Introduction (Psychology and Mental Health)
Teaching is a complex undertaking involving decision making at many levels as well as a diversity of skills. From kindergarten to college, teachers are involved in designing curricula, planning lessons, selecting texts, evaluating the products of learning, and monitoring a full range of action within the classroom. The choices are many, and effective teaching demands additional expertise in terms of the delivery of instruction. Indeed, the teacher functions both as a theorist, objectively analyzing the situation of learning and methods of instruction, and as a practitioner, in the more spontaneous delivery of instruction in an attempt to inspire young minds.
Teaching is the deliberate facilitation of learning; learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior or the gaining of a new perspective on or insight into a problem. Learning may take place without teaching. For example, children seem to acquire language without specific instruction. Teaching, on the other hand, may or may not be effective in stimulating learning. It is the goal of educational psychology to facilitate effective instruction to foster human learning.
Educational psychology, a diverse scientific discipline, attempts to apply psychological principles to understand, predict, and influence classroom learning. Just as teaching and learning are ongoing processes, so is educational psychology an evolving enterprise. Researchers search for dependable...
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Learning Models (Psychology and Mental Health)
In 1979, James Jenkins devised an interactive model for learning researchers that can be used as a guide to understanding classroom learning in terms of both personal and environmental (outside the person) factors. This tetrahedral model posits that learning is influenced by four types of variables: characteristics of the learner (beliefs, skills, energy level, and so on), characteristics of the teacher(voice, gender, attitude), criterion of evaluation (for example, whether the work is for a grade), and characteristics of the task (such as whether it is written or verbal, and whether it is timed). The interplay of these four types of variables affects the quality of learning. In helping a child who apparently has difficulty with mathematics, a teacher familiar with the principles of the tetrahedral model might consider interventions such as changing the type of tests (timed tests might not be fair to some learners), changing the grading system, or even changing the lessons to include visual or diagrammatic materials to explain math principles. Often the solution focuses on changing the learner, who is perhaps the hardest to change. Jenkins’s model also serves as a framework for understanding how educational psychology is applied to classroom learning situations.
Student learning is complex, as are the variables that affect it. Learner and teacher characteristics, for example, include a variety of attributes. Some are stable...
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Applied Research (Psychology and Mental Health)
In a 1972 study investigating how college students learn, Gordon Pask and others differentiated holistic and serialistic learning styles. Using a “teach-back” procedure, Pask had students create fictitious zoological taxonomies and then teach those classifications back to the experimenter. Serialists were characterized as remembering information in terms of lengthy strings of data. That is, bits of information were related sequentially and in a linear, step-by-step fashion. The serial style relies on memorization. Holists, on the other hand, remembered in terms of hierarchical relations, imaging the entire system of facts or principles in a more general manner; they focused on the big picture and fit details in later. The holistic strategy was related to what Pask called “comprehension learning,” with the serialist orientation reflective of “operational learning” (focusing on details and procedures). Pask also found that teaching materials could be structured in either a holistic (meaningful) or serialistic (memorization) fashion and were most effective when matched to the student’s corresponding learning style.
In addition to investigating learner characteristics, researchers in educational psychology have explored how it is that teacher characteristics affect student learning. In particular, teachers’ motivational beliefs, a fairly consistent variable, have been linked to teaching behaviors. In 1984, Carole...
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Philosophical Roots and Contemporary Models (Psychology and Mental Health)
Educational psychology draws on many resources to form well-grounded models. The philosophical roots of educational psychology lie in the early twentieth century work of William James and John Dewey. Both were scholars who shared a concern for the application of psychological principles in the classroom. James described the teacher’s role as that of developing good habits and productive thinking in the student. Dewey, on the other hand, called for the transformation of education in terms of expanding the curriculum to include the needs of an increasingly industrial society. Dewey saw schools as agents of social change.
As time progressed, psychology developed as a social science, and two major conceptions of learning were spawned: the Gestalt model and behaviorism. In the Gestalt view, learning is defined as a change in the perceptual process, or as understanding a problem in a new way—insight. In contrast, the behavioral view rests on the assumption of stimulus substitution: Existing responses became associated with new stimuli through the process of conditioning. The emphasis is on observed relationships—behaviors. Behaviorism had a profound influence on American education, in terms of both instruction and classroom management. For example, “time out,” or removing a child from the stimuli of the existing environment to a quiet and boring place, has been used as a form of...
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Sources for Further Study (Psychology and Mental Health)
Gredler, Margaret E. Learning and Instruction. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Merrill-Pearson, 2009. Gredler discusses the functions of learning theory as it applies to instruction, the history of the development of educational psychology, and seven contemporary views on learning and instruction. The presentation is concise and appropriate for secondary and college students.
Schmeck, Ronald R., ed. Learning Strategies and Learning Styles. New York: Plenum, 1988. Offers a timely selection of popular thinking on student learning styles based on a variety of methodologies. Included are neuropsychological, cognitive, and affective perspectives. Well suited for college students as well as professionals.
Slavin, Robert E. Educational Psychology. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Merrill-Pearson, 2009. Slavin offers a practical look at effective classroom practice based on recent research findings. The college-level text illustrates how research may directly affect classroom practice.
Snowman, Jack, Robert F. Biehler, and Curtis Bank. Psychology Applied to Teaching. 12th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2009. A well-researched and timely look at classroom learning, this text emphasizes practical applications with real classroom situations. Especially useful for future teachers in secondary or college levels.
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Educational Psychology (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
The study of the process of education, e.g., how people, especially children, learn and which teaching methods and materials are most successful.
Educational psychology departments in many universities provide training to educators, school psychologists, and other educational professionals. Applied research in this field focuses on how to improve teaching, solve learning problems, and measure learning ability and progress. Other concerns of educational psychology include cognitive development, the dynamics of pupil behavior, and the psychological atmosphere of the classroom. Educational psychologists devise achievement tests, evaluate teaching methods, develop learning aids and curricula, and investigate how children of different ages learn. They often serve as researchers and educators at teacher training institutions, in university psychology departments, on the staffs of educational research organizations, and also work in government agencies, business, and the military. An educational psychologist might investigate areas as diverse as the causes of dyslexia and the measures that can be taken to help dyslexics improve their reading and learning skills; gender differences in mathematical ability; anxiety in education; the effect of television on study habits; the identification of gifted children; how teachers affect student...
(The entire section is 1116 words.)