Psychologists in Zimbabwean School Psychological Services: Support roles and practices in the implementation of inclusive education
The focus of this study was to determine Southern African and international perspectives on the relationship between inclusive education and educational psychological support services. The study also sought in-depth information regarding how Zimbabwean trainee/educational psychologists understand their roles and how this understanding shapes their support toward the implementation of inclusive education practices. This was done by assessing the Southern African perspectives on the relationship between inclusive education and education support services; determining international perspectives on the relationship between inclusive education and educational psychological services; exploring the perceptions of Zimbabwean trainee/educational psychologists regarding the training on their support roles and responsibilities in inclusive education and determining educational psychologists’ support roles regarding the implementation of inclusive education in Zimbabwe. The structure of the thesis constitutes four research articles, of which two focus on the literature review, and the last two on the empirical component of the study. Articles 1 and 2 comprise review articles to enlighten the context. For the purposes of Article 3, the participants were 13 trainee/educational psychologists from three provinces who volunteered to participate in the study. Focus group interviews were held at these three provinces that house the trainee/educational psychologists. The study used a qualitative design based on a phenomenological perspective. Inductive thematic content analysis was used to analyse the data. For Article 4, in-depth phenomenological interviews were done with 16 purposefully selected participants (13 trainee/educational psychologists located at three administrative offices and three experts on inclusion from three universities) and data was transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed. Monthly/annual reports from trainee/educational psychologists were used as additional reference material. The results of Article 3 indicate that trainee/educational psychologists had known their support roles through masters’ degree programmes, a single 2016 workshop, personally guided reading and collaborative work with workmates. Their views indicated inadequate training and supervision, and negative feelings toward the internship after the master's programme, toward the payment of supervisors, toward continuing professional development points, lack of degree programmes in Master of Science in Educational Psychology, and toward location of conferences. Three major themes emerged from the support roles in Article 4: (1) diverse views on inclusion; (2) critical roles, successful and unsuccessful experiences in implementing inclusive education; and (3) impact of experiences on rendering support services. Key findings indicate that critical roles of advocacy and consultation, assessment and placement, and in-service training were viewed as successful, whereas negative teacher attitudes and limited resources were viewed as barriers toward the implementation of inclusive education practices. The impact of experiences indicates inadequacy in the provision of support services. Annual reports of trainee/educational psychologists further indicated inadequate ongoing training on inclusive education practices. Recommendations for improving training included educational psychologists advocating for training initiatives through the Zimbabwe Psychological Association. The use of social media, Skype for example, where distance is a challenge, could be helpful for such training initiatives. However, continuous professional development points should focus on registered educational psychologists with at least a master’s degree qualification so that they acquire advanced practical skills instead of those with an Honours degree in Psychology. Continuous professional development needs to focus on diverse areas such as psycho-educational assessment, consultation, intervention, and programme planning, and evaluation; and has to be self-directed. Interns with different Master of Science degrees in Counselling Psychology and Community Psychology need to be recognised by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, the Department of School Psychological Services and Special Needs Education so that they work collaboratively. There is a need to broaden trainee/educational psychologists’ roles by assisting schools in developing policies on inclusion that mandate learners with disabilities to be involved in the general curriculum, and by working with other government and non-governmental organisations in making schools safe and friendly to all learners. To have high-quality and appropriately trained professionals, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education needs to collaborate with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education so that ongoing training of trainee/educational psychologists is done by educational psychologists at local universities in each of the ten provinces.
- Education