Practising Educational Psychologist gives students the agency to question and make real change in the field.
Dr Victoria Lewis is an Educational Psychologist with twenty-two years of experience in the field. She is an Associate Fellow of The British Psychological Society and is also Co-Chair of their Division of Educational and Child Psychology.
It is safe to say that Dr Lewis is fully embedded in educational psychology practice and brings that experience directly to the classroom, as a University teacher at the University of Sheffield’s School of Education while also working as an applied educational psychologist within a Midlands Local Authority Service.
Dr Lewis’ role involves applying evidence-based psychology to support children and young people’s experiences within education, and one principle that she is helping to take forward is to facilitate a critical questioning approach to practices within educational psychology.
The aim is to reflect on educational psychology in the UK and to not be afraid of asking questions, this is something that Dr Lewis is keen for her educational psychology students to embed in their learning as soon as possible.
“At Sheffield, we encourage students from day one to build on their own experiences and to learn from one another and to question some of the practices that don’t feel as relevant in today’s diverse multicultural society.” Dr Lewis added. “It is so important that they don’t come to this University and learn that ‘this is the one way it’s done and here’s what you need to do to be an educational psychologist in the future.”
“Instead we appreciate that everyone starts the course with a range of viewpoints and experiences. So we encourage students to take an active role in their learning, applying their own thinking about psychology to real life practice-based situations and then help them reflect on this to support a way forward. We do this through building in regular and frequent discussion opportunities and allowing students to engage in much pragmatic as well as philosophical debate. There can be a number of ways to address an issue affecting pupils and to bring about positive change and students need the space to debate and challenge each other.”
As a highly collaborative endeavour – educational psychologists work with other educational and care professionals, local authorities, schools and other organisations – and need great skills in doing so, for there are naturally many professional challenges and tensions that arise.
As different teams work together under the direction of changing Government plans and policies, large societal changes can have big impacts on the way young people and children are supported.
“We have to ensure that the trainee psychologists are given the opportunity to practise consultation skills, not only through practising technical skills but in how they operate interpersonally with one another as well as various stakeholders. Educational psychology has much to contribute to difficult educational and societal issues. A core part of the role is to look to work preventatively at various levels of a system from individual to group, to whole school to strategic work. Educational psychologists work within a variety of domains, both specialist provision and mainstream and with an age range of 0-25 years.
Research and contributing to educational policy and practice needs to be recognised as another core contribution which is held by educational psychologists who are highly trained through a full time doctoral qualification. Over the last year, the Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) has been doing further work in relation to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, with engagement in an anti-racism implementation group, in addition to publishing our position with regards to educational inclusion and refreshing guidance on good practices within educational assessment. Mental health of learning communities, pupils and staff is another key area of work."
The DECP has produced several resources which are designed to support children and young people following the COVID-19 Pandemic. These include the back to school guidance which encompasses important areas such as developing staff and pupil and communities resilience; reminding people about the importance of play and supporting with transitions back into school and beyond. These areas will continue to be developed in collaboration with the wider membership and others and will also make important headway into how research and practice within educational psychology can support our thinking.
Dr Lewis said: “I hope that the students at Sheffield will feel that these are areas of interest that they can contribute to in terms of supporting key debates and practices within education but also contributing to research and publication.
“Working at the University as well as working as an applied psychologist who is also involved with the initiatives of the DECP is a tremendous privilege. I am exposed to such a wide range of people I can learn from in a professional field which I have immense passion for. It is wonderful to see the next generation of educational psychologists pushing forwards and advancing the field of Educational Psychology in order to make a positive difference for children and young people.”