Researcher says non-conforming students don’t need ‘fixing’

A Victoria University psychology researcher says students who don’t ‘fit in’ at school – socially, academically or behaviourally – don’t necessarily require ‘fixing’ by school authorities.

Dr Tim Corcoran, a senior research fellow in critical psychology at VU’s Victoria Institute says that despite a recent trend for inclusive education in which all students are expected to have equal access and opportunities to learn, many schools can only accommodate and reward student similarities and not differences.

In extreme cases like 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 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.

Dr Corcoran published a more comprehensive discussion of this topic on The Conversation. 


Victoria University will be hosting ‘Righting the Ship’ conference  for teachers, school counsellors, psychologists and student support staff in late March 2015. These one-day workshops  in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth will explore the impact of psychology in education.

See all news