Educational Psychology: Theories

There have been many studies and theorists who analyse psychology’s role in education. Here’s a review of are 3 of the big ones.

Key Ideas. Behaviorism is a very task-oriented school of thought. This theory focuses on classical conditioning, like in the example of Pavlov’s dogs. Students need to be conditioned to know what to do when presented with a certain stimulus (Wong). There are many specific ideas within this concept. Teachers must understand your students’ culture to succeed in classroom management, connect with their students and communicate with them (Gordon). For management purposes, teachers should know who causes disturbances and knowing how to deal with multiple disturbances at time (Gordon). Many teachers do not expose themselves to adolescent culture. It is important to do so to be familiar with student trends, but it is crucial that teachers do not embrace the adolescent culture. Teachers need to remain authority figures, not peers to their students (Gordon). Harry Wong advises teachers to explain, reinforce and rehearse classroom with their students every day. Teachers should have both specific and general rules that are posted and can be altered to fit the class (Wong). Successful classroom management plans also include a rewards and penalties system. When teachers see a violation of class rules, they should immediately issue the consequence, without stopping class instruction. Behaviorism is a structured and effective school of though.
Application for Teaching. This theory is very applicable in elementary school classrooms. Gordon advises teachers to find out the background and culture of students to be able to relate to them. In addition, teachers should be in control of their classroom by identifying students that are likely to cause disturbances so that they can prevent these interruptions. Gordon also recommends that instructors give students a solution to work towards and then go help other groups when dealing with multiple disturbances at the same time.

Key Ideas. Constructivism is based on the concept of children learning by adding new information to what that they already know (Constructivist). Constructivism in teaching addresses many different learning styles. Teachers should connect what they are teaching into what students know, care about and what is going on in their lives them. Constructivists emphasize teaching both the whole and parts to children and create an uplifting atmosphere for student learning. Learning Point Associates also stress the importance of learning by experience and hands-on activities. Children should be able to express learning preferences and choose learning activities based on their individual learning style. According to Constructivist thought, an Ideal classroom environment is one that promotes deep understanding. Alie Kohn identifies excitement about learning and social and intellectual growth as a key component to teaching as well. Student involvement in the classroom is crucial and students must play and active role in the classroom management plans (Kohn). Rather than doing things to students, instructors should do activities with students. The constructivist approach is more student-centered than teacher-centered, where teachers only assist in student learning.
Applications for Teaching. To implement this theory in classrooms, teachers should make sure their classroom is a “Learner-Centered” environment, with comfortable areas for working, student work on the walls and good teacher presence (Kohn). Teachers should work to understand the concepts behind student learning, s that they will be better able to assist in student exploration (Glasser). Teachers should give students options in their learning, thus allowing students to consider their own learning preferences and decide for themselves the most effective and engaging learning activities. Although this takes more teacher preparation and flexibility, it is very effective for students.

Key Ideas.  The moderate view is the middle ground between the Behaviorist and Constructivist views. According to this view, teachers should ask students questions and let them come up with solutions (Fay & Funk). In addition, teachers should hold their students to high standards of behavior and have consequences that deal with the offense. Management plans should enforceable limits, provide choices within limits, and apply consequences with empathy (Fay & Funk). Leaning towards Constructivism, teachers must ensure that every option students can choose from is a good one. Teachers should also allow children to think for themselves and assist in discovery within the classroom management plan. In order for students to really change their behavior to align with the classroom management plan, they must have an internal change (Fay & Funk). This is more likely to happen if students understand the reasons for each component of the plan and feel that the teacher is implementing these policies out of love; for any action effective, it must be delivered with genuine passion and empathy (Practicing).
Application for Teaching. Teachers should oversee student learning, but not force it. Instructors should ask questions that lead to discovery instead of giving answers to students’ questions (Fay & Funk). Teachers should share expectations with their students and not settle for less than the best from each student. Fay & Funk also identified the importance of letting students make decisions (complying with rules, classroom and lunch activities, etc.).
Constructivist Teaching and Learning Models. Learning Point Associates. Retrieved Feb. 6 2008.             <;
Fay, J. & Funk, D. (1995). Teaching with Love and Logic. Loveand Logic Press Golden, CO.
Glasser, W. (1997). A new look at school failure and school success. Phi Delta Kappan:78.
Gordon, R.L. (1997). How novice teachers can succeed with adolescents. Educational Leadership (54(7), 56-58).
Practicing Love and Logic Can Mean Happier Schools. Retrieved Feb. 6, 2008. <

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