Educational psychology is a branch of mainstream psychology which deals with the psychological aspects of teaching and formal learning processes. It is a broad field which involves the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the psychology of teaching, the efficacy of educational interventions as well as the social psychology of schools as organizations. It also incorporates topics that cover human development, learning and motivation, individual differences, and issues that influence the interaction of teaching and learning.
Educational psychology often focuses on subjects such as gifted children and those afflicted with specific disabilities. It can be better understood and appreciated by its relationship with other disciplines. It is based primarily on the concepts behind general psychology. Educational psychology in turn informs a diverse range of courses within scholastic studies, including special education, organizational learning, curriculum development, instructional design, educational technology, and classroom management.
A closer look at education as a whole wouldn’t be complete without a preview of the psychological theories that influence the way we learn and the way we teach. This sneak peek into the various theories introduces the principles, the main proponents, and implications of each approach.
Behaviorism. It states that behavior is subject to change and can be influenced by extrinsic motivators such as rewards and punishments. It proposes that all things that we do can and should be considered as behavior. Its main proponents were B.F. Skinnerwho conducted research on operant conditioning, Ivan Pavlov, who studied classical conditioning, John B. Watson who rejected introspective approaches and sought to confine psychology to experimental methods.
Cognitive Psychology. It proposes that information is more likely to be acquired, retained, and retrieved for future use if it is learner-constructed, relevant, and built upon prior knowledge. It aims to analyze the internal mental processes of thought including visual processing, memory and language. As such, cognitivists are primarily concerned about the study of perceptual processes, reasoning andproblem-solving abilities. It draws much from the work of Wilhelm Wundt; Gestalt psychology of Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler; and in the pioneering work of Jean Piaget, who provided the renowned stages of cognitive development.
Constructivist Psychology. It suggests that learners don’t simply absorb and retain information. It tells us that we createsystems for meaningfully understanding experiences and move on to elaborate and test what we learn. Therefore, mental structures are formed, elaborated on, and tested until a satisfactory structure is established.