Educational Psychology Notes for Lectures

Educational Psychology Notes

In order to define educational psychology we need to define education and psychology.

  • Education is defined as the profession that develops, applies, and researches methods of teaching and learning in schools.

  • Psychology is defined as the profession that studies human behavior.

Therefore, educational psychology deals with a range of human behavior involved in the educational process including human development, learning, memory, motivation, and the evaluation of learning. (Banks, S & Thompson, C, 1995, p.6).

According to Skinner - ”Educational psychology is that branch of psychology which deals with teaching and learning and also covers the entire range and behavior of the personality as related to education.”

The central role of the teacher is the facilitation of learning. Effective teaching is about helping students to learn, so they become self-directed, lifelong learners. In order to do this, teachers need a sound understanding of how students develop and learn. Educational psychology helps teachers develop that understanding.

There are many theories about learning. Most are soundly based on research, but each explains different sorts of learning. There is no one theory that everyone agrees upon because the human mind is so complex that scientists and psychologists are still finding out how it works. Still, we do know enough about learning to develop some firm theories about how students learn.

What is learning?

Learning usually involves a change in behavior (knowledge, skill, and attitude) that lasts for some time and is the result of experience.

This definition can be illustrated through the example of learning to drive a car. In learning to drive, our capacity to do so starts quite early in that if we live in a city, or large town, we learn about road rules and being a pedestrian. We watch others drive and learn about the mechanics of driving. This knowledge cannot be demonstrated until we reach the legal age for learning to drive.

Once we have reached the legal age, the process of getting a license begins and we must learn the rules of the road in order to pass a driving test. We must also acquire the skill of driving, that is, demonstrating competence at the wheel of a car. When the driving test has been successfully completed, it can then be said that we have learned to drive.

Learning has clearly taken place for there has been a change in behavior from non-driver to driver. This change has been the result of experience, and with the continuing practice, will last for some time. Learning to drive was made possible through new and previous learning and skills that were developed, extended, and applied in new ways.

How do people learn?

People learn best when they can personalize their learning. Many educators believe that people learn best when they maximize the use of all their senses: hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling. Some people learn best when they can see and touch the item they are studying. Others prefer interactive learning situations where they work cooperatively with others. Many people prefer a one-on-one teaching-learning situation when the learning is personalized for the individual.

Some are independent learners, preferring to work alone and find information for themselves from books and manuals.

Learning is a continuous process that goes on all day long, often in an unorganized and uncontrolled manner. Learning about learning should help teachers find ways to organize and direct learning into productive channels without stifling creativity.

The question of how people learn divides learning theorists into one of three major groups: behavioral (classic and operant conditioning), cognitive, and eclectic (combinations of behavioral and cognitive theories).

The study of learning has created theories that are directly opposed to one another. The behaviorists and the cognitivist have opposite and extreme views, but just as neither group is completely right, each group can be seen to be partly right.


Behaviorists believe that the only behavior worth describing is that which is measurable. If we are able to measure it, we first must be able to observe it. The behavior must have a cause. Something which leads to behavior occurring is referred to as a stimulus. A response is a behavior that occurs as a reaction to the stimulus.

A simple example of this is if you cross one leg over the other, and someone taps you at the base of the kneecap. Your leg will jerk upwards. This is a very basic behavior, over which you have no control. It occurs automatically, so it is called a reflex. The tap on the kneecap is the stimulus and the knee-jerk reaction is the response.


Piaget's theory emphasizes that the learner plays a very active role in adapting to the environment. This adaptation begins at birth as a result of natural biological development and experience with the world. The child develops/constructs schemes or cognitive structures for acting, thinking, and knowing the world. These schemes or cognitive structures constantly change and expand as the child actively makes sense of the world. These structures become increasingly sophisticated with age.

Piaget's view of intelligence

Piaget believes that the origins of intelligence are largely biological. All children everywhere progress through the same stages in the same sequence, according to Piaget, because the tendency to do so is programmed in the genes. Piaget's view is that intelligence is a changing quality, reflected more in the processes people use to adapt to their environment.


Adaptation refers to the modifications people make to their behavior as they respond to the demands of their environment. There are two components to adaptation. These are assimilation and accommodation.


Assimilation refers to the ways in which the individual incorporates new objects into an existing pattern of behavior. For example, the infant is born with an existing sucking reflex. This reflex is well-developed even before birth. Almost immediately after birth, the infant will automatically suck on its mother's nipple.

New objects can, however, be assimilated into this reflex-sucking behavior. The infant can suck on a dummy, or its thumb as easily as the mother's nipple.


Accommodation occurs when an existing behavior is modified to fit the new demands of the environment. After a few months of sucking, the child will change the shape of its lips and the action of its mouth, and develop the ability to bite. According to Piaget, all learning results from assimilation and accommodation.

Either new environmental stimuli are assimilated into existing behaviors, or existing behaviors are modified to produce new behaviors. The built-in tendency is moderated through interaction with the environment so that people in different environments are using similar processes in different ways.

In Conclusion

Educational psychology is the study of how people learn, including teaching methods, instructional processes, and individual differences in learning. Follow Pat Ugwu Blog to learn more about this.


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