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Educational Psychology for Material Change: A call for EPs to join our collective

Educational Psychologists for Material Change (EPMC) are building a coalition of progressive and radical Educational Psychologists (EPs) to make real change both in and outside of our profession.

We argue that the development of a materialist psychology practice is vital for our profession if we are truly serious about positive societal change. For a more detailed account of the philosophy and theory behind psychological materialism, we would encourage you to read our manifesto

In this blog we’ll briefly state that a materialist psychology centralises material conditions (e.g. access to resources, quality of housing) as having a key role in producing our subjective experiences. Furthermore, we argue that the social norms and social relations that arise from material conditions (e.g. social standing, class, cultural capital) are also vital factors in producing our subjectivity.

Three key implications that can be drawn from this line of thinking: criticality, change and solidarity. 


We need to engage in an honest and extensive critique of our practice. We need to down our old tools and develop new ones. 

EPs generally use tools that measure the human psyche as if it can be isolated from the material world. Furthermore, we often focus our work on either the individual or at best the parent-child dyad as the key site of change. We may make a rhetorical nod to Bronfenbrenner here and there, or occasionally deliver staff training, but we do not seriously grapple with the difficulties of changing the social to positively influence the individual. 

Furthermore, the mechanisms of change we so often rely on focus on supporting individuals to positively reframe their mental and linguistic representations. Put simply, psychologists tend to encourage children, families, or teachers to speak or think more positively, rather than trying to change the real world around them. 

Without material change, we understand these processes as deeply insufficient. Such practice promotes the damaging idea that individuals are at fault for problems generated at the socio-material level. 

It is at this point that we might suggest that EP practice often helps to maintain inequality rather than ameliorate it.


What appears to be fixed and real is actually a set of social relations that can be changed. Our role is to change them.

Our first task when thinking about change is to seriously contend with the notion that things can be different, both within and outside of our profession. Underfunding of the public sector, a move towards exclusionary and punitive schooling practices, the role of the EP being reduced to ‘report writer.’ All of these socio-material relations can be changed. 

At EPMC we see the EP as a political activist, developing a materialist-psychologically informed praxis that allows us to work with schools and communities to advocate for marginalised voices through the changing of the system itself. 

Within our own profession we want to see trainee EPs paid properly on contracts. We also want to see the AEP, our union and professional body, take a clear stand on issues such as trans rights and the rights of Palestinians. Psychological safety can only be created through material change in the world. 

On a national level we want to see proper funding for public services and massive redistribution of wealth and power across society. We also want to see real and material changes to the education system that would have a positive impact on children and young people. No more exclusions, no more isolation rooms, relational and nurturing practice as default, a curriculum that engages, discovery-based learning, Vygotskian pedagogical co-construction, proper pay and conditions for school leavers entering the world of work. 


If history can tell us anything, it’s that change only happens when individuals come together in a collective to fight for it. 

Humans are only divided in the way that capitalism divides us (wealth, class, race, gender etc). All humans are united in a need for love, recognition, safety, warmth, autonomy, and growth. As capitalism continues to pit us against each other, we need to hold onto this truth to maintain solidarity and fight for a more just world together.

Changes, such as the ones outlined above, can only be achieved through a collective solidarity involving activism, political engagement, and a refusal to practice in ways that oppress. EPs so often practice as individuals with little opportunity to work collectively. There is also a professional tendency to see an individual action as ‘planting a seed’ in someone’s head that might lead to more profound change in the future. We reject this as magical thinking which falls apart when subjected to a material analysis. None of us are superheroes, change only happens when workers with common interest come together and fight for it.

If you are interested in joining our collective, please get in touch at

3 Comments so far:

  1. Anon says:


    We’ll accept you in our collective, if you think the same as us…
    We’ll explore our unconscious biases together, to have them affirmed…
    We’ll counter neoliberal-ableism, via inaccessible language and ideas…
    We’ll all be equal, but some will be more equal than others.

  2. TEP says:

    Absolutely brilliant. The change the profession needs to see. All too often we get stuck or scared to align ourselves with truly liberatory approaches in this profession.
    Towing the neutral line gets us stuck in maintaining oppressive practices! Let’s open our minds !

  3. Psychologist says:

    Benjamin Zephaniah once siad “If you didn’t have troublemakers, most women wouldn’t have the right to vote, a black person wouldn’t be talking to a white person and I’d be back in slavery. We need troublemakers to challenge the establishment. I want to be one of those people.”

    Brilliant post!

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