Secondary School Staff’s Understanding of the Relationship between Problem Behaviour and Language Difficulties

Prof Doc Thesis

Ramsay, Janet Marshall 2015. Secondary School Staff’s Understanding of the Relationship between Problem Behaviour and Language Difficulties. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London Psychology
AuthorsRamsay, Janet Marshall
TypeProf Doc Thesis

The high incidence of undiagnosed language difficulties in students experiencing problem behaviours was the genesis of this exploratory study. The study considered how adults supporting these students understood the relationship between behaviour problems and language development.
A mixed methods methodology was adopted and the study was located within a critical realist ontological stance and a constructionist epistemological position. Semi-structured interviews and a Q sort were used for data collection. Eight participants were interviewed and 20 participants completed the Q sort. The participants were Special Educational Needs Coordinators and Pastoral Managers based in local authority schools in the North of England.
Thematic analysis was used to analyse the interview data set and the Q sort was analysed by an inverted factor analysis with a qualitative interpretation of the resultant factors. Finally, an integrated analysis using triangulation was conducted and this identified three meta-themes which indicated that despite a range of recent initiatives, school staff continued to have a limited understanding of the relationship between problem behaviours and language difficulties. School staff perceived their expertise to be within their subject areas and pedagogy and there was a reliance on previous experience and existing practice when considering causal relationships and interventions.

The study has implications for Educational Psychology practice at casework and systems levels as well as for commissioning of services. Educational Psychologists (EPs) need to be aware that how school staff understand the relationship between behaviour and language may preclude the identification of language difficulties, as may their own theoretical lens. EPs can promote the development of data collection systems and interventions for language skills as well as supporting the initial training and continuing professional development of teachers in this area. Commissioners of services need to include EPs in multi-disciplinary teams to conduct comprehensive assessments of students with behaviour difficulties.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintAug 2015
Publication process dates
Deposited17 Mar 2016
Publisher's version
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