Educational psychology in Africa has a rich and colorful history. In sub-Saharan Africa educational psychology, as both a profession and a scientific field, is particularly vibrant. The emergence of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa shows how the science and the profession has pirouetted in ways that could support mental health and learning in African contexts in innovative ways. While emanating within Western cultures, educational psychology has been adapted and, perhaps, been deeply enriched in the African context. After the initial establishment of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa, three broad eras of theoretical development are evident: (a) the era of ecosystems and community, (b) the era of inclusion, and (c) the era of strength-based and positive approaches. During the era of ecosystems and community, emergent theories challenged the dominance of the individualist paradigms in educational psychology and provided broadened conceptualizations of the factors that impact mental health and effective learning. The role of communities was also given prominence. During the era of inclusion, the medical model was challenged as the primary foundation for legitimizing educational psychological assessments and interventions. Educational psychologists moved toward rights-based approaches that championed the rights of vulnerable populations and the creation of inclusive learning environments. The inclusion of children with disabilities influenced policy development in multiple sub-Saharan countries and expanded the dialogues on how best to support learning for all children. During the era of strength-based and positive approaches, theoretical and pragmatic approaches that forefront strengths, capacities, and possibilities started to develop. This era signified yet another departure from previous hegemonic paradigms in that educational psychology moved beyond the individual level, toward more systemic approaches, but then also used approaches that focused more on strengths and the mobilization of resources within these systems to address challenges and to optimize educational psychological support. These eras in the development of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa created optimal opportunities to respond to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In terms of SDGs, educational psychology responds primarily to Global Goal 3 (health and well-being) and Global Goal 4 (quality education). At the same time it supports the Global Goals of no poverty (1), gender equality (5), decent work and economic growth (8), reduced inequalities (10), sustainable cities and communities (11), and building partnerships for the goals (17).
Shridevi Rao, Nadya Pancsofar, and Sarah Monaco
A rich literature on family-professional collaboration with families and caregivers of children and youth with disabilities has developed in the United States. This literature identifies key barriers that impede family-professional relationships including deficit-based perceptions of families and children with disabilities, narrow definitions of “family” that limit the participation of some members such as fathers or grandparents, and historical biases that constrain the participation of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families. Principles for building collaborative relationships with families include honoring the strengths of the family, presuming competence in the child and the family, valuing broad definitions of “family,” and understanding the ecology of family routines and rituals. Practices that help facilitate family-professional relationships are building reciprocal partnerships with various caregivers in the family including fathers as well as extended family members, adopting a posture of cultural reciprocity, using a variety of modes of communication with families, and involving families in all aspects of the special education process such as assessment, planning, prioritizing of skills, and identification of interventions. Pivotal moments in the family’s journey through their child’s schooling, including early intervention and transition to post-school environments, provide opportunities to build and strengthen family-professional relationships. Each of these moments has the potential to involve families in a variety of processes including assessment, planning, and articulating the goals and vision for their child/youth. A focus on strengths, collaborative partnerships, and family agency and voice is at the core of strong family-professional relationships.
Vera Munde and Peter Zentel
Designing education for learners with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD) is a special challenge for both professionals and researchers. Learners with PIMD experience a combination of significant intellectual and other disabilities, such as motor and sensory impairments. Heterogeneity in terms of combination and severity of disabilities is a common characteristic of this group. In the past, learners in this target group were described as not being able to learn due to the complexity of their disabilities. Recent studies do provide evidence that learners with PIMD are in fact able to learn, however, evidence-based practice for designing education for this group of learners is still scarce. One reason could be the difficulties associated with conducting intervention studies such as randomized controlled trials or controlled clinical trials with this target group. Most studies are designed as single-case studies. Hence, only a small number of studies have investigated topics such as communication, assessment, and teaching curricula to generate knowledge about the education of these learners. The most important conclusion of these studies is that all teaching activities need to be designed according to the strengths and needs of each individual learner with PIMD.
Poi Kee Low
With the growing diversity of professions working in schools, interdisciplinary partnership and collaboration are growing quickly the world over. Apart from traditional teaching and learning concerns, awareness of children and youth mental health issues and socio-emotional wellbeing, grew readily since the 2000s. Rising in tandem with this trend is the number of psychologists, social workers, and counselors joining educators to support children and young persons in schools. Challenges such as misconception of roles, differing perceptions as well as cross-disciplinary misunderstanding threaten to prevent concerned professionals in working collaborative to help children and young persons in need. Fortunately, this aspect of interdisciplinary partnership in schools gains the much-needed attention in research from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and the Americas. Models and frameworks suggesting best practices for interdisciplinary collaboration emerged in school psychology, counseling and social work literature. Also growing in tandem is research in methods of measurement and evaluation of such collaboration as well as studies on pre-service professional training on interdisciplinary collaborative skills in the related disciplines.
Carmel Hobbs, Dane Paulsen, and Jeff Thomas
Complex trauma experienced in childhood has detrimental impacts on the brain, learning and socio-moral development, the effects of which can last long into adulthood. A growing body of research emphasizes how all school teachers, regardless of the educational context, should expect to have students in their classroom who are affected by complex trauma. Teachers therefore require an understanding of how trauma affects their students, and a skillset that allows them to support and respond effectively to these students. However, multiple studies have found that teachers feel that they have not received sufficient training, and subsequently feel inadequately equipped to meet the needs of trauma-affected students in their classrooms. Although many Initial Teacher Education programs incorporate some curriculum on child maltreatment, this is typically focused on identifying and reporting child abuse, as opposed to how sustained and severe maltreatment can lead to complex trauma, which affects learning, and social development in students. Increasing understanding of how trauma affects the brain, and the implications this has for young people in school has continued to grow since the 1990s. This has contributed to a growing trend of multidisciplinary teams combining education and wellbeing models in schools to cater to the most vulnerable students in their respective communities. Students who have experienced trauma may appear to be deliberately misbehaving in the classroom, disengaged or disinterested in learning, and can struggle to develop skills that strengthen positive relationships with school staff and other students. Unsurprisingly, exposure to trauma impacts a young person’s academic performance, attendance, and likelihood of completion. It is clear that schools are important settings where the effects of trauma have a substantial impact on the lives of students, particularly when the effects of trauma are misunderstood. Nevertheless, schools have the potential to be one of the most powerful places for buffering the negative impacts of complex childhood trauma through their capacity to provide opportunities for all students to experience positive, trusting relationships, be cared for, and experience predictability, consistency and safety. A trauma-informed approach in school settings involves understanding how trauma affects students and provides a framework for responding to students rather than blaming them for their behavior. Trauma-informed practice is not an intervention, and it does not have an end point. It is a process, and a holistic way of working that involves understanding and attending to the specific needs of individuals with trauma-affected childhoods. Central to all trauma-informed approaches is the importance of strong, trusting, consistent and predictable relationships between an adult and a trauma-affected child. It is within this space that opportunities to repair dysregulated stress responses, and disruptive attachment styles can take place.
Josep Gustems-Carnicer and Caterina Calderon
Modern society has achieved levels of well-being linked to economic prosperity, better and more extended education, and greater life expectancy. For individuals, improvements in well-being impact positively on friendships and other social relationships, marriage, and work satisfaction. There is no doubt that the future of society depends in great measure on the teachers who work with future citizens. Unfortunately, too many teachers in developed countries suffer from chronic, work-related stress, which negatively affects their health, life satisfaction, vocation, and professional stability in the education system. Ensuring the well-being of teachers is essential to ensure that future generations of citizens receive the best help in their intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal growth. For teachers, certain personality traits can mitigate the effects of stress. Mindfulness and coping strategies can also help to minimize the negative effects of stress, but the most effective way to help student teachers deal with stress is to include specific programs throughout teacher education courses in universities. Starting university is traditionally considered to be a period characterized by many changes that can cause stress among students, such as separation from one’s family, entering the job market, negotiating the student workload, changing address, and attempting to make new friendships. In teacher education, universities are in a position both to improve their students’ lives and to give them information about how to negotiate future professional difficulties. Teacher education programs must maintain constant interest in enhancing the academic performance of the students, and their affective conditions must enrich the exercise and development of students’ virtues and strengths, at the same time as students are offered tools for their working future. The actions promoted to help students develop these virtues and strengths should be accompanied by an effective tutorial action plan, a psychological health service for students, activities to help students acquire self-awareness of character strengths, a mentoring plan, tutoring among students, teamwork, programs to develop coping strategies, the organization of educational material, discipline, full class control, programs to optimize students’ time management, guidance on negotiating the increasing levels of bureaucracy in education, creative exercises to compensate for the lack of resources, collective exercise (sports), artistic activities, programs of mindfulness, religious practice, and volunteer work. Education students need to have a university experience that provides them with numerous opportunities to develop values, competences, attitudes, knowledge, beliefs, an identity, and coping strategies that will help them to be better professionals, more conscientious citizens, and happier individuals.