The definition of educational psychology varies but it is often associated with the study of learning within an educational environment or setting. It also deals with theories in learning, theories of teaching, ways to improve teaching effectiveness and the overall psychology of institutions like schools. Basically, in North American countries, there are two types of psychologists in schools or academic institutions. Educators who are involved in research are often known as educational psychologists. On the other hand, when an educator or teacher practice is involved in the practical application of theories of learning, they are termed as educational psychologists. Educational psychology is a wide discipline that covers any of the following areas:
1. Educational Technology
2. Curriculum Development
3. Classroom Management
4. Instructional Design
5. Special Education
6. Organizational Learning
Educational Psychology as a subject is often offered as a core subject in teacher education programs. It is very critical for any teacher to understand how students develop their learning skills. By doing so, they can plan strategies that will meet desired learning outcomes. It is also crucial for future teachers to understand the nature of human development because not all children have the same rate of mental, physical, and social development. Nowadays, a very diverse classroom pose a lot of challenges to educators due to cultural and language differences.
There are many fundamental theories that are presented when studying educational psychology. The various conceptual framework of learning theories are divided into three major groups, namely: cognitive, behaviorism, and constructivism. Each of these conceptual frameworks has its own merits and flaws. A school that focuses mainly on observable behavior in children adopts the behaviorist theory. The major proponent of this theory is John Watson. In this framework, learning is measured through observable behavior. Teachers can modify student’s behavior by applying two different types of conditioning – classical or operant conditioning.
Another important theory is educational psychology is constructivism. A constructivist educator believes that students gain knowledge through active engagement which can come in the form of problem solving. This theory has many applications in a classroom setup that can help learners achieve their learning goals.
Cognitivism is also a popular theoretical framework since it encourages in developing the mind of the learner. For the cognitivist, behavior can be influenced by thinking; hence, it is more valuable to develop cognitive skills like memorization, problem solving, and thinking to foster better learning. From the cognitivist’s view, the mind is like a computer where information is processed. Behavior is only a manifestation or a by-product of cognitive processes. While there are also critics of this theory, it has been useful for many educators through the years. It has helped teachers to understand why learners behave in a certain manner.
Through the years, many learning theories have come up which presents to educators, researchers, and school administrators more options to develop and enhance student’s academic performance. This makes educational psychology as a very exciting discipline since learners also evolve as the world around them progresses. In the end, future educators realize the very crucial role they play in transforming the lives of their students.
The best way to become a good teacher is to enroll in a reputable school that offers teaching programs. You can enroll in a bachelor’s program that specializes in early education or special education. Find a local school in your area and inquire about their program offerings.