A day in the life of an EP: perspectives from Twitter
The role of the Educational Psychologist (EP) has been long discussed in academic and practice literature. For example, five key functions of educational psychologists were highlighted in the Currie Report (Scottish Executive, 2002): consultation, assessment, intervention, research and training.
Cameron (2006) contributed further to the professional discussion by suggesting five distinctive dimensions of EP practice:
- adopting a psychological perspective to human problems
- uncovering mediating/psychological variables which link particular situations with specific outcomes
- employing psychological knowledge to create explanatory models of complex human problems
- using evidence-based strategies for change
- sharing and promoting big ideas from psychology.
(Cameron, 2006, pg. 289)
Educational psychologists have also been described as working in assessment-focused roles within schools and as gatekeepers to statutory assessment of special educational needs (for further discussion see Fallon, Woods and Rooney, 2010; Lee and Woods, 2017). These views of EPs are echoed in Ashton and Roberts’ (2006) research which suggested that EPs viewed themselves as offering a wide and valuable range of support to schools whereas Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs) appeared to show a preference towards ‘traditional’ EP roles.
The EP role: more than Assessment
A recent online newspaper article (Pinkus & Gann, 2019) outlined what parents might expect from an educational psychologist’s report. Whilst assessing strengths and needs is an important part of the SEND assess-plan-do-review process, EPs also have a wide range of skills to creatively help effect positive change for young people, deliver interventions for emotional wellbeing, and carry out high quality research.
Educational psychology assessments are far from “a series of tests” as described by Pinkus & Gann (2019). Whilst many EPs would agree there is a place for standardised assessment (for example tests of cognitive ability or reading proficiency), many have also subscribed to Feuerstein’s philosophy that intelligence is not fixed, but modifiable. EPs are skilled in using a range of dynamic assessment tools to explore children’s responses to mediation, including through the use of games such as Rush Hour and Uno. These games-based approaches are used to see what a child can do and what strategies and approaches help promote and further learning; it is the process that is important, not only the outcome.
Sharing our Practice
EPs have a growing presence on social media and a quick search using the Twitter hashtags #twitterEPs #adayinthelifeofan_EP and #adayinthelifeofa_TEP highlights some of the exciting work that EPs and Trainee EPs are currently involved in, including:
- Using in-depth group problem-solving processes such as Circle of Adults and Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope
- Working alongside children in a nurture room
- Presenting at conferences and submitting abstracts for future conferences
- Meeting inspiring teachers
- Debating the use and abuse of labels
- Attending CPD about attachment-based assessment tools
- Discussing neuropsychology with colleagues
- Facilitating appreciative inquiries with professionals
- Carrying out play based assessment
- Engaging in action research, examining doctoral theses and writing research papers for academic journals
- Using Video Interactive Guidance (VIG) as an intervention for parents
- Leading staff development in areas such as mental health, attachment theory, developmental trauma, reading/literacy interventions, and responding to sexual behaviour in children
- Reviewing the progress of children looked after in new school placements
- Training and supervising Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs)
- Developing self-esteem projects
- Having peer supervision with colleagues
- Visiting nurseries, primary schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities
These examples provide a rich and varied summary of how EPs can work with many different educational settings to promote the inclusion of children and young people, along with providing a solid contribution to statutory Education, Health and Care Needs Assessments.
The future of educational psychology
I’m excited about the future of educational psychology with higher numbers of EPs being trained from September 2020, an ongoing contribution to promoting children and adolescent mental health and an increased focus on working with people up to age 25. I’m therefore hopeful that the narrative around EPs as assessors can continue to be challenged through the sharing of best practice and a visible presence of the profession in the media.
Ashton, R. & Roberts, E. (2006) ‘What is valuable and unique about educational psychology?’ Educational Psychology in Practice, 22 (2), 111–123.
Cameron, R.J. (2006) ‘Educational psychology: The distinctive contribution.’ Educational Psychology in Practice, 22 (4), 289–304.
Fallon, K., Woods, K., & Rooney, S. (2010). A discussion of the developing role of educational psychologists within children’s services. Educational Psychology in Practice, 26 (1), 1–23.
Lee, K., & Woods, K. (2017). Exploration of the developing role of the educational psychologist within the context of “traded” psychological services. Educational Psychology in Practice, 33 (2), 111–125.
Pinkus, S. & Gann, T. (2019, October 9) How to make the most of your child’s educational psychologist’s report. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education-and-careers/2019/10/09/make-childs-educational- psychologists-report/
Scottish Executive (2002) Review of the Provision of Educational Psychology in Scotland (The Currie Report). Edinburgh: Scottish Government Publication.