What is Educational Psychology?
Educational psychology involves the application of psychological research findings within an educational context.
Educational psychologists have a thorough knowledge of child development and the factors that are involved in learning. They can help to identify the reasons why some children find it hard to learn and make educational progress, and they make recommendations about the most helpful ways to support them.
Educational psychologists consider the complex inter-relationships that influence effective learning which include:
the extent to which a child feels valued and understood by staff at school encouraging them to feel psychologically safe and secure to learn
the match between the tasks requested of the child and their level of ability and skill development so that the educational demands feel achievable, allowing the child to believe that their efforts lead to progress and positive outcomes, and they can extend themselves with confidence.
Who Can Benefit From Educational Psychology?
A wide range of children can benefit from the involvement of an educational psychologist. These include:
- Children who are not making progress in developing reading and spelling skills
- Children who find it hard to communicate their thoughts in writing
- Children who have difficulty understanding mathematical concepts and developing mathematical skills
- Children who are not making progress generally and are finding it hard to remember the information taught in the classroom
- Children who find organisation of their time and/or their work a challenge
- Children who struggle to stay focused on their work
- Children who are not motivated in school and do not expect to do well
- Children who are not happy or confident in school
- Children who are finding it hard to work independently
- Children who have difficulty retrieving taught information in examinations.
Psychological Interventions and Approaches:
Educational psychologists gain valuable information by undertaking individual assessments with children to determine how their underlying cognitive processes are influencing their levels of educational achievement.
As learning takes place within a context, usually school, educational psychologists can also observe children in their classrooms to gain further information about their approach to learning and behaviour in school.
Gathering background information is an essential part of the process. It is important to understand the child’s educational history and whether the current concerns have been developing over time. The background information is usually provided by parents completing a questionnaire, and ideally, from a questionnaire completed by the child’s teacher.
The educational psychologist analyses the information about the child’s developmental history, the ways in which support is being provided in school and the child’s response to this support, their behaviour in the classroom and the results from the individual assessment to determine the key factors that can explain why they are having some difficulty at school. The psychologist produces a report to explain their findings and provide suggestions and recommendations. These usually relate to the most relevant ways to focus support in school, and at home.
The recommendations focus on areas that may need to change in order that a child feels more positive about their ability to learn. The changes might relate to:
The need for different teaching approaches in the classroom.
The focus of the support there are receiving or need to receive, the level of it and the timing.
The ways in which the child is being encouraged to develop positive beliefs about their achievements and future success so they remain motivated to learn.
The ways in which the child can remain calm and focused in the classroom.
The involvement of an educational psychologist can include meetings in school with teaching staff and parents to monitor the effectiveness of the recommendations over time.
Educational psychologists can also work individually with older children, using a psychological coaching approach, to support them to understand their learning challenges and the areas that concern them in school and to help to identify and change any limiting beliefs they are holding about their ability to progress. This form of intervention ideally occurs at the same time as the recommendations for changes in the classroom or teaching/support approaches are progressing.
Sometimes an educational psychologist recommends the involvement of another professional if there are areas of difficulty that are outside their area of expertise, such as a child with heightened anxiety or mental health difficulties. At other times the involvement of a different professional can be advised for example if home-based factors are influencing the child’s progress at school or behavioural concerns are present at home as well as at school.
Educational psychologists can also provide training sessions for teaching staff and/or parents related to the factors that underpin successful learning.
To find out more about Educational Psychology and how it can help your child,
please contact us on 0208 6737930