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Just tell me when you don’t understand: an exploration of the role of educational psychologists in the assessment of children’s language

Nield, Frances 2015. Just tell me when you don’t understand: an exploration of the role of educational psychologists in the assessment of children’s language. DEdPsy Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Children with language difficulties generally have their needs recognised at an early age through the established systems for monitoring pre-school developmental milestones. This study is based, however, upon the argument that a child will be referred to an educational psychologist because someone has concerns about some aspect of development or progress, possibly relating to a range of overt issues or behaviours and, as language difficulties lie along a dimension from mild to severe, less-evident language difficulties could be a constituent feature in a more complex presentation. Therefore early consideration of a wide range of potentially contributory factors is central to the psychological approach to the initial formulation of a child’s learning profile. Review of the literature illustrates the importance of early detection of language needs to minimise both short-term and longer-term difficulties, and educational psychologists are arguably well-placed to contribute to this; however, they may not feel confident in the assessment of children’s language, for a range of possible reasons which are discussed in this study. Although there is some research into confidence in professional practice, particularly in the field of medicine, there appears to be no specific study into confidence of the educational psychologist in practice. A tentative view based upon the researcher’s professional experience, and supported by the tangentially related research, suggests that there may be some issues of confidence for some EPs in this area of professional practice. It is suggested that educational psychologists could develop confidence in response to a simple two-part intervention: provision of basic information in the area of language difficulties, and the use of a specific informal assessment task designed both as a rapport-building activity, and acting as a screen or triage to indicate whether more detailed assessment or referral to a specialist speech and language therapist might be indicated. The study employs a mixed methods design, based in a critical realism approach to research, and which generates both quantitative and qualitative data. Phase I of the study explored the EPs’ confidence, to determine whether there was a basis of informal evidence for the premise of the study. An initial baseline of EPs’ confidence was elicited through a survey questionnaire to the whole Educational Psychology Service. EPs from the service who volunteered to be part of the Phase II of the study then self-rated their confidence in this area at the outset of the study, in an individual interview with the researcher. This group of EPs also received training on language difficulties and on the application of a specific assessment activity. Phase III involved three academic terms for the EPs to apply the assessment method in their general casework. Phase IV was a further self-rating of each EP’s confidence at the end of the study as part of a further interview with the researcher, and Phase V was a group discussion with the participants, sharing views of the study and its strengths and weaknesses. The numerical data are presented in graphical form, and Thematic Analysis has been applied to interview data to identify the key themes from the study. At the conclusion of the study, all but two educational psychologists reported an increase in their confidence in this area (one dropped by one point, one remained at the same high level of confidence), and reported that the study had made a positive change to their practice in this area. Results are presented in full and a range of issues discussed; the study provides some initial and tentative conclusions leading to suggestions for the professional practice of educational psychologists.

Item Type: Thesis (DEdPsy)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords: Confidence, Competence, Performance, Professionalism, Professional standards, Clinical practice, Change, Organisational change, Improvement, Learning cycle, Learning curve, Learning theory, Language, Language development, Psycholinguistics, Lexicon, Vocabulary, Word finding, Word retrieval, Syntax, Grammar, Pragmatics, Delayed language, Disordered language, Phonology, Criteria for access, Specialist services, Speech and language therapy, Prevalence of language difficulties, Outcomes, Speech and language therapy outcomes, Impact
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2016 05:18

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