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Psychosocial Learner Support Summer 2012

What is Psychosocial Learner Support? We’re re-thinking learning support!! This is an approach to learning support

Inside This Issue 1

What is Psychosocial Learner

that focusses on the development of social relationships as a way of building

individual and collective resiliency. This relational approach is a new way of thinking about learner support. A




Putting Ideas into Practice

educational challenges are partly psychological and partly social. This is also


Case Study: Placement Review











a highly context-sensitive approach.

Rather than seeing learner support as the provision of a menu of services, and a collection of materials, a psychosocial view invests in the class as a

A Social-Identity Theory of

social group with knowledge. We facilitate the development of group


relationships by helping learners articulate their concerns to you and to each

Psychosocial Approaches

other. This helps you identify socially-appropriate solutions while addressing learners as a provider that ‘listens.’

from Elsewhere 3

Psychosocial Induction & Transition


Psychosocial Approaches to


Putting Ideas into Practice Shared Thinking is our transferable and measurable practice to help you implement a psychosocial approach. Our flexible and structured techniques


help you to deliver this innovative psychosocial approach in your setting.

Workshop Event: Student-

We are Psychosocial Learning Designers. This means that we develop

Generated Induction

bespoke approaches, using our transferable Shared Thinking practice, to


Contact Us


Our Services

create specific social solutions for learning. Our work is focused upon organizing interaction aimed at the social level. Our work originated from doctoral research carried out at the University of Glasgow. This developed into a consultancy working with a variety of different clients around the UK. We are based in Malton, North Yorkshire and we have experience of working

We are Psychosocial Learning Designers with an established practice

throughout the UK and overseas. Our clients have included old and new institutions. Through our consultancy, we have provided support to students as well as to academics and learning support teams.



A Social-Identity Theory of Learning People need to feel they are supported and that they belong. This helps them to build resilience. Our approach increases learning capacity and helps individuals cope with difficulty. Learners feel more able to tackle challenges as a result. It also gives learners hope for future similar situations in the future and improves mental health. We have based our work around social-identity theory developed by Henri

Support as the development of relationships between each individual and the social group

Tajfel. This is a theory from psychology about groups, group difference and group membership. We use this theory as a way of explaining the way our design and practice work. It is a theory that is context-sensitive and one that recognizes the relationship between individuals and groups in terms of the influence each has upon the other. We provide a consultancy around the theory and its application to learning and support.

Case Study: Placement Review Many courses require learners to carry out projects and work placements. Vocational and professional courses are examples of where placements are central to the development of knowledge and skills. We recently worked with one Education Department to support their students to reflect together on their teaching placements. Previously, the students reflected with tutors, supervisors and independently. Using the Shared Thinking practice, students were able to relate their











representation of their collective experience. That process created a resource for further investigation both with peers and with the tutor. For the first time ever, the tutor and students had a structure and a process for reflecting on diverse experiences together. The students continued their work with more confidence and less stress.

Psychosocial approaches to healthcare have helped some patients outlive those without the intervention

Psychosocial Approaches from Elsewhere Our approach can improve mental well-being. Elsewhere, psychosocial approaches are already popular. For example, in medicine it has become popular as an approach to patients diagnosed with cancer. Psychosocial approaches recognize that care needs to go beyond treatment and medication. The patient exists within a complex of social relationships. These may include family, friends and work colleagues. During and after treatment these relationships are important for recovery and

resilience. In some studies, cancer patients that participated in a psychosocial approach to care outlived those with no such support intervention. Spiegel et al (1989) in the Lancet is one example.*

* Spiegel, D., Kraemer, H., Bloom, J., & Gottheil, E. (1989). Effect of Psychosocial Treatment on Survival of Patients with Metastatic Breast Cancer. The Lancet, 334(8668), 888-891.



Psychosocial Induction & Transition Institutions are beginning to recognize that induction goes beyond Fresher’s Week. For some the process of acclimatization and adjustment is one that continues into each year of a course. Traditional induction covers the formal content and information that students need to know on arrival at the institution. Fresher’s Week tends to be a way of supporting social and emotional needs. Our psychosocial approach to induction and transition does not separate the factual information from the emotional needs of learners. It recognizes that learners are located within a social setting throughout their time at the institution. Our approach to induction builds relationships between each individual and regards the participants as a social group. Rather than telling participants the kinds of things they are likely to need, a psychosocial approach is invested in supporting a reflective dialogue amongst the participants. This way, learners communicate their needs to facilitators as well as to each other.

Psychosocial approaches to

The outcomes of this approach are that it helps to build cultural

induction & transition are engaging

engagement within the institution. It creates a sense of belonging and

and culturally appropriate

reduces anxiety. This approach is more likely to reduce drop-out.

Psychosocial Approaches to Reflection We take a relational view of reflective practice. Most popular approaches

to reflective practice involve the

learner thinking

back on their

experiences. Learners may review the products of their work. They may also make notes from a variety of experiences. We call that a psychological approach to reflective practice. Our psychosocial approach takes a different, albeit complementary approach that is as much social as psychological. In this new approach, the emphasis is placed upon relating one person’s experience to that of the group (including groups of up to 300 in a session). This is a much richer experience than traditional strategies for developing reflective practice. We develop the idea and provide a practice for reflection in its social context. This goes beyond the idea of independently reflecting upon the social context. Our Shared Thinking practice supports learners as they co-author a social biography containing different perspectives. This provides measures of development for groups. A psychosocial approach to reflective practice allows each participant to discuss and relate their thinking to that of other group members. It also provides a wider pool of perspectives as a resource for thinking. On



hand, it






conversation and the permission to include feelings as much as thoughts within the reflective process. Our provision has been tried and tested in a variety of settings. A psychosocial approach supports and develops the reflective capacity of each participant when compared with reflecting alone.



Workshop: Student-Generated Induction Royal Station Hotel, York (next to the railway station) Thursday July 19 th 2012 Why not experience our approach for yourself? We provide a clear wellstructured overview of the theory, design and practice. This is an opportunity to discuss and understand our innovative approach to student-generated induction and transition. See the booking form online at

Contact Us: Web Site: Tel: 01653-699348 Email:

Our Services As a consultancy, we are flexible in our provision. Our core services include: 

Training the Trainers – We provide experiential introductions for trainers to explore and develop psychosocial learning support

In-Company Workshops – We provide experiential workshops on design, theory and practice based on psychosocial approaches

to learning and support

In-Company Seminars – We provide presentations, with case studies of implementation based on your needs and interests.

Partnered Onsite Delivery – We partner departments, faculties and organizations to implement psychosocial approaches on-site with learners. This can include evaluation and research support.

Psychosocial Design Service – For those comfortable with delivering a Shared Thinking approach without support, we provide a design service. We help you organize and facilitate the right interaction for your facilities, audience and objectives.

Psychosocial Learning Support  

Summer 2012 Newsletter

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