What is Educational Psychology?

Educational psychologists have an undergraduate and post graduate (MSc or PhD) qualification in psychology; they use their knowledge of child development and experience of working with children and families across a variety of educational settings, to promote their learning and well-being. They work in collaboration with parents, teachers, and other professionals, to meet the needs of children and young people, aged between 0 and 25 years of age.

Educational psychology definition from the British Psychological Society:

Educational psychology is concerned with children and young people in educational and early years settings. Educational psychologists tackle challenges such as learning difficulties, social and emotional problems, issues around disability as well as more complex developmental disorders. They work in a variety of ways including observations, interviews and assessments and offer consultation, advice and support to teachers, parents, the wider community as well as the young people concerned. They research innovative ways of helping vulnerable young people and often train teachers, learning support assistants and others working with children.

educational psychology definition

Educational Psychologists work with a range of different professionals

There are a range of different professionals who may be involved in supporting a child: e.g. speech and language therapists, paediatricians, occupational therapists, mental health teams, clinical psychologists, specialist teachers etc.

Children with complex needs may be referred to each of the different professionals for specific advice. An educational psychologist may ask to see reports from other professionals to aid their work with a child, and vice versa. An EP may also advise that the parents / school contact other professionals to gain greater insight into a specific need.

Note that an official diagnosis of ADHD or Autism can only be given by a community paediatrician or psychiatrist. The paediatrician may speak to other professionals, or request copies of their reports (e.g. an EP report), to support their diagnosis. An Educational Psychologist can undertake work / assessments that indicate whether ADHD or Autism is likely, but it is not a diagnosis. An EP is often asked by schools to work with a child who has been diagnosed, or is suspected of having, autism or ADHD. This is because the EP recommends strategies for the school in how to support that child in the setting. A child may be going through the paediatric referral route to get a diagnosis, while also been being seen by an EP in order to help them in school.

What do Educational Psychologists do?

1. Consultation

Consultation involves working together to explore concerns and generate positive actions

A consultation involves the psychologist facilitating a solution-focused, collaborative, problem-solving discussion. The aim is to increase knowledge and understanding of what the issues are, generate future plans and empower those involved to take appropriate action.

At an individual child level, this may take the form of individual meetings with a child/young person and/or their families, contributing to a support plan. At the school level, this might involve joint work with a class teacher, staff member or groups of staff or attendance at a review meeting. At an organisation level (educational setting/local authority), consultation may take the form of contributing to strategic planning, or the creation of new policies.

2. Assessment

Assessment is a process whereby a psychologist gathers information from a number of sources and formulates ideas about ways forward

Assessment will usually involve parents/carers, education staff, other professionals, and the child or young person themselves. The work may be direct, i.e. taking the form of observation or assessment, or indirect, such as analysing information shared during consultation. The outcome of successful assessment would be to promote the learning and emotional well-being of the child or young person.

Some of the assessments undertaken by educational psychologists are ‘closed’ meaning only an educational psychologist is able to conduct them.

3. Interventions

Interventions are strategies which are designed to promote high quality learning experiences, which aid progress and mental well-being

The aim of assessment is to develop and inform interventions. Interventions are strategies which are designed to promote high quality learning experiences, which aid progress and mental well-being. At an individual child level, interventions may take the form of designing a literacy programme for an individual, small group or a whole class. At a school level, an EP may collaborate on whole-school projects, such as developing the behaviour policy and practices or setting up a nurture group. At an authority level, it may involve contributing to authority-wide initiatives, such as establishing a multi-agency protocol for working in special schools.

Examples of literacy interventions and numeracy interventions.

4. Training

Educational psychologists provide training for education staff, parents and carers, children and young people, and other professionals

Training can take the form of whole-school service days, twilight sessions or small group sessions. These can either be presentations or interactive workshops, in person or via video conference. Training can be provided on a wide range of subjects related to learning e.g. Special Educational Needs, behaviour, mental health, SEN processes.

Psychology4Learning Educational Psychologists have delivered a wide range of training courses to schools and educational settings.

5. Research

Research is a key part of an Educational Psychologist’s role, as it informs evidence-based psychological practice at individual, school and organisational level

Carrying out research helps Educational Psychologists to improve their knowledge and practice, and is an important part of their training. Schools can ask an educational psychologist for advice on the latest research regarding a particular subject, or to undertake research on the schools behalf.