What is Educational Psychology?

The field of educational psychology is a branch of psychology that is essential in the facilitation of learning. It examines the ways in which individuals best learn through study of such components as teaching methods and individual student learning styles. It is a broad field that plays an essential role in the success of an educational system. Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating branch of psychology and to determine if it may be a career path of interest for you.


A number of developmental aspects come into play when it comes to this field. Educational psychologists consider the needs of the whole person and study learning as it applies to emotional, cognitive and social functions. It is applied to learners throughout the lifespan, not simply during the years of formal education.

The building blocks of this branch of psychology are broad. Concepts from cognitive, developmental and behavioral psychology are a few of the most influential contributors. Educational psychologists study topics such as gifted learners, special education, organizational learning, instructional design and curriculum development.


Given the fact that psychology itself has only been in existence as an official form of study since the late 19th century, this branch of psychology that focuses on the ways in which people learn is actually quite new. Its roots stem from the musings of educational philosophers and is believed to have begun in earnest with the philosopher, Johann Herbart. Herbart’s work focused on the hypothesis that a learner’s grasp of a topic was proportional to the interest taken in that topic. This belief led him to instruct educators to consider interest level when devising teaching strategies.

William James is another noted name in the psychology of education. His book, Talks to Teachers On Psychology, was published in 1899 and is the first textbook in this branch of psychology. Alfred Binet, a French psychologist, was working on the development of IQ tests during this period, and his work played a great role in providing academically at-risk children with needed special education services. A name you may be familiar with is the American, John Dewey. Dewey is the first to advocate a shift from the idea that subject matter is more important than students. He encouraged educators to utilize hands-on learning strategies and other means of active learning to improve educational outcomes. A more recent professional, Benjamin Bloom, introduced the notion that there are three domains involved in learning. These are cognitive, affective and psychomotor objectives. They are used to provide a new lens to the ways in which individuals acquire knowledge.


There are differing schools of thought when it comes to the views of professionals in this field. Three of the main schools of thought are the behavioral, developmental, cognitive and constructivist perspectives.

Behavioral theories are formed on the idea that behaviors related to education are learned and reinforced through conditioning. It is thought that when learners receive token motivations for performing well, such as a prize or a treat, they will continue to exhibit the desired behavior.

The developmental framework believes that the developmental capabilities of students at various ages determined the difficulty level of the material they should receive. Cognitive psychology in education centers on the ways in which thought processes affect learning.

Constructivists take social and emotional factors into account with regard to the degrees to which a student is motivated to learn.

This subject matter is a very in-depth branch of psychology. The study of educational psychology has numerous implications on the outcomes of learning systems.

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