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Richard McKenna

Book: Education studies in Ireland - The Key Disciplines.

Chapter 5: Psychology of Education. Geraldine Scanlon.
Author: Brendan Walsh.


The main goal of this article is to provide student teachers information about the brain and how it
develops and what roles education has on it. Because the brain both contains the mind and controls
behaviour, it was inevitable that the study of psychology would incorporate both of these components.
One of the main goals of research in psychology is to understand, predict and change human
behaviour that is to provide explanations about why people do what they do, from a psychological
perspective; the topics extend across the four domains of development psychology, which describe the
stages and sequences of physical, social, emotional and cognitive development.
The conners-3 (2008) which access a broad range of psychopathology and behaviour problems, the
results of these assessments are then compared to what is constructed as normative development and
interventions and supports are identified to help and develop the pupils learning in school with the
development of the Individual Education Plan (IEP). The key concepts in developmental psychology
that contribute to educational practice and teacher education, specifically it talks about the key
characteristics of adolescent development in the following areas, biological/neurological
development; cognition; intelligence; academic motivation; individual differences; social/emotional
development; and special issues.
In this section the writer talks about various methods of behaviour, how we can condition
behaviour and how the environment can have an effect on our behaviour as John B. Watson believed.
Watson who acquired his beliefs from the earlier work of Pavlov who used the concept of classical
conditioning, experimenting with a dog, using an unconditioned stimulus (food) and a neutral
stimulus (bell) creating a conditioned response. The same principle was used on baby Albert. B. F.
Skinner builds on these principles, proposing that many of these responses are strengthened when they
are reinforced by positive or negative reinforcement. With behaviour in post primary schools it needs
to be managed and what may serve as a punisher for one student may not work for another, because of
the individual differences.
Social Learning Theory.
Unlike Skinner, Albert Bandura suggests that learning does not always require reinforcement;
rather, learning occurs as a result of what we observe in our social environments and personal factors,
also stating the fact that children learn and are hugely influenced by their parents actions.

Cognitive Theories.
One of the most important areas for student teachers is cognitive development, and the
theorists that are explored are Jean Piaget whos concept of the four stages that a child goes through to
adulthood are sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete and formal operational. In order for a child to
behave intelligently three mental structures are required schemas, concepts, and operation which is
explored in greater detail. It then discusses Lev Vygotsky and Jerome Bruner who have also made
huge contributions to this field with Vygotskys concept of ZPD and scaffolding impacting the
educational field, Bruner who builds upon Vygotskys concept of scaffolding saying true learning
involves figuring out how to use what we already know in order to go beyond what you already
Developmental perspectives on cognitive development.
Intelligence being one of the most controversial topics in psychology and not just from the
emphasis on individual differences in cognitive ability, but also from the claims concerning gender
and race differences. This chapter talks about the number of different intelligence theories dominating
the literature loosely classified as biological models, hierarchical models and complex-system models.
Moving onto memory and Learning as memory plays an important part in learning and remembering
new information as it enables individuals to learn from experience and adapt to changing
environments while also connecting them to family and friends etc. The three basic stages involved in
the process of learning and memory are encoding, storage and retrieval. There are various methods
explored and one is chunking that is used to get the new information from the short term into long
term memory.
Motivation is vital for student teachers and in this chapter it explores the different the diverse theories
which reflect a variety of approaches in attempting to understand how humans think and behave.
The author talks about Behaviour Genetics, and reports prove that a child does not inherit genes that
will result in a specific level of intelligence; rather the extent to which their intelligence develops is
dependent on the quality of the environment provided, i.e. a child who inherits high IQ genes from
their parents are most likely to live in rich and stimulating environments, similarly, children who
inherit aggressive tendencies are likely to live in a hostile and aggressive environment reinforcing
aggressive tendencies. The inheritability of intelligence is one such area that has been widely
researched and that has experienced significant controversy since the nature-nurture debate began.
The author briefly talks about the contribution of prenatal development to individual differences for
example the teratogen which is any agent that can damage the fetus i.e. cigarettes, drugs, alcohol etc,
all of these can cause physical and psychological damage which to the child.
The context of adolescence.
In short, adolescence is considered to be the most challenging developmental stage of human
development, many adolescents are as egocentric as pre-school children, while others think logically,
hypothetically and theoretically as well as many adults. The author talks about the considerable
fluctuations in self-esteem across the teenage years for example research has indicated self esteem
drops at the onset of adolescence; this has been a consistent finding especially in the context of the
transition from primary to post primary schools. Walsh talks about how teachers should be aware of
their students strengths and weaknesses while promoting a positive learning environment and have
great communication between staff and students. The distinguishing feature is the ability to think in
terms of possibility instead of concrete reality. Walsh goes on to talk about how the brain develops,
that this might explain behaviour changes in adolescence explaining that recent research has indicated
that the adolescent brain is far less developed that what was previously believed. Studies that are
emerging from MRI studies have enabled researchers to scan children over many years allowing them
to track the development of the brain.
School Climates can promote generic developmental competencies or reinforce developmental
weaknesses, psychological research has indicated that the school climate and the academic
environment are crucial variables in supporting and nurturing young adolescents but the

developmental needs and challenges of adolescences are often in conflict with the demands of the
school environment.
The role of teachers is vital supporting students through these vast developmental stages, teachers
expectations will also influence overt and covert behaviour which in turn is communicated to students
and ultimately affects academic self-efficiency and performance.
The overall view of this chapter is that the task of teaching is to teach in order to be an effective
teacher, it is useful to know what expectations should be placed on pupils and how individual needs
can be catered for in the classroom. In a similar vein, it is also appropriate for teachers to support
their students learning and assist them in their everyday tasks and challenges, which will be greater
for some students. The key areas of developmental and educational psychology presented in this
chapter are only some of the components that will contribute to teachers development and
understanding of human development from a psychological perspective.


After reading this chapter on the psychology of education by Brendan Walsh and participating
in the class tutorial I gained a deeper understanding of the psychology in education and the
various theorists such Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky and Jerome Brunners concepts to name a
I thought this chapter was well structured and backed up by plenty of research and studies in
this field, If I were to make a recommendation it would be to include Plato and Aristotles
work as there is a long history and interest in the early days of learning and development
from this time in history, as this was the start of the field in education and then came along
the next generation of theorists building upon previous knowledge taking it one step further
transforming past discoveries.
Although both Plato and Aristotle researched different directions in this field they both
influenced Piaget who developed the concept stages of cognitive development as mentioned
in this chapter. Piagets work has criticisms, firstly is his approach to his methodology as he
rarely reported on how he selected his participants, and how many children he studied to
compile his results also one of his most famous books the origins of intelligence in children
the three participants where his three kids, to me that is a very small study to promote such
findings on. (Hopkins, 2011).
Piaget does not give much thought regarding the babies intelligence before it is born, many
factors influence this as discussed through out the chapter, one is the effect alcohol and drugs
can have on the fetus while developing inthe womb the brain starts developing in as little as
seventeen days after conception, A research report by Joseph Rhawn explores the
developments of fetal brain-behaviour and cognitive development, by week 7 the human
brainstel is fashioned, week 7-9 the fetus displays spontaneous movements, week 20-27 the
fetus responds with arousal and body movements and loud sounds, week 36 the lower brain
stem makes fine auditory discriminations and reacts to sound with fetal heart rate (Rhawn,
2002). All the latter provides the correct information toprove that cognitive development
starts before the child is born. These factors should be taken into consideration.

My biggest learning from this as a student teacher is to try and understand how each student
is an individual and their cognitive development will develop at their own pace, not all
students come from the same back round some are from wealthy backgrounds, some middle
class and some struggle with poverty, there for in my class I will have a deeper understanding
that everyone deserves and education whether they have a SEN inclusion is important and it
works, some research has shown that inclusion may improve learning and academic
performance for all students. Children also have an opportunity to learn to accept individual
differences and to overcome misconceptions about disabilities (Vanderbilt Kennedy Center).
Inclusion is a moral and ethical right for every human being no matter what background they
maybe from. I will respect the many cultures that are presenting in my classroom and
integrate key words in the different languages for my students. I realise that not all students
learn at the same rate or style so I will vary my teaching techniques and have differentiation
in all my lessons so all my students will learn. I will make the subject about each student by
relating it to their person life by allowing them to have input on the projects we make this
will give them intrinsic motivation for the subject.
As discussed in this chapter we learn what we see, I think Albert Bandura Social learning
theory is perhaps the most influential theory of learning and development, unlike Skinner,
Bundura believed that direct reinforcement could not account for all types of learning. His
theory added a social element, arguing that people will learn and gather new information and
behaviours by observing other people. This is known as observational learning or modelling.
(Cherry). For example a family home whereby a child who inherits high IQ genes from their
parents are most likely to live in rich and stimulating environments, similarly, children who
inherit aggressive tendencies are likely to live in a hostile and aggressive environment
reinforcing aggressive tendencies. Young children are very impressionable there for as a
student teacher the students will copy the teachers habits so therefore it is best practice to be
extremely organised and tidy to model the desired behaviours for students. Bundura talks
about how learning does not necessarily lead to a change in behaviour as observational
learning demonstrates that people can learn new information without demonstrating new
behaviors which can be a factor for classroom management that will have to be taking into
Walsh talks about adolescence being the most difficult stage of cognitive development,
emphasizing that the students self esteem drops dramatically in the transition from primary to
post primary, this book being written before Ruairi Quinn released the new Junior Cycle
Reform which is being implemented in 2014 and one of the main goals is to make a
connection with primary and post primary Quinn states too many students switch off in
second year and never reconnect to learning (Department of Education and Skills, 2012) This
whole knew approach will drastically change the system and boost the students self esteem.
Walsh also talks about promoting a positive learning environment; this will not only impact
the students learning abilities while keeping bad behaviour at bay, it will also have a major
impact on them as a whole. As a student teacher it is vital for our classrooms to have this type
of environment. As economic demands on schools appear to be growing more consistent with
education's traditional humanistic goal of maximizing each student's intellectual development
we need to take a humanistic approach towards the students to boost up their self esteem at
the same time promoting a positive learning environment (Kyriacou, 2007).
I found the chapter to be an easy read, compared to when I was first introduced to psychology

in education last year when it felt like another language to me. There are some very good
points throughout the chapter spiralling back to previous learning from DTE2 and building
upon this.
I have taken various points on board that will help me in my TP in January which I found
very beneficial



Cherry, K. (n.d.). Social Learning Theory. Retrieved 11 23, 2013, from
Education Psychology:
Department of Education and Skills. (2012). Minister Quinn announces major
reform of the Junior Certificate. Dublin: NCCA.
Hopkins, R. J. (2011, December). The Enduring Influence of Jean Piaget. Retrieved
November 10th, 2013, from Psychological Science:
Kyriacou, C. (2007). Essential Teaching Skills. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.
Rhawn, J. (2002, March 25). Fetal Brain Behavior and Cognitive Development. Palo
Alto, California, USA.
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. (n.d.). Inclusion in the Classroon - Tips and Resources.
Retrieved November 26th, 2013, from Vanderbilt.: