Classroom Psychology

Dr Cora Sargeant

What to expect

When Cora becomes involved with a young person in school she will start by meeting with the child’s parents and school staff and the young person themselves (if they are old enough and wouldn’t find the meeting too intimidating or embarrassing) in a meeting known as an initial consultation. If the young person would find the meeting difficult or if they are quite young Cora would meet them separately or talk to them in class. There are four stages to Cora’s involvement with every young person: Initial consultation, information gathering, planning meeting, and review meetings.

The initial consultation is an opportunity for Cora to meet everyone involved and to understand the reason that she has been invited to become involved. Then Cora will talk with everyone to understand, together, the nature of the problem that is making things difficult for the young person at the heart of her involvement. Cora’s aim by the end of that consultation is to have a good sense of the problem, and together with everyone at the meeting to have a number of ideas about what might be going on and a few plans for how to test those ideas or hypotheses.

The second stage to Cora’s involvement will be to test the ideas about what might be at the root of the problem. If the child is at primary school or younger Cora will often conduct a classroom observation. In a classroom observation Cora will introduce herself to the young person in question, hopefully make them comfortable, and watch to see how they respond to the content and delivery of the learning on offer in class. Cora might sit with the child and work together a little and will talk with the class teacher as she observes; the aim is to develop an understanding of what is happening in a fully transparent way. Cora will sometimes use assessment tools with the child in question but only after consulting with their parents about what that might entail. The usual length of an observation is two hours and often involves observing both in class and during break times.

The third stage to Cora’s involvement is to have another meeting with everyone involved including the young person if appropriate. This meeting is termed a planning meeting and involves Cora summarising everything that has happened so far and agreeing with the group a ‘running hypothesis’ that is an idea about what is causing the problem that fits with all of the available information and that describes the problem in enough detail that solutions become obvious. The main aim of this meeting is to generate creative and pragmatic solutions to try to solve the problem. The ethos of this meeting and indeed all of Cora’s involvement is that all children can succeed in school with a tailored education, so this meeting is designed to understand how we can tailor this child’s education to meet their educational needs and ensure that they are happy and successful in school.

Finally, Cora will meet with everyone again some weeks or sometimes months later to see the effect of the solutions that have been applied and to see to what extent the problem that elicited her involvement has been solved. Overall, she will be most keen to see whether the young person is successful, happy, and learning in school. If the problem remains, and the young person is still struggling then Cora will use the meeting to review alternative hypotheses that can inform new creative and practical solutions, continuing the cycle of involvement through consultation, information gathering, and problem solving until the problem can be considered solved. Once the problem is solved then Cora will withdraw her involvement but usually remains available should school staff or parents wish for her to return.

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