental responsiveness and supervision, and communicative openness, defined as the level of adoption-relevant discussion within an adoptive family. Parental responsiveness was important for adopted adolescents because it allows parents to support adolescent emotional, behavioural and social outcomes, as well as reducing family conflict. Open communication about adoption was found to reduce conflict and increase emotional well-being. Research suggests that being highly attuned and responsive to the young adoptees is linked to greater adoption-related open communication and better outcomes during adolescence.

Traditionally, much of the research regarding adoption has focused on negative outcomes. In recent years, however, the literature has begun to move from risk to resilience (Ferrari, Ranieri, Barni & Rosnati, 2015). Sonuga-Barke, Kennedy, Kumsta, Knights, Golm, Rutter, Maughan, Schlotz and Kreppner (2017) assessed the prevalence of neurodevelopmental and mental health outcomes associated with early deprivation and their persistence into young adulthood. They found that children adopted after six months of age (high risk) had persistently higher levels of neurodevelopmental difficulties and poor life outcomes. The current study utilised longitudinal data from the ERA study (Rutter et al., 1998) to examine if communicative openness during adolescence and associated parenting behaviours, including parental responsiveness and experience of parental adoption journey, predicted the development of resilience in a group of young people from an at-risk sample. The main findings indicated that there were important relationships between aspects of communicative openness, parental responsiveness and parental journey. In addition, the young person’s difficulty discussing their adoption and how and when information was disclosed, were factors relating to the development of resilience from infancy to adulthood. Parental responsiveness and the young person’s own positivity at age four to six years was also related to higher levels of resilience, as was evaluations of adoption, which was found to be stable between each assessment phase. Only higher levels of the young person’s difficulty discussing their adoption at age 15 and higher negative evaluations of adoption significantly predicted/contributed to lower levels of resilience in early adulthood. Lower levels of resilience were associated with poorer educational, emotional and employment outcomes.

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The participation of autistic pupils in decision-making about their school experiences: A case study of one school

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Chantelle Zilli
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

Beginning reading skills are often taught through phonics-based methods. Learning to read is a cognitively demanding task, and for those children who struggle, research has shown that individualised interventions can facilitate the development of reading skills. Although research has demonstrated the effectiveness of phonics as a teaching method with typically developing children, less research has evaluated this method with children who are educated in special school settings. A systematic review was conducted to evaluate research over the past 43 years into the effectiveness of phonics as a method for teaching reading to children who are educated in special school settings. The findings suggested that phonics teaching leads to improvements in phonics skills. However, improvements in phonics skills often did not generalise to whole word reading skills.

The empirical paper evaluated the computerised phonics-based intervention Headsprout Early Reading with eight pupils aged 7 to 19 years, educated in a special school for children and young people who experience severe learning difficulties. The intervention took place over 21 weeks. Three learning conditions were employed, such that four participants completed Headsprout as it was designed with typically developing students, two participants did not complete negation activities, and two non-verbal participants completed Headsprout minus speaking activities. Results indicated that all of the participants improved in initial sound fluency, non-word reading, and word recognition. Participants in the no-negation condition showed improvements despite not completing these activities. The findings suggest that individualised phonics-based reading interventions can be used to support development of early reading skills for students are educated in special school settings.

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Evaluating the effectiveness of phonics as a method for teaching reading to children and young people who experience learning difficulties and are educated in Special School settings

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Emma Herring
Submitted: June 2017

Abstract

Beginning reading skills are often taught through phonics-based methods. Learning to read is a cognitively demanding task, and for those children who struggle, research has shown that individualised interventions can facilitate the development of reading skills. Although research has demonstrated the effectiveness of phonics as a teaching method with typically developing children, less research has evaluated this method with children who are educated in special school settings. A systematic review was conducted to evaluate research over the past 43 years into the effectiveness of phonics as a method for teaching reading to children who are educated in special school settings. The findings suggested that phonics teaching leads to improvements in phonics skills. However, improvements in phonics skills often did not generalise to whole word reading skills.

The empirical paper evaluated the computerised phonics-based intervention Headsprout Early Reading with eight pupils aged 7 to 19 years, educated in a special school for children and young people who experience severe learning difficulties. The intervention took place over 21 weeks. Three learning conditions were employed, such that four participants completed Headsprout as it was designed with typically developing students, two participants did not complete negation activities, and two non-verbal participants completed Headsprout minus speaking activities. Results indicated that all of the participants improved in initial sound fluency, non-word reading, and word recognition. Participants in the no-negation condition showed improvements despite not completing these activities. The findings suggest that individualised phonics-based reading interventions can be used to support development of early reading skills for students are educated in special school settings.

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The impact of attributions on the understanding and management of challenging behaviour in schools

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Emma Fitz-Gerald
Submitted: June 2017

Abstract

Although attribution theory has been well documented within the literature and applied to teaching, learning, and behaviour in the classroom, there has yet to be a systematic review of the literature pertaining to teacher attributions of challenging behaviour. This literature review set out to combine the evidence based in a systematic and critical way in order to answer the following questions: What attributions are teaching making around challenging behaviour in the classroom? In what way do these attributions impact on their management of behaviour in the classroom? Seventeen studies were included which explored causal attribution alongside controllability, types of behaviour, teacher factors, interventions, and referrals. Results indicate that teachers mainly make causal attributions which are external to themselves, which are mediated by perceptions of control, responsibility, and self-efficacy. In particular behaviour was seen as most difficult to manage when teachers attributed it to pupil or home factors, pupils were perceived to be in control of their behaviour, and the behaviour was thought to be stable over time. Limited links between attributions and referral decisions were found. Implications for EPs were discussed, in particular supporting teacher self-efficacy for classroom management.

Pupils displaying challenging behaviour are the population included in mainstream schools with the least success, with their behaviour regularly leading to fixed-term exclusions or placement in alternative provisions. Research has found the attributions teachers make about the causality of pupil behaviour can impact on subsequent behaviour management strategies in the classroom. However, attempts to understand the complexity of attribution processes has yet to be explored in a satisfactory way. In addition, the beliefs and attributions of the pupils themselves have remained largely unexplored. This study examined the perceptions of 10 secondary school staff teachers and five pupils, through semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis yielded six major themes within the data corpus relating to behaviour, behaviour management and the use of fixed-term exclusion. Results revealed four clear causal attributions for challenging behaviour in the classroom, which alongside mediating factors, such as self-efficacy, time and effort needed, and, remorsefulness, were related to either a helpless or hopeful discourse. Within the staff data set, conflict between static and flexible systems for managing behaviour was also seen. Implications for EPs are discussed in relation to building the resilience of teachers and schools in order to maintain the support for these pupils within mainstream settings.

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Intervening effectively at home and in school to improve children’s social, emotional and behavioural outcomes: an evaluation of nurture group and attachment-based approaches

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Larissa Cunningham
Submitted: June 2017

Abstract

Stable, caring relationships in early life are fundamental to children’s healthy development (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2010). The importance of parent-child attachments is increasingly being emphasised within the wider socio-economic and political context (Meins, 2017), particularly in terms of policy development and intervention. As such, it is pragmatic and valuable to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions derived from attachment theory.

A systematic review of the literature was conducted to examine the efficacy of attachment-based interventions for biological parent-child dyads on children’s emotional, behavioural and relational outcomes. 15 of the 19 studies reviewed reported positive change for children in terms of enhanced attachment security, improved internal mental representations of themselves and their caregivers, increased responsiveness and communication with their caregivers and a reduction in externalising behaviours. However, a number of methodological limitations were identified. These included a lack of objectivity in the measures used and limited follow-up data on children’s outcomes. Accordingly, Educational Psychologists (EPs) should reflect carefully before recommending attachment-based interventions and ensure due consideration is given to other factors which may be impacting on children’s functioning, beyond their attachment style. Directions for future research include the use of longitudinal study designs and the use of more objective measures completed by a range of individuals. A review of qualitative studies as well as consideration of outcomes for parents would also enable an
increased understanding of the mechanisms by which attachment-based interventions may be working.

The empirical paper utilised a mixed-methods design to explore the impact of Nurture Group (NG) intervention on children’s social skills. NGs are a short-term, psychotherapeutic intervention which aim to provide reparative attachment experiences for children within an educational setting (Hughes and Schlӧsser, 2014). The social skills of 16 children (aged between 6 years and 9 years 9 months) were assessed through their verbal responses to hypothetical, challenging, social situations. Teachers also rated children’s social skills in problematic, social situations. The Parent-Child Relationship Scale (Pianta, 1992) was completed by parents to assess whether there were any benefits of NGs to the parent-child relationship. Measures were completed prior to children joining the NG and again 15 weeks later. Thematic analysis of six semi-structured interviews with children was conducted to explore their experiences and perceptions of NG intervention in relation to their social skills. Findings suggested that over time, children used significantly more socially appropriate responses. Teachers’ ratings of children’s social skills also improved, although this change fell just short of statistical significance. There was no change in parental perceptions of the parent-child relationship. Children’s own views of NGs suggested that they enjoyed attending and that NGs helped them improve their social skills. However, children also reported experiencing challenges engaging with peers outside of the NG, particularly on the playground. Implications for practice were highlighted, including the need to think about how practitioners can help to facilitate the generalisation of children’s developing skills beyond the NG context.

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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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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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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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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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