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Educational Psychology: Applying Psychology in the Classroom

  • 0:05 Educational Psychology
  • 1:15 Main Topics
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Wind Goodfriend
What is Educational Psychology? Anyone who has experienced a classroom setting has been affected by the theories and techniques that come from this subfield of psychology. Learn about the main ideas within this popular area of study and application.

What is Educational Psychology?

When most people think about psychology, they think about mental illness, counselors and therapy. People might come up with names like Sigmund Freud. But the field of psychology is actually quite large, with lots of different areas where people might work. Beyond trying to help people in counseling types of situations, psychology also studies everyday life types of questions, such as: Why are some people racist? Or, Why do we fall in love? Or, How to children change as they grow up?

One of the most popular areas of psychology is educational psychology. Educational psychology could be defined in a lot of different ways, but the basic idea is that it's a field that studies and applies theories and concepts from all of psychology in educational settings. Educational settings might be schools, ranging from preschools all the way through college. But they also might be anywhere people learn, such as after school programs, community groups, companies or even within families. The goal of educational psychology is to make any teacher-student relationship as positive as it can be, so that the students can learn to the best of their potential.

Educational settings can be anywhere that people learn.
educational settings

Main Topics in Educational Psychology

So, let's get a little more specific. What are some of the major questions or ideas that educational psychologists study? The rest of this lesson will be a preview of some of the concepts that you can learn about more if you watch the other educational psychology videos available on the website.

Two theoretical perspectives within educational psychology are the cognitive perspective and the behavioral perspective. The cognitive perspective is an area of the field that studies how people acquire, perceive, remember and communicate information. In these lessons you'll learn about how memory works, for example. The behavioral perspective, in contrast, studies the tendency to modify our behavior due to consequences. So here, you'll learn about how rewards and punishments in a classroom setting help to motivate students in both good and bad ways.

Educational psychology borrows a lot of theories from another subfield called developmental psychology, which studies how people change over the course of their life, from infancy to older adulthood. For example, educational psychology will be able to help teachers decide how abstract or concrete their lessons need to be, depending on how old their students are. For younger children, abstract concepts might be more difficult to understand.

Next, educational psychology studies how different individuals are motivated by different things. When you think about your dream job, are you motivated by how much money you could make, or by how prestigious the job is or by how much you would simply enjoy doing the work? Different people have different answers, and educational psychology studies why that's true. You'll learn about famous theories such as Maslow's 'Hierarchy of Needs', and how that theory applies in a classroom setting. Educational psychologists also study other individual differences, such as students who have special needs or disorders that might create challenges for learning in traditional environments.

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