Educational psychologists in schools

Paul Main

How can schools make the best use of their educational psychology support?

What does an Educational Psychologist do?

Educational psychologists deal with children of all ages and how they learn. While analyzing how children process cognitive, social and emotional stimuli, educational psychologists make assessments on basis of the children's responses towards stimuli. This analysis helps in the identification of children's social, behavioral and learning issues that impede their learning process.

In current times, the field of educational psychology has expanded beyond elementary and preschool school classrooms to help adults in educational settings. Educational psychologists have greatly benefited adults with learning disabilities.

Although educational psychologists have helped people of all ages, still their role is different from general psychologists. Educational psychology is a branch of Psychology; whereas, general psychologists have a vast overview of the study of psychology as it deals with the study of psychological functioning and mental health. In this article, we will look at the critical role that these professionals have in the assessment of children in educational environments. Your local authority psychologist may well be able to provide a new perspective on the difficulties children are facing. As well as the assessment of children, they may well have some ideas about how to improve the education of children who are struggling in class. This might involve practical support such as improving the behavioural skills or active listening skills of the child. The duties of school psychologists are quite wide and in recent times, the demand has outgrown their supply. Most teachers will have a child in class who they believe could well do with the support of mental health professionals, unless an institution wants to turn to a private practice for advice, we are often left with our local authorities expertise.

What is the role of Educational Psychologists in schools?

The educational system of the 21st century is highly complex and there is no single learning strategy that works for every student.

For this reason, psychologists working in the area of education are focused on identifying and studying the learning strategies to better understand how persons learn and retain new knowledge.

Educational psychologists working in Educational Psychology Service apply human development theories to understand individual children learning styles and inform the teaching process. Although interaction with learners and teachers in educational settings is a major part of their work, it isn’t the only aspect of their job. Learning is a lifelong process. School is not the only place where people learn, people learn from social situations, at work, and even when they are doing simple household chores. Through examining how persons learn in various settings, educational psychologists endeavour to identify strategies and approaches to make the learning process more effective.

What does an educational psychologist do
What does an educational psychologist do

Where do Educational Psychologists work?

Educational psychologists can work in many environments. These mainly include:

  • Preschools;
  • Public and Independent Schools of primary, secondary and even postsecondary levels;
  • Learning centers and Community organizations;
  • Private or Government Research Work;
  • Private or Independent Consultant.

Generally, educational psychologists are in direct contact with children, but always in conjunction with the children’s teachers and parents. In some cases, they even work for children indirectly through the children’s teachers, parents, or child and adolescent mental health services. Sometimes, an Educational Psychology Service works in collaboration with other professionals for the betterment of the psychological wellbeing and social wellbeing of their clients.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, a school psychologist in the US has a median annual salary of $70,580.

Those who have worked as speech or language therapists, literacy tutor, care worker, assistant Psychologist, or Social Work Assistant in a social care setting and have a Psychology degree with a specialization in Educational Psychology Service have better chances of job hunting after the recruitment process and career prospects as an educational psychologist.

Can Educational Psychologists diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Educational Psychologists cannot make a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders themselves, but they can support children with Autism with any mental health issues that they may be experiencing and help them to access their learning.

It is because Autism is a set of neurological and developmental disorders which can only be formally diagnosed by a medically trained healthcare professional. And, Educational Psychologists are trained in psychology, but not trained to diagnose an autistic child at a medical practice.

Educational Psychologists can diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorders
Educational Psychologists can diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorders

Can an Educational Psychologist diagnose Dyspraxia and Dyslexia?

Yes, an Educational Psychologist is able to diagnose both Dyspraxia and Dyslexia. They may also recommend and devise strategies to assist children with any of these intellectual development disorders overcome any obstacles they may be facing in their learning and growth.

Can an Educational Psychologist diagnose children with ADHD?

This depends on the local authority and childcare setting the Educational Psychologist is working on. Some of them allow a person with a degree of Psychology and related experience to make a diagnosis of ADHD, others only approve the diagnosis of health care professionals with special training in psychological service.

If a child might have ADHD, the first port of call must be a Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCO) or a GP.

Educational Psychologists may recommend different learning strategies
Educational Psychologists may recommend different learning strategies

Can an Educational Psychologist help children with depression and other mental health difficulties?

Yes, Educational Psychologist roles involve assisting the special needs students to cope and manage a wide range of mental health problems such as depression, excessive anger and anxiety.

School psychologists frequently work through consultation with parents, school staff, and the children to improve outcomes for children and devise techniques that can help to overcome the obstacles mental health conditions may create. These techniques mostly include mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and a variety of Learning Materials.

But, if a child development is delayed or he is possibly experiencing mental health problems, it is always better to consult with a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or GP for advice, rather than asking Educational Psychology professionals to provide services for special needs students at educational institutions.

Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator are often the first level of support
Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator are often the first level of support

What are major perspectives on Educational Psychology?

When considering a problem, child psychologists within the Educational Psychology Service tend to use different perspectives. These perspectives highlight specific factors that may affect how a student learns, including cognition, learned behaviors, experiences, and much more.

  1. The Behavioral Perspective: According to this perspective, each behaviour is learned by way of conditioning. It functions on the psychological theory that learning takes place when education professionals punish students for "bad" behavior and reward them for "good" behavior. Those who believe in Behavioral Psychology depend firmly on operant conditioning principles to explain how learning occurs.
  2. The Developmental Perspective: The Developmental Perspective is based on the phenomenon of how children gain new knowledge and skills as they develop. Jean Piaget's stages of cognitive development is an example of a developmental perspective that helps to understand how children grow intellectually.
  3. The Cognitive Perspective: The cognitive perspective accounts for how things like motivations, emotions, beliefs and memories contribute to the process of learning. According to cognitive psychology, each person learns through the application of cognitive activities, not due to any external reward.
  4. The Constructivist Perspective: This approach focuses on how people actively construct their knowledge of the world. According to constructivists theory, cultural and social influences tend to account more for how people learn in a classroom setting.
  5. The Experiential Perspective: According to The Experiential Perspective, a person's own life experiences impact how he understands new information. This method is close to cognitive and constructivist perspectives because it considers the experiences, feelings and thoughts of the learner.

An Educational psychologist may also serve as Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator to examine people of all ages and investigate how they learn. While analyzing the cognitive, social and emotional development of children, they use their knowledge of Psychology to suggest the most effective interventions on basis of children's reaction to stimuli. Educational Psychology Professors use their knowledge of child development to identify behavioral, social and learning issues that impede children’s learning.