Changing interactions, relationships and behaviour
: Exploring the use of child-directed play and coaching skills in the primary classroom

  • Jennifer Chandler

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctorate in Educational, Child and Adolescent Psychology


Rates of social, behavioural, emotional and wellbeing difficulties among primary-aged pupils in Northern Ireland are rising. Providing school staff with training in how to support children displaying externalising behaviours is, therefore, an increasingly important role for educational psychologists. This study investigates the effects of a twilight training session in the use of child-directed play and coaching skills on teacher-reported interactions, teacher-child relationships and pupil behaviour.

An embedded pretest-posttest design was employed, with forty-four primary school teachers and support staff completing baseline and post-training measures. Measures included a non-standardised questionnaire regarding participants’ use of child-directed play and coaching skills, the Student Teacher Relationship Scale and the Sutter-Eyberg Student Behaviour Inventory-Revised. Four supplementary, open-ended questions were used to gain insight into participants’ experiences of implementing child-directed play and coaching skills in the classroom. Thematic analysis and a range of statistical tests were employed to analyse the wealth of data. Findings indicate that educational psychologists’ delivery of a single twilight training session has the potential to produce small but meaningful change in how school staff interact and relate to primary-aged children experiencing needs associated with social, behavioural, emotional and wellbeing difficulties. The impact of the twilight training session on wider markers of school inclusion is proposed as an area worthy of further investigation.

Thesis is embargoed until 31 December 2024.
Date of AwardDec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorMaria McAleese (Supervisor)


  • social, behavioural, emotional wellbeing
  • child-directed play
  • coaching skills
  • teacher-child relationship
  • teacher training
  • child-directed interaction skills
  • primary-aged children

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