Educational psychology is the study of how individuals learn, including topics such as student outcomes, the academic process, individual differences in learning, gifted learners and various learning disabilities. Those in this field will study how humans learn and store knowledge, specifically in educational settings like classrooms. This process includes emotional, social, and cognitive learning processes. Some of the many areas of focus in this branch of psychology include teaching and testing methods, classroom environment, and learning, social, and behavioral problems that may impede learning. The bulk of educational psychology is designed for use with children, from infancy to adolescence. With a rising number of adult students furthering their education, many educational psychology studies have begun to focus on the adult learning process. The field of educational psychology involves a number of other disciplines, including developmental psychology, behavioral psychology, and cognitive psychology.
Some of the major topics of interest within educational psychology include:
- Educational Technology
- Instructional Design
- Special Education
- Curriculum Development
- Organizational Learning
- Gifted Learners
Researchers within the field of Educational Psychology often use a wide variety of theoretical perspectives when facing problems within the field. Some of the most commonly used psychological perspectives applied to the field of Educational Psychology include:
The Behavioral Perspective outlines that behavior is learned by way of conditioning. Psychologists using this perspective rely on the principles of operant conditioning to explain how learning occurs. Using this model, a teacher might award tokens that can be exchanged for things like candy or free time to reward good behavior.
The Developmental Perspective focuses on the way children gather new skills and knowledge during development. Using Jean Piaget’s stages of cognitive development is a major example of a valuable developmental theory that investigates how children grow intellectually. A thorough comprehension of how children think at different stages of development, can help educational psychologists better understand what children are capable of at each point of their growth.
The Cognitive Perspective has become increasingly popular in recent years, largely due to how it incorporates things like memories, beliefs, emotions, and motivations contribute applied to the learning process. Cognitive psychology evaluates how people think, learn, remember, and process information. Educational psychologists who use a cognitive perspective focus on how children become motivated to learn, how they remember the things that they learn, how they solve problems, and how they become motivated to learn, among other things.
The Constructivist Approach is a more recent learning theories that focuses on how children actively construct their knowledge of the world. Constructivism tends to account for the social and cultural influences that impact how children learn. This perspective is heavily influenced by the work of psychologist Lev Vygotsky, who proposed ideas such as the zone of proximal development and instructional scaffolding.