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Educational Psychology: Applying Psychology in the Classroom

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Instructor: Wind Goodfriend

Wind has her PhD in Social Psychology and Master's in Social Psychology from Purdue University.

Educational psychology is a subfield of psychology where psychological concepts are applied to educational settings to improve students' potential. Learn about the main ideas within this popular area of study, what are the basic theories on which this field is based, and how is it possible to apply psychology in the classroom. Updated: 08/14/2021

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 do 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.

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  • 0:05 Educational Psychology
  • 1:15 Main Topics
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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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.

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