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Educational Psychology.


1. Educ. may be defined as man's systematic efforts to control and direct change in behavior through learning.

2. Educ. psychology* is a science in the broad sense of the word. It deals with processes involved in educ., is largely experimental in nature, and has accumulated or developed a vast store of factual knowledge, a system of fundamental principles, and a variety of techniques. Its aim is to understand, predict, and control human behavior.

3. Historically the roots of educ. psychol. lie in associationism, which explains the process of learning as the combination and recombination of elemental components of “mind-stuff.” This philos., which antedates Aristotle* (e.g. Plato*), was formed, reformed, and transformed by a succession of thinkers even into the present century. J. F. Herbart,* 1st to emphasize dynamics of learning and apply mathematics to associationism in an attempt to explain learning, is often called father of educ. psychol. His theory of apperception and 5 formal steps in teaching still have considerable influence. But experimentalists (e.g., J. Dewey*) of the late 19th and early 20th c. prepared the way for a scientific approach to the study of psychology involving research and investigation of the nature and processes of learning.

4. Prominent among methods of educ. psychol. are experimentation, controlled observation, rating, testing, measuring, interviewing, clinical and case study, questionnaires, and normative developmental studies. Data obtained are, when possible, submitted to rigid statistical refinement and interpretation. Much valuable information is gleaned from laboratory studies, but many investigators prefer to study behavior in actual life situations (e.g., school and classroom).

B. The Nature of the Human Organism.

1. The raw material with which educ. psychologists work is the human organism. God created man a body and soul in one functional unity.

2. What we know of the soul is a matter of Scripture and faith. Since the soul is beyond reach of scientific research techniques, it is ignored by most educ. psychologists. But concern for the soul is fundamental in Christian educ.; understanding and educ. the whole man, body and soul, remains the goal.

3. Under God, man is the product of 2 determining forces, heredity and environment. Information on heredity is furnished chiefly by geneticists: psychologists also frequently investigate its effects. Psychologists concentrate most of their experimentation on the effect of environment on behavior and development, since environmental factors may be controlled and manipulated more readily. The question of the effect of environment on native abilities has provoked animated debate among scientists. For all practical purposes one may operate on the principle that heredity est. the individual's potentials, and environment determines to what degree his development will approach those potentials in any or all particulars.

4. In the fact that no 2 persons have both identical heredity and identical environment lies the basis for individual differences. Understanding and adjusting to individual differences are prime imperatives for effective educ.

5. Christian educators see the hand of God working through natural laws on finite matter. Therefore they cannot hold that one is what he is solely because of heredity and environment. God's love, wisdom, and power to perform wonders will not be denied.

C. Human Development.

1. Human development involves physical, mental, emotional, soc., and spiritual growth and integration. It continues in one form or another from conception to death.

2. Postnatal growth is relatively slow in man. It is continuous, not sporadic or capricious; it proceeds at different rates from time to time. The several types of growth may occur in phases and at rates apparently independent one of another. Growth normally results in changes of behavior, at times sudden.

3. Physical growth proceeds through predictable stages, but there is no rigid timetable for such development. Individual differences are extensive and significant. Physical growth often influences children's abilities, interests, and adjustments. Such physical characteristics as body build, appearance, strength and energy levels, awkwardness, handicaps, and anomalies may seriously affect personality development. It is important that a child learns to accept himself and to be objective toward his assets and limitations. Christian educ. teaches a child to honor his body and to care for it and use it as the temple of God.

4. Mental development is very rapid in infancy and the preschool yrs. It continues more slowly into the 20s. Some yrs. later a gradual recession sets in. But not until one is well past the physiological prime of life does mental ability decrease appreciably. Then factual, technical, or cultural acumen may more than offset loss in speed of learning. This augurs well for adult educ. in advanced yrs.

5. Emotions involve the function of the entire system. The emotional development of a child depends on his physiological nature and his past experience. From an infant's original emotional state, best described as gen. excitement, develop varieties of emotional expression related to conditions of delight or distress. These are further specialized by training into definite patterns of likes and dislikes, feelings, attitudes, interests, appreciations, and soc. attitudes and motives. Emotional balance is intimately assoc. with feelings of acceptance, security, and personal worth. Successful guidance toward emotional maturity requires full cooperation of parents with school. Together they try to train a child to control his emotional life and to channel his emotional energies toward achievement of socially worthy and God-pleasing goals.

6. A newborn child is unsocial and egocentric. His 1st step toward socialization is realization of himself as apart from the gen. confused pattern of persons and things about him. At first wholly dependent on others, he becomes an increasingly indep. soc. being as he learns to recognize, communicate, cooperate, follow, and lead. His personality is turned outward, and he develops interest in and concern for others. Such soc. development is gradual and often subtle.

7. The exact nature of spiritual growth defies scientific analysis. Spritual life is a gift of God, a work of the Holy Ghost. It is nourished by Word and Sacrament. Human agencies (parents, pastors, teachers, etc.) are frail implements in the hand of the Spirit as He works in a child faith, justification, and sanctification of life. Without such spiritual growth total development is never achieved. If a child is to mature into a happy and adjusted individual, every aspect of his personality and life must be integrated-about spiritual growth, faith, and spiritual values. Christian psychologists acknowledge significance of spiritual development and in this area turn to Scripture for answers to questions. [These facts are often quoted by mems. of the LCMS in favor of its system of schools. ED.]

D. The Nature of Learning.

1. When behavior is modified by structural or physiological development, maturation has taken place. When change in behavior is correlated with experience or with stimuli outside the organism, learning has occurred.

2. Learning may be cognitive, psychomotor, or affective in nature. It may be typed according to the various levels at which it occurs, often on more than one level at the same time. The most prominent explanations of learning are trial and error behavior, conditioning, insight, identification, and imitation.

3. Various experimental psychologies have offered explanations of the learning process. The 1st influential theory was the connectionism of E. L. Thorndike* and his followers. Repudiating the assoc. of ideas theory, they postulated a bond bet. stimulus and response. Three prime laws of learning were formulated: readiness, exercise, and effect. Later such explanatory terms as belongingness, impressiveness, polarity, identifiability, availability, and mental systems were added. Connectionism had immediate appeal to educators as a set of working principles that could readily be taken over into classroom methodology. Readiness, repetition, effect, drill, etc., came to be bywords in the Am. school.

4. Behaviorism rose as a revolt against structuralism and mentalistic functionalism. Under J. B. Watson,* its founder, behaviorism was thoroughly materialistic and mechanistic. The reflex and its conditioning constituted the complete and final answer to behavior. Even thought was defined in terms of bodily movement. Complex behavior was simply a chain or pattern of many conditioned responses. Laws of conditioning were laws of learning. Reinforcement insured permanence, and extinction accounted for forgetting. Many experimenters carried behaviorism forward far beyond Watson, with great influence. See also Psychology, J 4.

5. W. Köhler* and K. Koffka* popularized Gestalt psychology (see Psychology, J 5). The Gestalt and field theories emphasize the dynamic role of the whole organism reacting not to isolated stimuli but to whole situations or configurations. For the configurationists, perception, insight, goal consciousness, and goal striving are the cues to the nature of learning. The field theory has also been applied to the study of personality.

6. Among other psychol. systems that have influenced Am. education: functionalism,* dynamic psychology,* purposivism,* personalism,* and psychoanalysis.* The influence of the latter has been most profound for its emphasis on the dynamics of the self and what it consciously or unconsciously brings to the learning situation.

7. Each of the psychologies mentioned has provided helpful facts and theory on the nature of the learning process, but no one theory is totally correct and sufficient to the exclusion of others.

E. Conditions Favorable to Learning.

1. Educ. psychologists have suggested certain principles or guidelines for maintaining conditions favorable to effective learning.

2. The physical nature of the school and the classroom should meet state requirements. A child learns more effectively and enjoys school much more in hygienic and pleasant surroundings conducive to and convenient for learning.

3. It appears that, barring excessive fatigue, any hour can be as effective for studies as another.

4. Readiness for school or for any phase of learning is most essential. It may depend on physical maturation, emotional and soc. development, gen. ability, previous experience, information, prerequisite skills, interests, and other factors.

5. The healthy organism profits most in learning. The school should be alert to the health needs of pupils, esp. where health, visual, or auditory handicaps are involved.

6. Adjustment and emotional security affect learning. The school should study the personality needs of each pupil, cooperating with the home in striving for patterns of best adjustment.

7. Have a learning situation before trying to teach. Active interest and attention are essential to almost all learning activities in school.

8. Effective learning depends on clear initial impressions. Be definite, clear, concise, patient, and sympathetically understanding and helpful.

9. Appeal to as many avenues of sense impression as possible. Use visual and auditory aids as well as active and concrete experience.

10. Be guided by psychol, considerations rather than simply by logical order in presenting new material.

11. When possible, the learning material should be arranged and presented in a form or system. Unit organization is most helpful. This applies also to teaching religion.

12. Except for lengthy passages of difficult material, the whole method of memorizing seems better for brighter and experienced pupils. In certain cases the part method may be more effective.

13. Occasionally it may be better to begin with the unknown and proceed to the known, though the opposite is a good gen. rule. Spontaneous interest is often aroused by the unknown. When ability to recognize or cope with the unknown depends on previously learned skills or facts, it may be mandatory to proceed from the known to the unknown.

14. At times it may be advantageous to proceed from the complex to the simple, though the opposite is gen. indicated.

15. Encourage such pupil activity as laboratory exercises, field trips, class discussions, and group planning and execution of projects. Children learn best by doing.

16. Active rehearsal of material to be mastered will facilitate learning and enhance retention. Free and spontaneous class discussion provides opportunity for active rehearsal and review.

17. Mastery of techniques is characteristic of certain studies. Meaningful drill based on individual need may precede and accompany the study of subjects that require application of definite skills. Practice must be motivated, controlled, and reinforced.

18. Distribution of practice into several short periods is more effective than the same amount of practice confined to one long period. Avoid fatigue.

19. Individual differences among pupils demand adjustments to individual needs, interests, and capacities. Independent study and homogeneous grouping should be used when applicable. Suitable tests should be used for diagnostic and remedial purposes.

20. Cooperative learning can be very beneficial. Pupils should have opportunity to plan and to learn together in both homogeneous and heterogeneous groupings. Such groupings should always be flexible.

21. Encourage self-discipline in the interest of the group. Rules should be few, clear, and consistently enforced. Enforced discipline should not be lacking where self-discipline is not forthcoming. Imposed discipline should be ev. motivated; careful applications of both Law and Gospel are necessary.

22. Motivation can hardly be overestimated. Motives initiate, sustain, and direct activity toward goals. Intrinsic motivation, derived from pleasure in the task itself, is a powerful, self-sustaining drive to learning. Extrinsic motivation, derived from interest in the goal, reward, or other consequence outside the activity itself, may also be used; in fact, it may be necessary until intrinsic motivation can take over.

23. Effectiveness of reward and punishment varies with the situation, the child, and the way the matter is handled. Whenever positive incentives (praise or reward) are used, they should never be allowed to replace the real goal for children. Neither should children be trained to expect punishment or reward and to live accordingly.

24. Knowledge of one's progress can be an incentive to learning. If grades are used, they should be given and interpreted objectively. Children should be trained in objective self-evaluation.

25. Since motivation involves goal striving, pupils should be helped to see purpose in learning activity. Such purposes relate to the objectives of educ. It is most helpful to express educ. objectives in terms of anticipated behavioral outcomes.

26. Some useful things may be learned incidentally or accidentally, but the teacher should not rely on this. Incidental or accidental learning may be the source of spontaneous interest but may also lead to error, misfortune, bad habit, and later unpleasantness.

27. The school should not foster individual rivalry bet. pupils to stimulate learning. Group competition (characterized by fair play and brotherly consideration) and competition with one's own previous achievement are stimulating and valuable.

28. Recent experimentation has proved the value of electronic devices, television, teaching machines. programmed instruction, and team teaching in educ. Schools should make increasing use of them, but they must be recognized simply as valuable aids to teaching. Such devices and techniques will never replace a good, effective classroom teacher.

29. To insure transfer of training in schoolwork or transfer of learning to life, the school should teach for transfer. Also the religious training of children should be life-related and must be taught for transfer.

30. Teach children how to study. Allow for a good measure of initiative, creativity, and freedom in work. Encourage productivity.

31. Though children should be taught to be realistic and to expect normal frustrations and difficulties in life, they should be trained to the habit of success. Children should be taught to view their successes and legitimate mistakes and failures objectively.

32. Attitudes and values should be deliberately cultivated. Though they may be acquired by the pupil in various ways, the school should not leave it to chance. A Christian school, working with a Christian home. will strive purposefully to impart God-pleasing attitudes and values.

33. A Christian child's predominant motive in school and in life gen. should be love for God and love for his fellowman.

34. The school has become the great coordinator of various educ. influences that confront the modern child. But no agency can relieve parents of their God-given responsibilities for training their child.

F. Educational Psychology and the Work of the Church.

The ch. has much to gain from encouraging and sponsoring scientific study of teaching, learning, and measurement, esp. in the area of religious growth. No man can directly observe, much less measure, the spiritual life of another, but helpful inferences may be drawn from a careful study of what it produces. Faith and new life are the work of the Spirit, but there is also a human element in religious training. In order more thoroughly to eliminate human error and interference in Christian educ. and to improve its own educ. programs and techniques, the ch. welcomes scientific study of human development and learning.

H. W. Bernard, Psychology of Learning and Teaching, 2d ed. (New York, 1965); M. L. Bigge, Learning Theories for Teachers (New York, 1964); L. J. Cronbach, Educational Psychology, 2d ed. (New York, 1963); K. C. Garrison, A. J. Kingston, and A. S. McDonald, Educational Psychology, 2d ed. (New York, 1964); H. J. Klausmeier, Learning and Human Abilities: Educational Psychology (New York, 1961); M. R. Loree, Psychology of Education (New York, 1965); J. M. Sawrey and C. W. Telford, Educational Psychology, 2d ed. (Boston, 1964); L. M. Smith and B. B. Hudging, Educational Psychology (New York, 1964); H. Sorenson, Psychology in Education, 4th ed. (New York, 1964); J. M. Stephens, The Psychology of Classroom Learning (New York, 1965). EEY

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

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