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The UCL approach

The UCL approach is characterised by three elements that underpin all aspects of the programme:

Click here or on the image below to see the DECPsy years 1-3 curriculum outline

curriculum outlines

Our commitment to the integration of theory, research and practice is reflected in our focus on evidence-based practice. This can be seen from the research-based approach taken to practice issues in a core course text written by members of the UCL team which you are recommended to consult in preparing your application (Frederickson, N. & Cline, T. (2009) Special Educational Needs, Inclusion and Diversity. 2nd edition. Buckingham: OU Press). An illustration of active promotion of theory into practice is provided by the comprehensive sets of assessment resources compiled from the psychological literature for use in practice by educational psychologists and SENCOs

    1. Frederickson, N. & Cameron R.J. (Eds.) (1999) Psychology In Education Portfolio. Windsor: NFER Nelson). Among the areas covered are:
    • Social Skills and Emotional Intelligence (Norah Frederickson and Beverley Graham).
    • Learning Environments (Norah Frederickson and Jey Monsen).
    • Memory and Listening Comprehension (Sandra Dunsmuir and Mark Turner).
    • Metacognition and Self-regulation (Sean Cameron and Alan Reynolds).

    2. Frederickson, N. & Dunsmuir, S. (Eds.) (2009) Measures of Children's Mental Health and Psychological Wellbeing: A Portfolio for Education and Health Professionals. London: Granada Learning. Among the areas covered are:
    • Belonging (Norah Frederickson and Joan Baxter).
    • Distress (Sandra Dunsmuir and Peter Fuggle).
    • Resilience (Eamon McCrory and Sean Cameron).
    • Social Behaviour (Roger Booker and Adrian Faupel).

    We are always seeking to identify the implications for education of exciting new developments in psychology and are very fortunate to be able to draw on professors in the UCL Department of Psychology. As awareness grows of the implications of research in neuropsychology for education, UCL will be at the forefront in these exciting developments (see Blakemore, S.J. & Frith, U. (2005) The Learning Brain: Implications for Education. Oxford: Blackwell).


    Innovation and excellence in teaching and learning in educational psychology at UCL have been recognised with grants and awards both inside UCL and more broadly within the discipline. For example, in 2009 Dr. Sandra Dunmsuir received the prestigious UCL Provosts' Teaching Award in recognition of an outstanding contribution to teaching and learning at UCL. Two innovations of particular importance to the Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology are our use of problem-based learning as a core approach and our use of ICT to facilitate effective and efficient access to a learning community of peers and tutors.

    Problem-based learning (PBL) involves using practice problems as the starting point and focus for learning. Initially problems are tackled by tutor-supported teams of learners who actively and purposefully seek out relevant information needed to address the problem scenario from tutors, libraries and other sources. This contrasts with traditional approaches to learning in higher education where information is first delivered through lectures or accessed through reading and possibly applied to a real-life issue only at a later stage. In recent years PBL has become increasingly popular in medical and other professional education because of the growing recognition that rapidly changing practice demands require more than a comprehensive knowledge base. It is crucial also to know how to keep ones professional knowledge base up to date appropriately, apply it to solve problems and function effectively as part of a team.

    The PBL approach adopted at UCL is designed to build on and utilise your prior knowledge of psychology and work experience. It utilises and develops critical analysis, self directed learning strategies and a range of abilities: for example, to critique, debate and collaborate; to tolerate uncertainty and work with ambiguity. You will be treated as a partner in the learning process and involved in ongoing evaluation of all aspects of the programme and of your own learning.

    A second important area of innovation focuses on the exploration of teaching and learning ‘on-line’ in educational psychology. UCL has initiated and led the national development of web-based resources for learning, teaching and assessment in the area of competency in psychological testing. This innovation attracted funding from the Higher Education Academy and the involvement of all programmes of professional training in educational psychology. Each course member is provided with a university-insured lap-top and web-cam on loan for your exclusive use throughout your training at UCL. This supports high levels of contact with tutors and peers, particularly in years 2 and 3 of the programme, while minimising travel time and costs.


    A particular strength of the UCL course lies in the clear guiding frameworks for professional practice, which are provided in areas such as consultation and problem solving. These are widely accepted as core skills of applied psychologists and at UCL you will be provided with a coherent problem analysis structure, which offers an accountable rationale for action at each stage of work with clients. A number of nationally important contributions to the development of professional practice in this area have been made by staff on the UCL team. (See Monsen, J. & Frederickson, N. (2008). The Problem Analysis Framework: A guide to decision making, problem solving and action within applied psychological practice. In B. Kelly, L. Woolfson, & J. Boyle (Eds.) Frameworks for Practice in Educational Psychology: A Textbook for Trainees and Practitioners. London: Jessica Kingsley. (pp69-93).)

    There is increasing demand for direct intervention work by educational psychologists, particularly in situations where children are presenting with challenging behaviour. A major focus will be placed on enabling you to develop competence in Behavioural Interventions and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) skills, equipping you to design, deliver and evaluate programmes for individual children, groups of children, families and schools.

    You will also have opportunities to become involved in ongoing areas of active research. In recent years course members have contributed to the evaluation of a range of interventions including emotional intelligence programmes and inclusion initiatives. At UCL we seek both to offer you a rigorous grounding in core professional competencies and to enthusiastically involve you in some of the creative possibilities which will push forward the boundaries of practice in educational psychology.

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