Working with uncertainty: reflections of an educational psychologist on working with children

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This paper outlines a typical referral made on behalf of a school to the author, who is an educational psychologist. Regarded as the expert, the psychologist is consulted by the head of school with the expectation that answers can be given as to what works with the child in question. In the context of a runaway world, it is easy to look for that which is certain and for what works. The aim of the paper is to problematize the view of the expert psychologist who always knows and who can impart skills which will solve the problem. It seeks to put forward the idea of the professional who works with uncertainty and who acknowledges the importance of, rather than resists, the idea of not knowing. Notwithstanding the attempts of the institutions within which the professions work to standardize procedures and responses, and notwithstanding the attempts to leave nothing to chance, children still slip through the gaps. The author is suggesting that an openness to contingency and uncertainty will allow for the complex situations which constitute children's difficulties, and thus ensure better professionalism. In turn, learning to tolerate not knowing generates the professional who is in a constant process of becoming through her practice. Through thinking again, the practitioner is encouraged to be open to the complexities which children's situations offer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-180
Number of pages11
JournalEthics and Social Welfare
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • educational psychologists
  • Uncertainty
  • Dilemmatic Thinking
  • Children
  • Complexity
  • Professionalism
  • School
  • Expert Practitioner

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