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Knowledge is Power: be a Better Teacher

The world of educational psychology has many different perspectives and opinions on what learning is. Each has their own unique way of defining the world and studying it. Of these perspectives three stand out as being major influences on the study of educational psychology; Behaviorism, Social Cognitive Theory, and Cognitive Psychology. One way to be a better teacher is to understand these perspectives and be able to spot them in the classroom teacher’s lessons plans. Understanding what perspective the classroom teacher employs can give a substitute insight into what the students are used to.

Behaviorists like to use the scientific method to study observable changes. They identify behaviors as responses to environmental events that happen around the individual. Through the study of these environmental-response relationships Behaviorists have compiled a large data base of observable reactions.

Social Cognitive Theory looks more at human interaction as the basis for human learning. Those that follow this line of thought look at how individuals learn by observing others around them. In this theory children learn by watching things being done by another then attempting to recreate what was seen. The learning process can be compared to a series of mimicking responses.

Cognitive Psychology tries to look beyond behavioral responses to what is happening cognitively within the mind. Here researches believe that it is possible to make educated guesses about the internal mental events that probably underlie responses. They attempt to study concept learning, problem solving, and reasoning and incorporate the ideas of Jean Piaget and Les Vygotsky to understand learning. They feel that people learn new information faster if it is relatable to previous knowledge.

In the classroom the Behaviorist view can be seen in teachers who use a reward system to encourage high grades and good behavior. By doing this the teacher is creating an environmental stimulus that encourages these behaviors so that students will repeat them.

A lesson plan following this view would be based around this idea of a reward system. If I followed this educational philosophy I would print up a stack of specially made coupons for the class and hand out a different amount of coupons as a reward for getting good grades (5 for an A, 3 for a B and 1 for a C). Then on every Friday I would bring in a box of candy and small toys, each costing a different amount of coupons, small items requiring only a few coupons to buy and larger items requires a greater number of coupons. This would use the reward system idea to encourage the children to do well so they can get the greatest number of prizes.

A teacher that relies on Social Cognitive Theory would teach by example. If the students are creating a project in their art class the teacher would first demonstrate what is to be done and ensure that each student watches her doing it. Then it is her expectation that the children will take what she has done and understand what they are to do.

A lesson plan following this view would be bases around demonstrations. If I followed this educational philosophy I would always make sure to leave time to demonstrate each lesson to the children. If I were an Art Teacher for small children and we were making Christmas ordainments for our art project I would be sure to demonstrate how they are made. I would make one in front of the class and detail each step for the children slowly answering any question they have about each step. Then once they have watched me make an ordainment I would set then loose on the art supplies in the expectation that my demonstration has given them the knowledge to properly create their own.

A teacher that follows Cognitive Psychology would teach using patterns and word bridges to teach new information. By relating new information to old information through patterns and word bridges the teacher feels the student will be able to file the similar information together and learn at a quicker rate.

A lesson plan following this view would be full of examples in the form of patterns and word bridges. If I were a history teacher I would use this type of language to teach new historical periods. When covering the Rwandan genocide I would link some similarity between its racial and ideological causes to that of WWII and the Holocaust. I would do this with the expectation that students already have an understanding of the Holocaust and will be able to understand the underlying political issues of the Rwandan genocide in the framework of WWII.

Over the years many teacher have followed many different learning perspectives. As new ideas come to the forefront of physiological study new way of understanding the educational process have emerged. As we consider each different perspective it is important to gain knowledge from each in the hopes of becoming a well rounded and effective substitute teacher.


photo credit: Andrew Mason via photopin cc

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