The Study of Educational Psychology

Chapter Summary: The Study of Educational Psychology

Although the term learning has many possible meanings, the term as used by teachers emphasizes its relationship to curriculum, to teaching, and to the issues of sequencing, readiness, and transfer. Viewed in this light, the two major psychological perspectives of learning—behaviorist and constructivist—have important ideas to offer educators. Within the behaviorist perspective one of the most relevant theories is operant conditioning, which describes how the consequences and cues for a behavior can cause the behavior to become more frequent. Operant conditioning is especially relevant for understanding much of what students do; it offers less help in understanding how they think.

The other major psychological perspective—constructivism—describes how individuals build or “construct” knowledge by engaging actively with their experiences. Psychological constructivism emphasizes the learners’ individual responses to experience—their tendency both to assimilate it and to accommodate to it. Social constructivism (or sociocultural theory) emphasizes how other, more expert individuals can create opportunities for the learner to construct new knowledge. Social constructivism suggests that a teacher’s role must include deliberate, scaffolded dialogue. It also needs to include deliberate instructional planning, such as facilitated by Bloom’s taxonomy of learning objectives. Both of these strategies can promote students’ metacognition, or ability to monitor their own learning. Psychological emphasizes the teacher’s responsibility for arranging a rich learning environment and for emphasizing rich sensory, motor, and concrete experiences wherever possible.


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Educational Psychology Copyright © 2020 by Nicole Arduini-Van Hoose is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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