Educational psychology is a vital discipline that is contributing to the education of teachers and learners and SureCare are fortunate that their psychologist, Cheryl Massey, has been a qualified Educational Psychologist for twelve years, previously working both in Hertfordshire [Manager of the Behaviour Support Team] and Essex.
What is educational psychology?
Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Educational psychology is concerned with how students learn and develop, often focusing on subgroups such as gifted children and those subject to specific disabilities. Educational psychology includes topics that span human development, individual differences, measurement, learning, and motivation and is both a data-driven and a theory-driven discipline. Thus, it is the application of psychology and psychological methods to the study of development, learning, motivation, instruction, assessment, and related issues that influence the interaction of teaching and learning. This means educational psychology brings both something to the young people and to those who care and educate them.
What does educational psychology bring to the young people in SureCare?
Many children in the Looked After system have experienced difficulties in education and learning, sometimes throughout their life. They often present at SureCare with disaffection towards school and education, feeling they have failed and that the system of education has failed them, something that is emotionally, cognitively and socially damaging. It is also something that directly relates to the Every Child Matters [ECM] goals of “economic well-being” and “enjoying and achieving” which are the cornerstones of our work at SureCare.
Enjoying and achieving. What is meant by ‘enjoying and achieving’ in youth?
Enjoying and achieving is defined in ECM as ‘getting the most out of life and developing the skills for adulthood’. Research evidence has shown that disaffection can start in primary school, and be exacerbated by the transition to secondary school. By the age of 14, young people may already be quite alienated from formal institutions, and show this through their behaviour. Anti-social behaviour may be a symptom of this disaffection, and may itself form part of a transition into offending, drug and/or alcohol abuse, bullying, etc. The root of these transition processes may lie in unhappy childhood experiences, including loss and bereavement, domestic abuse, alcohol and/or drug abuse of their parents, or personal experience of physical or sexual abuse (viz among others Johnston et al, 2000)”- Gill Jones of the National Youth Agency Enjoying and Achieving: The implications for youth work of Every Child Matters
The descriptions from Gill Jones’ research quoted above unfortunately fit for many of the young people we care for. Many of these young people have not only missed schooling, leading to gaps in knowledge, but have also had undiagnosed learning problems like dyslexia, speech and language difficulties, dyscalculia etc. Even more of them suffer from emotional and social difficulties that tend to lead to challenging behaviour, in itself another aspect preventing good learning.
It is therefore vital that a full cognitive, emotional and social assessment is carried out to ensure their future learning might be more effective and that they can begin to view themselves as competent learners with a propensity for success. Without a plan specifically addressing those areas needing more support, it is hard to see how these young people can tick the box of ‘enjoying and achieving’.
When young people come into SureCare they can be offered a robust educational assessment conducted by our Educational Psychologist and this leads to a report outlining the educational profile of the young person. This is vital for all staff supporting future learning. In this way, the young person is able to enjoy a bespoke programme of education that is more appropriate to their learning, behavioural and cognitive needs.
What does educational psychology bring to the staff in SureCare?
Through regular CPD sessions with staff and SureCare’s educational psychologist, the following areas are developed:
- The Meaning of Teaching and Learning
- Knowledge of students and how they learn
- Understanding Instructional Strategies and Language of Direction
- Understanding Assessment Strategies and what they mean
- To delineate between the Behavioral, Developmental, Social and Cognitive perspective
Understanding Motivation and its key role in learning and interaction
- Structure of Statement of Special Educational Needs and how this is implemented
This means that the members of SureCare staff are not only aware of the mechanisms of school, learning and education generally, but begin to view themselves as informal teachers. Our staff uses every opportunity to offer activities, tasks and outings that include learning in a fun and informal way, in addition to the more formal schooling offered to young people. This has included trips to different environmental contexts for hobbies like fishing, horse riding and painting as well as to more formal learning venues like museums and art galleries with follow up written activities to embed the experience.
SureCare views education as essential to all the young people we care for but we understand that past learning may have included failure episodes leading to disaffection. We also understand that many young people arriving at SureCare might have undiagnosed learning difficulties, perhaps masked during education by their more challenging behaviours. Thus we offer a full service of educational psychological assessment to ensure future learning can be creative, adventurous, fun, diverse and, most of all, successful. To this end we prepare an individual programme to fit the unique profile of each young person.