A Victoria University psychology researcher says students who don’t ‘fit in’ at school – socially, academically or behaviourally – shouldn’t necessarily be ‘corrected’ by school authorities.
Dr Tim Corcoran, a research fellow in critical psychology at VU’s Victoria Institute says many schools accommodate and reward conforming similarities over differences, despite a recent trend for inclusive education in which all students are expected to have equal access and opportunities to learn.
In extreme cases of not following teaching instruction, truancy, falling behind, or disrupting the class, school psychologists may be called in to ‘fix’ or ‘correct’ children.
“Most teachers are limited in how they can manage students who don’t ‘fit in’ because of time pressures or imposed performance standards such as NAPLAN testing,” he says. “Students who do not fall within the social, academic or behavioural expectations of the school may also face punitive actions like detentions or suspension.”
Dr Corcoran, who spent more than a decade as a secondary school psychologist himself, says the majority of students he saw were those the school was looking to permanently exclude simply because they didn’t ‘fit in.’
“Rather than seeing struggles with teachers, school, family or classwork as symptomatic of personal deficits, it is far more hopeful for all involved to shift perception and recognise difference as an invitation to create more inclusive communities,” he says.
Victoria University will be hosting ‘Righting the Ship’ conference for teachers, school counsellors, psychologists and student support staff in late March. These one-day workshops in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth will explore the impact of psychology in education.
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