Wind has her PhD in Social Psychology and Master's in Social Psychology from Purdue University.
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.
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.
Teachers also need to know the best way to test their students in terms of knowledge or development, so educational psychology also includes research on the best ways to conduct assessments or research on students in class. Several lessons on this website offer additional insight into the best way for teachers to understand and help their students using the scientific method. Finally, educational psychology covers different styles of learning and teaching to make sure that all students have the opportunity to learn in a way that's best for them.
In summary, educational psychology is a field that studies and applies theories and concepts from all of psychology in educational settings.
There are many main topics within educational psychology, because this area of psychology takes theories and concepts from all of psychology and asks: how can we apply these ideas to students and teachers, in order to make the best possible situation for everyone involved?
As you learn more about educational psychology, think about how the ideas might apply to your own life. What kinds of teachers have you had so far? What techniques did you like, and what types of classes were challenging for you? If you were a teacher, what ideas could you use to make your classroom both fun and educational? These questions can all be answered with ideas from within educational psychology.
After watching this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define educational psychology
- Identify and paraphrase the main topics of educational psychology
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