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Educational psychology practice as research: a little regarded aspect of Cyril Burt's legacy

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Richard Parker


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The educational psychology profession has repeatedly – and perhaps to little real effect – agonised over its purpose and manner of working. This article wonders whether some of this continuing difficulty may arise from what the profession seems to pay little obvious attention to – our understanding of issues of truth, the nature of the world in which we live and how we can know about it, all of which have clear consequences for how we shape and carry out our professional duties. In 1964 Cyril Burt, as Patron of the Association of Educational Psychologists, gave a speech to the Association’s conference. In it he covered many aspects of his work, including that which ultimately led to the widely reported and much discussed furore. Hidden deep within this speech is a phrase which I believe has much significance for the modern profession of applied educational psychology. Burt said this: “all my work … was of the nature of research. Even the individual cases…had each to form the subject of a small intensive investigation”. I will argue that we can consider our work, how it arises and is shaped through the lens Burt has provided in this short phrase. I believe there are strong parallels between effective research practice and appropriate professional applied psychology practice. My aim in this paper is to share this thinking through considering how professional practice can be shaped by our views of what the world is, how we can know about it, what forms of practice that makes available for us, what we choose to do, and what it is to work ethically.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Parker R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Educational & Child Psychology

Year: 2013

Volume: 30

Issue: 3

Pages: 84-95

Print publication date: 01/09/2013

ISSN (print): 0267-1611

Publisher: The British Psychological Society