Training educational psychology professionals for work engagement in a context of inequality and trauma in South Africa
Educational psychology professionals working in highly unequal societies require training that prepares them to resile professionally irrespective of on-going hardship and a lack of policy-level support. Educational psychology professionals who had participated in a school-based intervention study in a remote high school during their training at university-level were sampled to generate retrospective data on their work engagement experiences during the school-based training. A third of the population who had participated in school-based academic service-learning training (for whom current contact details were available) were purposively sampled (n = 38, female = 31, male = 7) to be representative of diversity (training objective, year group, home language, gender). Subsamples included academic service-learning educational psychology professionals (n = 22, female = 18, male = 4) and educational psychology research graduates (n = 16, female = 13, male = 3). Retrospective qualitative data sources include open-ended questions (verbatim transcriptions of audio-recorded interviews, electronically captured questionnaires), and long-term observation data (visual data and researcher journals) of school-based training. From thematic analysis it appeared that professionals recollect experiencing work engagement (positive emotions, involvement and dedication) during their training with minimal instances of student-related occupational distress ascribed to contextual and diversity constraints. Data was silent on work engagement from research graduates, with an instance of cynicism regarding long-term benefits to clients of short-term services. Academic service learning in a challenging education setting afforded educational psychology professionals training opportunities to be energized, absorbed in developing professional efficacy to address barriers, and empathetically committed to contribute professionally. Implications of training educational psychology professionals for work in transferable challenging school settings are discussed.
Keywords: academic service learning; challenging education setting; educational psychology training; inequality; rural school; work engagement