The hypothesised female ASC phenotype: Implications for research and practice (2017)

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:

(Free, open access download)

Objective structured professional assessments for trainee educational psychologists: an evaluation (2017)

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? (2017)

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.

Download (pre-publication version)

Social Information Processing: A Useful Framework for Educational Psychology (2017)

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

(Free, open access download)

Establishing the effectiveness of a gratitude diary intervention on children’s sense of school belonging (2016)

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 (2015)

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

Download – pre-publication assignment (PDF)

Maintaining an interactionist perspective of undesirable behaviour: What is the role of the Educational Psychologist? (2016)

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.

Download article