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Psychology School

Licenciatura en Psicología.
Octavo semestre

‘’Educational Psychology’’

Andrea Cabrera
Daniela Ramirez
Marian Hernandez
Fanny Gutierrez

Magdalena Gutierrez
All things considered, then, times have changed for teachers. But teaching remains
an attractive, satisfying, and worthwhile profession. The recent trends mean simply
that you need to prepare for teaching differently than you might have in the past, and
perhaps differently than your own school teachers did a generation ago. Fortunately,
there are ways to do this. Many current programs in teacher education provide a
balance of experiences in tune with current and emerging needs of teachers. They
offer more time for practice teaching in schools, for example, and teacher education
instructors often make deliberate efforts to connect the concepts and ideas of
education and psychology to current best practices of education. These and other
features of contemporary teacher education will make it easier for you to become
the kind of teacher that you not only want to be, but also will need to be.

This book—about educational psychology and its relation to teaching and learning—
can be one of your supports as you get started. To make it as useful as possible, we
have written about educational psychology while keeping in mind the current state
of teaching, as well as your needs as a unique future teacher. The text draws heavily
on concepts, research and fundamental theories from educational psychology. But
these are selected and framed around the problems, challenges, and satisfactions
faced by teachers daily, and especially as faced by teachers new to the profession.
We have selected and emphasized topics in proportion to two factors: (1) their
importance as reported by teachers and other educational experts, and (2) the ability
of educational psychology to comment on particular problems, challenges, and
satisfactions helpfully.

There is a lot to learn about teaching, and much of it comes from educational
psychology. As a career, teaching has distinctive features now that it did not have a
generation ago. The new features make it more exciting in some ways, as well as
more challenging than in the past. The changes require learning teaching skills that
were less important in earlier times. But the new skills are quite learnable.
Educational psychology, and this text, will get you started at that task.

Chapter summary

Teaching in the twenty-first century offers a number of satisfactions—witnessing and

assisting the growth of young people, lifelong learning, the challenge and excitement
of designing effective instruction. Four trends have affected the way that these
satisfactions are experienced by classroom teachers: (1) increased diversity of
students, (2) the spread of instructional technology in schools and classrooms, (3)
increased expectations for accountability in education, and (4) the development of
increased professionalism among teachers. Each trend presents new opportunities
to students and teachers, but also raises new issues for teachers. Educational
psychology, and this textbook, can help teachers to make constructive use of the
new trends as well as deal with the dilemmas that accompany them. It offers
information, advice, and useful perspectives specifically in three areas of teaching:
(1) students as learners, (2) instruction and assessment, and (3) the psychological
and social awareness of teachers.

The joys of teaching Why be a teacher?

The short answer is easy:

• to witness the diversity of growth in young people, and their joy in learning

• to encourage lifelong learning—both for yourself and for others

• to experience the challenge of devising and doing interesting, exciting activities for
the young

There is, of course, more than this to be said about the value of teaching. Consider,
for instance, the “young people” referred to above. In one class they could be six
years old; in another they could be sixteen, or even older. They could be rich, poor,
or somewhere in between. They could come from any ethnic background. Their first
language could be English, or something else. There are all sorts of possibilities. But
whoever the particular students are, they will have potential as human beings: talents
and personal qualities—possibly not yet realized— that can contribute to society,
whether as leaders, experts, or supporters of others. A teacher's job—in fact a
teacher's privilege—is to help particular “young people” to realize their potential.

As a teacher, you will be able to do this by laying groundwork for lifelong learning.
You will not teach any one student forever, of course, but you will often work with
them long enough to convey a crucial message: that there is much in life to learn—
more in fact than any one teacher or school can provide in a lifetime. The knowledge
may be about science, math, or learning to read; the skills may be sports, music, or
art—anything. Whatever you teach, its immensity can be a source of curiosity,
wonder and excitement. It can be a reason to be optimistic about life in general and
about your students in particular. Learning, when properly understood, is never-
ending, even though it often focuses on short-term, immediate concerns. As a
teacher, you will have an advantage not shared by every member of society, namely
the excuse not only to teach valuable knowledge and skills, but to point students
beyond what they will be able to learn from you. As an old limerick put it (before the
days of gender-balanced language), “The world is full of such a plenty of things, I’m
sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

Whatever you teach, you will be able to feel the satisfaction of designing and
orchestrating complex activities that communicate new ideas and skills effectively.
The challenge is attractive to many teachers, because that is where they exercise
judgment and “artistry” the most freely and frequently. Your students will depend on
your skill at planning and managing, though sometimes without realizing how much
they do so. Teachers will need you to know how to explain ideas clearly, to present
new materials in a sensible sequence and at an appropriate pace, to point out
connections between their new learning and their prior experiences. Although these
skills really take a lifetime to master, they can be practiced successfully even by
beginning teachers, and they do improve steadily with continued teaching over time.
Right from the start, though, skill at design and communication of curriculum is one
of the major “perks” of the job.

The very complexity of classroom life virtually guarantees that teaching never needs
to get boring. Something new and exciting is bound to occur just when you least
expect it. A student shows an insight that you never expected to see—or fails to
show one that you were sure he had. An activity goes better than expected—or
worse, or merely differently. You understand for the first time why a particular student
behaves as she does, and begin thinking of how to respond to the student's behavior
more helpfully in the future. After teaching a particular learning objective several
times, you realize that you understand it differently than the first time you taught it.
And so on. The job never stays the same; it evolves continually. As long as you keep
teaching, you will have a job with novelty.

Are there also challenges to teaching?

Here, too, the simple answer is “yes”. Every joy of teaching has a possible frustration
related to it. You may wish to make a positive difference in students' lives, but you
may also have trouble reaching individuals. A student seems not to learn much, or
to be unmotivated, or unfriendly, or whatever. And some teaching problems can be
subtle: when you call attention to the wonderful immensity of an area of knowledge,
you might accidentally discourage a student by implying that the student can never
learn “enough”. The complexity of designing and implementing instruction can
sometimes seem overwhelming, instead of satisfying. Unexpected events in your
classroom can become chaos rather than an attractive novelty. To paraphrase a
popular self-help book, sometimes “bad things happen to good teachers” (Kushner,
1983). But as in the rest of life, the “bad things” of teaching do not negate the value
of the good. If anything, the undesired events make the good, desired ones even
more satisfying, and render the work of teaching all the more valuable. As you will
see throughout this book, there are resources for maximizing the good, the valuable,
and the satisfying. You can bring these resources to your work, along with your
growing professional knowledge and a healthy dose of common sense. In this sense
you will not need to “go it alone” in learning to teach well. You will, however, be
personally responsible for becoming and remaining the best teacher that you can
possibly be; the only person who can make that happen will be you. Many of the
resources for making this happen are described in this book in the chapters ahead.

Teaching is different from in the past

In the past decade or two teaching has changed significantly, so much in fact that
schools may not be what some of us remember from our own childhood. Changes
have affected both the opportunities and the challenges of teaching, as well as the
attitudes, knowledge, and skills needed to prepare for a teaching career. The
changes have influenced much of the content of this book.

To see what we mean, look briefly at four new trends in education, at how they have
changed what teachers do, and at how you will therefore need to prepare to teach:

• increased diversity: there are more differences among students than there used to
be. Diversity has made teaching more fulfilling as a career, but also made more
challenging in certain respects.

• * increased instructional technology: classrooms, schools, and students use

computers more often today than in the past for research, writing, communicating,
and keeping records. Technology has created new ways for students to learn (for
example, this textbook would not be possible without Internet technology!). It has
also altered how teachers can teach most effectively, and even raised issues about
what constitutes “true” teaching and learning.

• greater accountability in education: both the public and educators themselves pay
more attention than in the past to how to assess (or provide evidence for) learning
and good quality teaching. The attention has increased the importance of education
to the public (a good thing) and improved education for some students. But it has
also created new constraints on what teachers teach and what students learn.

• increased professionalism of teachers: Now more than ever, teachers are able to
assess the quality of their own work as well as that of colleagues, and to take steps
to improve it when necessary. Professionalism improves teaching, but by creating
higher standards of practice it also creates greater worries about whether particular
teachers and schools are “good enough”.

How do these changes show up in the daily life of classrooms? The answer depends
partly on where you teach; circumstances differ among schools, cities, and even
whole societies. Some clues about the effects of the trends on classroom life can be
found, however, by considering one particular case—the changes happening in
North America.