Education for the ears

Podcasters Lucinda Powell (Psychology in the Classroom) and Shahana Knight (The Therapeutic Teacher) on their work.

I don’t profess to be an expert in any field of psychology but having taught it for 15 years in London and Oxfordshire schools, I am passionate about ensuring teachers understand how psychology can help inform and improve their practice. Podcasting can be that bridge. 

Since September 2017, I have been working as an Educational Consultant specialising in the links between psychology and education, with a focus on mental health and wellbeing. I started my podcast, ‘Psychology in the Classroom’, in September 2020, and have been producing it weekly ever since. Whilst I started by doing a mix of solo episodes and interviews, I quickly ran out of things to say so it has become an interview podcast. It has been listened to all around the world and I have had some amazing guests. 

The best thing about podcasts for teachers is that they are accessible anytime, anywhere – on their daily commute, when they are exercising, when they are cooking supper. Teachers can choose exactly what they listen to, curating their own personal CPD. And psychological research has so much to offer education. Schools are notoriously complex environments and psychology can contribute to understanding the social context, the cognitive learning processes, the individual differences, the developmental stages that may boundary learning, how mental health can impact learning, and so much more. 

Yet invaluable psychological research is inaccessible to most teachers for a host of reasons. Firstly, it is often behind a paywall that schools and teachers can’t get past (though open source access is getting better). It is also full of jargon – the first six months of embarking on a Psychology course is essentially learning a new language. To read and critically evaluate research requires a degree of research literacy.  Most teachers do not come from a social science background (their degrees are usually in their subject specialism, especially at secondary) and they will have little, if any, experience of research during their teacher training. Simply put, this means that many cannot grasp the more nuanced aspects of psychological research.  

Even if they have had this training once they are in the job, teachers are notoriously time poor and so having the energy and time required to find, read and digest the research is usually impossible. As such, teachers have to wait for someone else to read the research and translate it into language that they can understand and make it applicable to the classroom. This is no easy feat as the subtlety of research can be lost in translation, trainers can have other agendas, independent consultants may not fully understand the research themselves, and training programmes can lag several years behind the research. This can lead to pervasive and enduring misunderstandings within the education system (yes, there are some out there still talking about learning styles!).

Perhaps one silver lining of the pandemic has been that it has opened up access to research in many ways. Teachers are now more flexible and creative about where they get their CPD from. It has been a boom time for podcasting – pretty much anyone with a microphone and an interest can make one and push it out onto major platforms such as Spotify, Amazon and Apple.  

I present at conferences, run teacher training courses, and work as a coach on the School Mental Health Award at the Carnegie School of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools. I am also an associate lecturer and the lead tutor for the Psychology PGCE for Initial Teacher Training at Coventry University. I have led the Oxfordshire Schools Mental Health and Wellbeing Network but will be returning to the classroom in September 2022. My next project is to follow a large trial from start to finish over the next four years, with the aim of helping teachers really understand the research process. I am always on the lookout for new guests, so please do get in touch if you would like to join me to discuss your research.

- Lucinda Powell is an Educational Consultant. 

www.changingstatesofmind.com

Podcast (iTunes, Spotify, Amazon): Psychology in the Classroom.

 

Teachers generally share one common goal – to make a difference to the lives of children. However, making a difference has become a lot harder over the last five years, with increasing numbers of children struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. Staff are feeling disempowered and deskilled and they are finding it hard to know how to respond. Conventional behaviour management strategies are not working and, as a result, many schools are realising that they need professional guidance which is underpinned by psychological research. 

For me, there is so much that needs to change about the way we respond to children who are struggling, and we must become trauma informed in our approaches. Teachers can make a real, tangible difference through their day-to-day responses to children, they just need to know how! But the way in which the information is communicated holds significant importance as it directly impacts whether there will be a change in practice, and therefore, outcomes for the children. Although there is a lot of relevant research out there, there is often no obvious connection to the day-to-day experiences teachers are having. How does neuroscience link to why Jack is pulling down the display or why Sarah hides under tables? Why does shouting not work as a method of responding to a distressed child? 

Psychology most definitely has a place in education. It can be used to raise standards and explain why old methods and approaches are outdated and no longer work. It has the power to help change culture and shift mindsets, if particular attention is paid to how the information is communicated. It makes the difference between something that resonates, and something that is forgotten and cannot be applied. We must begin to close the gap between theory and practice if we want psychology to have any tangible impact. 

I work with schools to help close the gap between theory and practice in a practical, tangible way. My aim is to make trauma informed, attachment aware theory relevant in the classroom setting. I help head teachers roll out whole-school approaches to change mindsets and culture, to ensure children are guided through their emotional states in a connective way. This helps raise their emotional intelligence and their own awareness of their mental health, as well as upskilling the teachers. 

Podcasts can be a great way to weave research and theory into CPD, to ensure it is easy to understand and is relevant to day-to-day scenarios. I have witnessed the significant impact this can have on the lives of children. 

- Shahana Knight is a Childhood trauma specialist.

www.tpctherapy.co.uk

Podcast (iTunes, Spotify, Amazon): The Therapeutic Teacher Podcast with Shahana Knight.

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber