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Assessment by educational psychologists in cases of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties Daniela Mercieca

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1 Assessment by educational psychologists in cases of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties Daniela Mercieca

2 2 Problematising the title Construction of children The issue involves a myriad of factors The proposition ‘with’ puts the onus and responsibility on the child (Tobbell and Lawthom, 2005) How could a summative title be representative of the arguments against construction?

3 3 Problematising issue Working with people and children is complex Is it more so when the concern is behaviour and emotions? The child’s behaviour may be termed as impairment, but it disables the adults! What are our initial reactions? Context

4 4 Reframing behaviour? Is rather difficult as it “runs counter to our intuitive individualised model of the world” (Tobbell and Lawthom, 2005). Child is labelled with SEBD Given different thresholds in different schools, does the label reflect the inclusive values of the school, rather than diagnosis of child?

5 5 Complexity Psychologist meant to diffuse complexity and expected to come up with solution Psychologists are increasingly called upon “to provide precise, absolute knowledge about children” (Billington, 2000, p.98). There is an illusion that aspects of people can be compartmentalised. Teachers’ stress is reduced when they regard the problems encountered as emanating from the child (Williams and Daniels, 2000).

6 6 ‘Dealing’ with complexity Is label being given precipitately? What account is the psychologist to give? How to fit all the complexity in one label? Label is still stuck on the child

7 7 Working with complexity How to balance pragmatism with justice? Acknowledge inconsistencies in ‘cases’, or dismiss them as distortions? Allowing oneself to work with complexity How to deal with such messy situations?

8 8 Rather than being the expert, the professional may be seen as one who has learnt to live with not knowing, with the lack of stability, uncertainty and unpredictability which this brings about. Educational psychology aims to gain understanding experience as a whole (Billington, 2000) Compartmentalisation takes a life of its own.

9 9 Suggestions We ought not to feel complacent with our knowledge of facts “The use of medical terminology also affects those who are responsible for labelling” (Parker, et al., 1995, p.2). Issues of causality…relate more to “the peace of mind of the discoverer than to the object of his research” (Bion, 1967, p.163). Todd criticises the psychological obsession with classification and calls it ‘professional thought disorder’ (Tobbell and Lawthom, 2005 )

10 10 A reconceptualisation of the role of the psychologist and other professionals as advocates of the child. The need for things to be tidy and solvable may sometimes cause us to disregard that which does not fit in our prescribed spaces. Let us continue to be sensitive to our qualms, our intuitions. Don’t dismiss them as silly… It may be that reaching for conclusions results in the integrity of children’s experiences and stories to be casualties.

11 11 If I haven’t got ADHD then she is going to be really depressed. (Travell and Visser: p209) Ultimatum given to young people: either take medication, or continue to get into trouble (ibid.). Bowers (2001): individual personalities understand the Code of Practice differently. Rees, Farrell and Rees (2003) quote Research Report on EPSs in UK published by the DfEE (2000): huge degree of diversity among Services but also within them; individual personalities made a difference. The variety in practice is immense: the assessment methods are EP specific, not child specific or situation specific. EPs realise that each referral of EBD is unique but are worried about defending such a position (ibid.).

12 12 Conclusion Role of psychologists to query educational policy (Jones, 2003) Acknowledge the far-reaching consequences of written reports. Professionals can engage in oppositional behaviour. Balance between relationships and curriculum: the teacher and the pupil, rather than the teacher vs the pupil Relationships with students are formed so that zone of proximal development can be mediated.

13 13 Billington, T., 2000. Separating, losing and excluding children: Narratives of difference. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Billington, T., 2006. Working with children. London: Sage. Bowers, T., 2001. Cracking the code for EBD. Emotional and behavioural difficulties, 6:1, 19-30. Cefai, C., 2007. Resilience for all: A study of classrooms as protective contexts. Emotional and behavioural difficulties, 12:2, 119-134. Cooper, P., 1999. Changing perceptions of EBD: Maladjustment, EBD and beyond. Emotional and behavioural difficulties, 4:1, 3-11. Cooper, P., 2006. Language and meaning in social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Emotional and behavioural difficulties, 11:1, 1- 3. Derrida, J., 1992. Force of law: The “mystical foundation of authority”. In Carlson, D., Cornell, D. and Rosenfeld, M. (Eds.) Deconstruction and the possibility of justice. London: Routledge. Goodley, D. & Lawthom, R. (Eds), 2006. Disability and psychology – Critical introductions and reflections. Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan. Hollway, W., 1994. Subjectivity and method in psychology. London: Sage Publications. Hollway, W. and Jefferson, T., 2001. Doing qualitative research differently. London: Sage Publications. Hunter-Cersch, M., Tiknaz, Y., Cooper, P., Sage. R., 2006. The handbook of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. London: Continuum. Jones, R.A., 2003. The construction of emotional and behavioural difficulties. Educational psychology in practice. 19:2, 147-157. Law, J., 2006. After method – Mess in social science research. London: Routledge. Macleod, G., 2006. Bad, mad or sad: Constructions of young people in trouble and implications for interventions. Emotional and behavioural difficulties, 11:3, 155-167. Merrell, C. & Tymms, P.B., 2001. Inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness: Their impact on academic achievement and progress. British journal of educational psychology. 71, 43-56. Ministry of Education, Youth and Employment (June 2005) For all children to succeed: A new network organisation for quality education in Malta, Malta. Ministry for Education, Youth and Employment (June 2005) Inclusive and Special Education Review, Malta MUT agreement Parker, I., Georgaca, E., Harper, D., McLaughlin, T. and Stowell-Smith, M., 1995. Deconstructing Psychopathology. London: Sage Publications. Rees, C., Farrell, P., Rees, P., 2003. Coping with complexity: How do educational psychologists assess students with emotional and behavioural difficulties? Educational psychology in practice. 19:1, 35-47. Roffey, S., 2007. Oppositional – yes, defiant – yes, disordered – who says? Debate CP. 123, 16-17. The Psychologist Tobbell, J. & Lawthom, R. 2005. Dispensing with labels: Enabling children and professionals to share a community of practice. Educational and child psychology. 22:3, 89-97. Travell, C., & Visser, J. ‘ADHD does bad stuff to you’: Young people’s and parents’ experiences and perceptions of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Emotional and behavioural difficulties, 11:3, 205-216. Tymms, P. & Elliott J., 2006. Difficulties and dilemmas in the assessment of special educational needs. Educational and child psychology. 23:3, 25-34. Watson, C., 2005. Discourses of ‘indiscipline’: A Foucauldian response. Emotional and behavioural difficulties, 10:1, 55-65.

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