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Education Psychology

Education Psychology


Research Psychologists and Education Psychology


Psychologists in all branches of the discipline contribute to our understanding of teaching, learning, and education. Psychologists worked with educators to develop the standardized tests used to measure academic aptitude and achievement. Research psychologists have studied the ages at which children become capable of attaining various cognitive skills such as computerized instruction, the effectiveness of bilingual education, learning disabilities, and other relevant topics.


Applied Psychology in Education


In addition to the contributions of psychology as a whole, two fields within psychology focus exclusively on education: educational psychology and school psychology. Educational psychologists seek to understand and improve the teaching and learning process within the classroom and other educational settings.  Educational psychologists study topics such as intelligence and ability testing, student motivation, discipline and classroom management, curriculum plans, and grading. They also test general theories about how students learn most effectively.


School psychologists work in elementary and secondary school systems administering tests, making placement recommendations, and counseling children with academic or emotional problems.  They also play an important role as a communications catalyst between parent and teacher regarding students who are having learning or behavioral difficulties.  School psychologists are also on the front line in dealing with the flood of drugs into our school systems and the addictive behaviors that develop in many students as a result of that onslaught.


Education Psychology in the Classroom


One of the most obvious focal points of education psychology is the process of teaching and learning.  There has been a good deal of research in this area, and many models have been devised that propose what influences the input, or teaching process.  There has also been detailed study of the end result - the learning process - and what characteristics of the input process bring about which type of learning result - the outcome.


If, for example, the desired outcome is good performance on a standardized test, then the best teaching method is probably direct instruction.  This incorporates a rigidly structured, guided tour of the material to be learned.  Clear subtopics and other divisions help students to compartmentalize and memorize the material that's being presented to them.


When a teacher wants to encourage creativity and some academic independence in students, a more open method of teaching has been found to be effective.  Education psychologists suggest that allowing the student self direction and charging him or her with the responsibility for learning and interpreting presented material promotes creativity.  Another important human characteristic that open teaching encourages is curiosity; rewarding students who have the energy and mental agility to look beyond what is immediately before them.


If socialization is an educational goal, then cooperative or collaborative learning becomes the teaching model.  “Collaborative learning” is an umbrella term for a variety of educational approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers together. Usually, students are working in groups of two or more, mutually searching for understanding, solutions, or meanings, or creating a product. Collaborative learning activities vary widely, but most center on students’ exploration or application of the course material, not simply the teacher’s presentation or explication of it.
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