Research Project | An Exploration of Educational Psychologists' Views on White Privilege

educational psychologist research project Apr 24, 2022
Research Project An Exploration of Educational Psychologists' Views on White Privilege

By Helena Wood, Trainee Educational Psychologist, at University College London, currently undertaking research to explore educational psychologists’ views on white privilege.

Hello! My name is Helena and I am a year 2 trainee educational psychologist, completing my training with University College London.

The summer prior to embarking on my doctoral training coincided with a number of significant and highly distressing events. The death of George Floyd on 25th May 2020 brought widespread attention to the Black Lives Matter movement on an international scale, and the Covid-19 pandemic (then in its early stages) began to further highlight existing social and health inequalities (Public Health England, 2020). On top of this, mainstream media such as the documentary “Subnormal: A British Scandal” (Shannon, 2021) is increasingly exposing the influence and complicity Educational Psychologists (EPs) can and have held within discriminatory systems. As outlined in an open letter written by the Educational Psychologists’ ‘Race’ and Culture Forum, there is a serious need for more anti-racism work within educational psychology practice and training programmes (Williams, 2020), and this was reiterated also by the British Psychological Society (Murphy, 2020). One way anti-racism has been defined is as “the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably” (NAC International Perspectives: Women and Global Solidarity, as cited by CARED - ACLRC, 2009).

A concept which I noticed surface repeatedly through conversations, events and reading around this area was ‘white privilege’. With further reading, I found that previous research has explored understanding of privilege amongst various educational professionals (Allan & Estler, 2005; Crowley, 2019; Mcintyre, 1997; Solomona et al., 2005) and findings from these studies have shown mixed attitudes and views. In addition, recent studies have investigated understanding of whiteness within the UK Clinical Psychology workforce (Ahsan, 2020) and conceptions of white privilege amongst school psychology graduate interns in the US (Broems, 2021) . However, despite white privilege being explored in these related professions, I could not find any existing research exploring conceptions of white privilege in UK EPs, despite research suggesting issues of social justice are important and relevant to EPs (Schulze et al., 2019).

As such, I set out to carry out an exploratory piece of research as part of my thesis, to gather EPs’ views on white privilege. I decided to explore these views using an online survey, as this offers greater anonymity for participants and would allow me to gather views from a larger sample of EPs (Terry & Braun, 2017). Although only a snapshot in time, I hope that this research will contribute to the crucial conversations around promoting equality, diversity and inclusion within Educational Psychology practice.

As a final note, I am conscious of how important it is that throughout this research process that I remain mindful of my own identity and perspective, and how this will undoubtedly influence and shape my research decisions at different stages. I have found the Social GRRRAAACCEEESSS (Burnham, 2012) a useful tool for reflecting on different aspects of my own identity and hope to use this to support my reflexivity as I continue on my research journey.

Thank you for your time and for reading this post! If you are a qualified educational psychologist or trainee educational psychologist, based in the UK, and you would like to consider participating in this research, more information can be found in the Participant Information Sheet

Here is the online survey link.

Please note, participants are no longer needed for the semi-structured interview phase (phase 2) of the study.


Ahsan, S. (2020). Holding up the mirror: Deconstructing whiteness in clinical psychology. Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy, 20(3), 40–55.

Allan, E. J., & Estler, S. E. (2005). Diversity, privilege, and us: Collaborative curriculum transformation among educational leadership faculty. Innovative Higher Education, 29(3), 209–232.

Broems, V. M. (2021). Exploring white privilege conceptions with school psychology graduate interns: a phenomenological study. Fordham University.

Burnham, J. (2012). Developments in social GRRRAAACCEEESSS: Visible-invisible and voiced-unvoiced. In Culture and Reflexivity in Systemic Psychotherapy: Mutual Perspectives (1st ed., pp. 139–160). Routledge.

Calgary Anti-Racism Education - Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre (CARED - ACLRC). (2009). Anti-racism defined.

Crowley, R. (2019). White teachers, racial privilege, and the sociological imagination. Urban Education, 54(10), 1462–1488. 

Mcintyre, A. (1997). Constructing an image of a white teacher. Teachers College Record, 98(4), 654–681.

Murphy, D. (2020). BPS statement on racial injustice. The British Psychological Society.

Public Health England. (2020). Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19. 

Schulze, J., Winter, L. A., Woods, K., & Tyldsley, K. (2019). An international social justice agenda in school psychology? Exploring educational psychologists’ social justice interest and practice in England. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 29(4), 377–400. 

Solomona, R. P., Portelli, J. P., Daniel, B. J., & Campbell, A. (2005). The discourse of denial: How white teacher candidates construct race, racism and “white privilege.” Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(2), 147–169. 

Terry, G., & Braun, V. (2017). Short but Often Sweet: The Surprising Potential of Qualitative Survey Methods. In Collecting Qualitative Data: A Practical Guide to Textual, Media and Virtual Techniques. 

Williams, A. R. (2020). Editorial: the whiteness of educational psychology: colonialism, post-colonialism and racialisation in the theory, training and practice of educational psychology. Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 6(1), 1–8.

If  you have a research project and would like us to support and share your research (in developmental stage or post publication), then please contact us on [email protected] 


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