On the nature of teaching and learning: Contributions from psychological discourse

Year: 2012

Author: Corcoran, Tim

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


There is little doubt that educational professionals face mounting role-related pressures as they respond to changes in government and community expectation.  One area that continues to draw considerable attention is the reported incidence of students presenting with mental health concerns.  These concerns are often recognised as having the potential to impede an individual's own success as well as the behavioural climate of the classroom and school.  Pressures also arise from policy provisions which position schools as sites for work that could be seen to be outside the purview of education such as wellbeing or mental health promotion.  The qualitative study reported here canvassed the opinion of 17 educators in the West Yorkshire region of the UK regarding their capacity to contribute and respond to mental health-related events at their schools.  The analysis considered how this group of educational professionals discursively managed an understanding of mental health and its impact upon educational practice, in particular, learning.  The group appeared more comfortable when engaging the topic of emotion often connecting this to the broader wellbeing policy agenda in the UK e.g. Every Child Matters.  The concept of mental health, when seen to encroach upon therapeutics and clinical orientations, was positioned beyond the responsibility of educational professionals.  Here, the respondents suggested further training might facilitate the more circumspect and practicable task of identifying and supporting students presenting in schools with mental health concerns.  These results, whilst important to critical debate in the area, invite wider discussion regarding the kinds of psychological discourse employed within educational practice.  This paper forthrightly questions whether the use of dualistic notions of psychological individualism, the prevailing discourse, is the most appropriate means by which to enable teaching and learning.