“Ok – so what opportunities do we need?” Why collaborative reviews of the impact of EP involvement are vital
Within educational psychology (EP), so much is spoken about commencing case work – establishing rapport, contracting, information gathering. But how much consideration is given to the review and evaluation stage – measuring the impact of all this work?
Since the SEND Code of Practice requires EPs to centralise “the views, wishes and feelings of the child… and the child’s parents” (Department for Education & Department of Health, 2015), to what extent are the young people at the heart of EP practice, involved in reviewing their own progress?
In order to further examine this issue, a team of trainee EP researchers from the University of East London (UEL) investigated this, with an interpretive-critical, mixed-methods survey (Doyle et al., 2022). 74 qualified, HCPC-registered EPs responded to a quantitative questionnaire, posted on Edpsy, Twitter and EPNET and posted out to selected EP services in London and the south-east, exploring their past experiences of directly involving stakeholders (young people, their families and school staff) in reviewing the impact of EP involvement.
Five respondents were subsequently invited to semi-structured interviews, aimed at a deeper-dive exploration of their views and ideas on how collaboration could be enhanced further in evaluation, using reflexive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2021).
There’s limited research focusing on the involvement of children and young people
The literature search in preparation for this research project suggested that collaborative evaluation processes can empower and promote the autonomy of stakeholders in the problem-solving process (Bryce et al., 2019). Despite this, studies exploring the practical and logistical applications of stakeholder involvement, such as Newman et al. (2018) and Skaar et al. (2016), demonstrated several barriers in collaborative practices within problem-solving cycles, such as stretched services and time restraints amongst stakeholders such as teachers. There was a gap in the literature around the involvement of young people within common problem-solving frameworks (White and Rae, 2016) and with specific focus on the role of collaboration in retrospective review and evaluation.
Interestingly, much of the literature prioritises the views of parents and teaching staff and there is little exploration of young people’s views regarding the evaluation stages of consultation and interventions (White & Rae, 2016), instead focusing on practical limitations. For instance, White and Rae (2016), found that parents felt the evaluation stage was too long and complicated for a child’s concentration. Whereas Boonk et al. (2018) detailed non-significant increases in efficacy rates of a behavioural intervention when including young people in the evaluation stages. Although, both Boonk et al. (2018) and Brown et al. (2022) highlighted that very few young people were aware of what their learning targets were, even if they were included in all stages of the consultation process.
The pessimistic nature of these findings, along with the limited research focusing on young people stakeholders highlights a research gap related to how the inclusion of stakeholders in the evaluation stages of consultation can affect contemporary EP practice, which aspires to a child-centred philosophy (Hardy et al, 2017). This is why, as UEL TEP researchers, who aspire to work as collaboratively as possible with young people and their families, we felt that it was pertinent to investigate EP views on this issue and the results were intriguing.
Involving children in reviewing outcomes – important but challenging
Although 88% of respondents agreed that it was Very Important to involve children and their families in reviewing their outcomes, 73% found it Very or Quite Challenging to facilitate and 85% said that they Rarely or Never involve the young people themselves in the evaluation stage. In analysing this data as novice practitioners, it was surprising to find how limited a role collaborative reviews played in the practice of EPs we spoke to- with one interviewee reporting “I don’t take personal responsibility for coming back and reviewing”. Others described it as part of their role, but often a neglected one, due to insurmountable obstacles, with ‘time restraints’ cited as the most common barrier (Doyle et al., 2022).
Other participants explored the benefits of reviewing collaboratively with stakeholders: supporting development of “shared understanding”, “greater chance of achieving the outcomes” and being “motivating and energising” for continuing positive change. Participants also suggested that taking the time to bring all stakeholders together after the EP has been involved, allowed a chance to reflect together about how best to maximise positive progress and address remaining difficulties by asking each other “Ok – so what opportunities do we need?”
Collaborative reviews assure the ethical quality of EP work
The most powerful and oft repeated message was that conducting a collaborative review assured the ethical equality of the EP work – by balancing the power dynamic between professionals and families, moving away from “the expert model” ensuring that young people have the opportunity to share their evaluation of what the impact has been and to “choose for themselves what they feel would be best” as they move forward in their educational path (Doyle et al., 2022).
These findings exemplify that EPs highly value stakeholder contributions in the evaluation stage however, the narration of their experiences suggests that this can be challenging due to barriers such as time constraints and contextual factors.
Some recommendations made in response to the data were:
- for local authority teams to consider how they can promote reviews across their services, including having policies which require the involvement of stakeholders;
- for individual practitioners to collaboratively plan for the review stage from the initial contracting of the EP involvement, so that all parties are aware that this will be part of the process
- to consider adopting person-centred principles for reviews, by asking young people how they would like to be involved in the evaluation process (Doyle et al., 2022), for example through a drawing or letter.
Making strives such as these seems to be consistent with the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (Lundy, 2007) in relation to promoting autonomy and social justice, by supporting young people and their families to have a greater voice in the evaluation of the work done for and with them.
In a busy profession, with multiple demands on EP time, there has to be compromise, but the results of this study have emphasised that it is vital to involve young people and the adults in their systems, in reviewing their progress and what further opportunities are needed to help them thrive.
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Boonk, L., Gijselaers, H. J. M., Ritzen, H., & Brand-Gruwel, S. (2018). A review of the relationship between parental involvement indicators and academic achievement. Educational Research Review, 24(1), 10-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2018.02.001
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2021). Thematic analysis: A practical guide to understanding and doing (1st ed.). SAGE Publications.
Brown, J. M., Naser, S. C., Brown-Griffin, C., Grapin, S. L., & Proctor, S. L. (2022). A multicultural, gender, and sexually diverse affirming school‐based consultation framework. Psychology in the Schools, 59(1), 14–33. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.22593
Bryce, C. I., Bradley, R. H., Abry, T., Swanson, J., & Thompson, M. S. (2019). Parents’ and teachers’ academic influences, behavioral engagement, and first-and fifth-grade achievement. School Psychology, 34(5), 492.
Department for Education & Department of Health. (2015). SEND Code of Practice: 0 to 25. Years Statutory guidance for organisations which work with and support children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities. gov.uk. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/398815/SEND_Code_of_Practice_January_2015.pdf
Doyle, M., Gilson, H., Nurse, A., O’Leary, S., & Rahal, A. (2022). Exploring educational psychologists’ views and experiences of stakeholder involvement in the ‘Review and Evaluate’ stage of consultative problem-solving. Research Presentation, University of East London.
Hardy, J., Hobbs, C. (2017). Using qualitative research to hear the voice of children and young people: the work of British educational psychologists. British Psychological Society & Division of Educational and Child Psychology.
Lundy, L. (2007). “Voice” us not enough: Conceptualising Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. British Educational Research Journal, 33(6), 927-942 https://doi.org/10.1080/01411920701657033
Newman, D. S., Hazel, C. E., Barrett, C. A., Chaudhuri, S. F., & Fetterman, H. (2018). Early-Career School Psychologists’ Perceptions of Consultative Service Delivery: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same. Journal of Educational & Psychological Consultation, 28(2), 105-136. http://doi.org/10.1080/10474412.2017.1378106.
Skaar, N. R., Freedman, S., Carlon, A., & Watson, E. (2016). Integrating models of collaborative consultation and systems change to implement forgiveness-focused bullying interventions. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 26(1), 63–86. https://doi.org/10.1080/10474412.2015.1012672
White, J., & Rae, T. (2016). Person-centred reviews and transition: An exploration of the views of students and their parents/carers. Educational Psychology in Practice, 32(1), 38-53 https://doi.org/10.1080/02667363.2015.1094652