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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What is the Role of Schools and Colleges in Supporting Adolescents who Self-Harm?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Leanne Pickering
Submitted: May 2015

Self-harm is a widespread issue amongst adolescents, which is often kept hidden from adults. When a young person is identified as self-harming, education professionals often refer them to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services for an assessment. This may be due to the prevailing perception of self-harm as a mental health problem that requires clinical treatment and management. However, as the majority of self-harm behaviour is kept hidden, this essay will argue that a reactive response is unlikely to be adequate in supporting adolescents who self-harm. Instead, it will be argued that self-harm may be better perceived as an emotional and behavioural difficulty that can be effectively supported by education professionals working in schools and colleges. Rather than perceiving self-harm as a mental health problem, and the responsibility of clinicians, self-harm needs to be understood as an adaptive strategy that enables adolescents to regulate their emotions and cope with the stress of everyday life. This essay will demonstrate that adolescents who self-harm have fewer functional coping strategies and engage in self-harm as a way to alleviate negative emotions. It will be argued that education professionals are better placed to support children’s development through the implementation of whole school approaches designed to develop young people’s emotional intelligence and problem solving skills. By providing young people with culturally acceptable coping strategies, we may be able to help reduce the occurrence of self-harm behaviour.

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What should schools do to promote the successful inclusion of pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Emma Fitzgerald
Submitted: May 2015

Inclusion policy and practice to date has been driven by the view that wherever possible, children with special educational needs (SEN) should have access to mainstream schooling and the opportunities it provides to participate in wider society (Frederickson & Cline, 2009). This is particularly pertinent for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD) as they have been identified as being the most difficult to include within mainstream settings. Over the past forty years there has been a shift in the discourse surrounding inclusion, however the shift in terminology has not necessarily been reflected in changes in practice. Research into successful inclusion to date has been driven by attempts to change the ethos of schools, however practical strategies have been found wanting. There is an argument that rather than systemic changes, schools should be focussing on teacher level changes as they are the biggest source of influence on a child’s outcomes (Reynolds, 2010). This essay explores research into teacher attitudes and beliefs, relationships with pupils and self-efficacy and the impact this can have on the outcomes of pupils with SEBD. It appears that Educational Psychologists (EPs) are ideally placed to support changes at this level through consultation, promoting pupil voice and training. While teachers have a huge impact on the inclusion of pupils with SEBD the research into parental or pupil attitudes is sadly lacking in this area.

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