Educational Psychologists and Learning Theories
20 September 2011
Word Count: 1366
Educational Psychologists use their expertise of both psychology and education in order to help children and young people experiencing difficulties at school.
In this example, the psychologist would be called in by the school in order to conduct research into the reasons behind the pupil’s behaviour and would use methods such as observation and interviews. This research would allow them to ascertain which course of treatment would be best suited to the individual in order to produce a positive outcome.
As all children are individuals, the psychologist would need to ensure that their research covers ...view middle of the document...
For instance, rewarding the child when they answer a question correctly on a subject being discussed is often all the encouragement the pupil needs to keep paying attention. For many years the most widely used form of conditioning in education was that of punishment. The threat of a caning kept most pupils in check, however nowadays punishment would be classed as “the presentation of an adverse event or outcome that causes a decrease in the behavior it follows.” (Cherry, 2011). In our case, the punishment for disrupting the class may be to go to the headmaster, or to prevent them attending a school trip.
However, it is important to realise that there are many different options available to the educational psychologist and their team, including principles from the social learning theory. An example of this type of approach can be seen in the studies of Albert Bandura. Bandura (1961) conducted what is known as the ‘Bobo Doll’ experiment in which he demonstrated that learning can happen through observation of a model. Children learn from observing others and by ‘promoting appropriate model behaviours’ (Omrod, 1999) children can observe these behaviours being rewarded and hopefully copy them, this form of ‘modelling’ provides an alternative to the operant view of ‘shaping’. As long as the teacher ensures that the four conditions necessary for modelling to occur are met – these being, attention, retention, motor reproduction and motivation – then this type of therapy can be extremely effective. Omrod, (1999) also goes on to say that the psychologist could advise the teacher to set realistic expectations for the child, not too high and not too low. If the pupil then witnesses others rewarded for concentrating in class and behaving well, they would then perhaps view this as something they should be doing themselves.
Conditioning can have dramatic effects on behaviour, as seen in the case of ‘Little Albert’ (Watson & Rayner, 1920) and a main strength of operant conditioning is that, unlike classical conditioning, it recognises that individuals do not merely react to stimuli but keenly interact. Classical conditioning tends to focus on the autonomic processes within individuals and although this proves useful for generalisation, it tends to neglect the influence that cognitive and social factors may have in determining behaviour.
Studies have shown that applying these conditioning and social learning theories in education has proved worthwhile. Unfortunately, behaviourists tend to ignore the individual differences found within humans and this would prove problematic when applying the same educational conditioning principles to all children alike. Whereas some children would view being sent to ‘time out’ as a punishment, others would view it as negative reinforcement as they would be escaping the ‘boredom’ of the classroom.
The social learning theory has managed to overcome many of the restrictions and weaknesses of the classical...