Successful interventions with difficult pupil behaviour in primary schools : a critique of consultative practice between educational psychologists and teachers from the perspective of applied behavioural analysis, organisational dynamics and attribution shift
This two-part study examines practice by educational psychologists who draw upon behavioural psychology when consulting with teachers of pupils of primary age range deemed to be displaying difficult behaviour. The first section examines the content and effectiveness of strategies and aspects of the consultative relationship by means of a postal questionnaire completed by a sample of 68 educational psychologists from 13 Local Education Authorities. Unlike published accounts of successful interventions, this questionnaire study examines practice with a variety of outcomes. Results show that educational psychologists favour approaches that frequently incorporate contingent teacher praise but that there are few grounds to warrant concerns about the 'dangers of a mindless technology' (Berger 1979) or 'behavioural overkill' (Wheldall 1981). The second section of the study concentrates upon the teachers' perspectives and is based upon a structured interview with 24 primary range teachers in 8 LEAs. The teachers were identified by local educational psychologists as having taken part in consultations concerning the difficult behaviour of a pupil in their class. The sample was also selected so that each had experienced successful outcomes following a recommended intervention that derived to some extent from behavioural psychology. Using a grounded theory approach, these outcomes are shown to be far more closely related to factors such as staff culture, organisational boundaries and inter-personal dynamics than is normally recognised in the literature on behavioural interventions. The study concludes with a formal statement of the emergent grounded theory in respect of successful behavioural consultations in primary schools.