Educational Psychology » Definition, Methods, Contribution

Educational Psychology & Methods of Educational Psychology

Meaning of Psychology

The word “psychology” comes from the Greek word (Psyche mean Soul, Logos mean Science), thus the meaning Psychology is the science of the soul.

Education and Psychology

Psychology is the science of behaviour, the activities of an animate creature, which can be observed and measured in an objective way.

Education in the narrow sense is the modification of the behaviour of children in a controlled environment. To shape the behaviour of the subject and bring some positive or negative changes, it is necessary to study the science of behaviour. The developmental stages and characteristics of children are very essential factors of which the teacher must aware of in order to be a successful teacher. If the teacher has no knowledge of children's psychology, how can we expect him that he would succeed in bringing about the desirable changes in children?

Definition of Educational Psychology;

Educational psychology is the application of psychological findings in the field of education. Educational psychology is the systematic study of the development of the individual within educational settings. It helps the teacher to understand the students and enhance their skills.

Educational psychology is an applied discipline which combines the two different fields of education and psychology. It is the scientific study of human behaviour by which it can be understood, predicted and directed by education to achieve goals in life. Judd describes educational psychology as, “a scientific study of the life stages in the development of an individual from the time he is born until he becomes an adult.”

Contribution of Educational Psychology

One simple question may be asked as to why educational psychology should be taught to prospective teachers in training colleges. Educational psychology helps teachers in the following ways;

1. To understand developmental characteristics

Children pass through different stages of development in life as infancy, childhood and adolescence. These developmental stages have their own characteristics and demands.

2. To understand the nature of classroom learning

With the help of educational psychology, the teacher understands the students and their need and problems, which help the teacher in the learning process in general and classroom learning in particular.

3. To understand individual differences

With the help of psychology, teachers understand the individual’s differences. The teacher faces a class of 30 to 50 students who have a different range of individual differences. Teachers with knowledge of educational psychology and individual differences may adjust their teaching to the needs and requirements of the class.

4. To understand effective teaching methods

Everyday experience shows that a lack of proper methods of teaching sometimes results in failure of communication in the classroom. Educational psychology gives us knowledge of appropriate methods of teaching. It helps in developing new strategies for teaching.

5. knowledge of mental health

The mental health of the student and teacher is very important for efficient learning. With the help of educational psychology, the teacher can understand the various factors, which are responsible for mental health and maladjustment.

6. Curriculum construction

Psychological principles are also used in formulating curricula for different stages.

7. Measurement of learning outcomes

Psychological tools help teachers to evaluate the learning outcome of the students. it helps the teacher to evaluate his own performance.

8. Guidance for the education of exceptional children

A most important contribution of educational psychology is the provision and organization of educational psychology is the provision and organization of education for the education of subnormal children.

Methods of educational psychology

Different types of techniques are used by researchers to collect data and conduct research studies. With the increasing use of educational technology in education, psychology and other social sciences, new research strategies are evolved.

Following are the important methods and techniques of collecting data are:

1. Introspection

2. Observation

3. Clinical method

4. Case study

5. Survey or differential methods

6. Scientific or experimental method

1. Introspection

Historically introspection is the oldest method of all, which was formerly used in philosophy and then in psychology to collect data about the conscious experience of the subject. Introspection means to see within oneself or self-observation. To understand one’s own mental health and state of mind. This method was developed by the structuralists in psychology who defined psychology as the study of the conscious experiences of the individual. Introspection has some advantages and disadvantages;


1. It gives information about one’s own self which is difficult by other methods.

2. It is an easy method and needs no equipment

3. It makes a base for other methods such as experimental and observation method


1. This method is subjective in nature and lacks scientific objectivity

2. The most serious objection against this method is that the human mind is not static like inanimate objects such as stones or chairs etc. our mental process is under constant changes so when one attempts to introspect, the state of the mental process disappears and it becomes a retrospect.

3. The human mind is divided into two parts. One is his own mental operation and the other is the object to which this mental operation is directed. To expect any individual to attend the workings of his own mind during a mental process, especially in a complex and emotional state such as anger or fear, is a mistaken idea. Ross commenting on the limitation of introspection said, “ The observer and the observed are the same, the mind is both the field and the instrument of observation

4. Introspection can not be employed on children and insane propel.

5. There are conflicting reports, as regards the findings collected from different introspectionists.

2. Observation

With the development of psychology as an objective science of behaviour, the method of introspection was replaced by careful observation of human and animal behaviour. Observation literally means looking outside oneself. It is a critical method for collecting data in almost all types of research studies. Different types of Observation are used in research, direct or indirect, scheduled or unscheduled, natural or artificial, and participant and non-participant. But there are two basic types of observation. They are;

1. Natural observation

In natural observation, the observer observes the specific behaviours and characteristics of subjects in natural settings and the subject does not aware of the fact that their behaviour is being observed by someone. The teacher can observe the behaviour of his student in the playground or in any other social gathering without making him conscious. Natural observation can be done anywhere without any tools.

2. Participant observation

In participant observation, the observer became part of the group which he wants to observe. An observational study is particularly very important and produces significant results on the developmental characteristics of children. No doubt that observation is a scientific technique of collecting data, whose results can be verified and relied upon to locate behavioural problems


1. this type of observation is a natural and normal way of knowing the external world but also the mind of the subject

2. This method is objective in nature and free from personal bias and prejudice.

3. Through this method we can observe as many children as we like

4. This method is quite suitable for children and abnormal people who can not be examined through introspection.

5. this can be used anytime and anywhere


1. Observation is useful only for collecting data about overt behaviour which is manifested in a number of activities. This overt behaviour does not provide reliable information regarding the internal mental process. We can only guess about the mental state of the individual on the basis of overt behaviour which may or may not be true. It becomes very difficult to draw any conclusion in the case of adults who can hide their actual behaviour in the presence of the observer.

2. Subjectivity of interpretation is another limitation of this method. The observer may interpret his sensation of external stimulus on the bias of his past experience. He may be biased in his interpretation. It has also been found in some studies that strong personal interests tend to make the researcher see only those things which he wants to see.

3. Observation is subject to two types of errors, sampling error and observer error. The first error occurs because of inadequacies in selecting the situation to be observed. The observer error may be due to knowledge and background of the situation to be observed. Because some time the observer is not familiar with the total situation and hence he may commit an error.

3. Experimental Method

This method has been developed in psychology through the continuous efforts of psychologists to make objective and scientific studies of human behaviour. One of the major contributions of behaviourism is the development of an experimental method to understand, control and predict behaviour. It is the most precise, planned systematic observation. The experimental method uses a systematic procedure called experimental design. The experimental design provides important guidelines for the researcher to carry out his research systematically. The layout of the design depends on the nature of the problem that an investigator wants to investigate. The layout or design of the experimental method is as follows:

1. selecting a research topic

2. formulating hypotheses

3. selecting an appropriate design

4. collect data

5. analyzing and interpreting data

6. discussion and conclusions

Experiments may be conducted in a laboratory or in the classroom or anywhere else in the community. Experimentation involves a comparison between the behaviour of a control group and that of an experimental group.

Hypotheses have a rational base or they emerged from a framework of theory or preliminary experimentation. An experiment involves two or more variables for example; incentives have a measurable impact on learning. The variables whose effects are being studied are called independent variables.


1. This method is the most systematic procedure for solving problems. It provides reliable information.

2. it is a revisable method

3. it makes psychology a scientific study

4. It provides objective and precise information about the problems.

5. it gives the observer an easy approach to the mind of an individual

6. It provides innovative ideas for further experimentation.

7. It enables us to control and direct human behaviour

8. it is applicable to educational, individual and social problems


1. It is arranged in a laboratory-like situation. This situation is artificially arranged. Behaviour is a natural phenomenon and it may change in an artificial environment.

2. This method is time-consuming and costly. Moreover, it requires specialized knowledge and skills.

3. Psychologists have criticized the fact that most experiments have been conducted on rats, cats and dogs. The results are conducted and then applied to human beings.

4. It sometimes interferes with the very thing that we are trying to observe.

4. Clinical Method

This method is primarily used to collect detailed information on the behaviour problems of maladjusted and deviant cases. The main objective of this method is to study individual cases or cases of groups to detect and diagnose their specific problems and to suggest therapeutic measures to rehabilitate them in their environment.

It involves the following steps;

1. Interview

2. Information gathering

3. A hypothesis formulate

4. Diagnoses are made

5. Planned a treatment programme

5. Case Study

A case study is an in-depth study of the subject. It is the in-depth analysis of a person, group, or phenomenon. A variety of techniques are employed including personal interviews, psychometric tests, direct observation, and archival records. Case studies are most often used in psychology in clinical research to describe the rare events and conditions of the subject; case study is specially used in educational psychology. It deals in education the following problems;

  • Lack of interest in students
  • Aggressive behaviour in student
  • Daydreaming
  • Poor academic performance
  • Emotional problem
  • Social problems
  • Empathetic understanding
  • Find the problem
  • Establish report
  • Treatment

The “Case Study” method deals with an individual's emotional and mental state. This method is applied to study special behavioural problems of an individual by specially trained teachers, psychologists and psychiatrists. Through this method, total information on the family background, schooling and also social conditions of the individuals is obtained; hence, it can be called a „cumulative record‟ which is of great help in understanding the source of an individual‟s fears, anxiety, worry or any kind of maladjustment. The main objective of this method is to help the individual adjust better to the environment and gain self-confidence to attain higher levels of achievement. The following different steps may be used in the case study method.


The differential method is based on individual differences. Therefore, all the measures applied to the calculation of individual differences are included in this method. The differential method is also named the normative survey method or the field survey method as the investigator has to go to the field to make his investigations. It is sometimes called the statistical method for reason that statistical techniques become the major devices for the study of individual differences.

It may be felt that the difference between the experimental and differential methods is only arbitrary and artificial since the procedure of finding the effects on dependent variables by the application of the independent variables is the same. This however is not true as T. G. Andrews's (1958) Comments: Differentiation between experiments and differential methods may appear quite artificial, and it is true that all psychologists will not agree to such an apparently artificial classification scheme. Nevertheless, it should always be made clear that the independent variables resulting from individual differences are never under the investigator‟s control to the same degree that experimental variables are. Thus, differential methods differ from the experimental approach in that the investigator cannot intentionally manipulate the variables and each of these is studied as an independent variable.

For instance, in studying the relationship between achievement with intelligence, it is not possible to manipulate intelligence. Therefore, we have to take each individual and study his achievement in relation to his intelligence. After that, we can try to achieve at certain conclusions with the help of statistical techniques. The key concept in using the differential methods is their technique of studying differences within the same individual or between individual groups. Usually, for this purpose, four types of main approaches or designs are used.

1. Correlation Approach

2. Field Survey Approach

3. Longitudinal Approach

4. Cross-Sectional Approach

In the Correlation Approach, psychologists take people as they are and study what they usually do, without changing the conditions under which they respond to the tests or perform the desired tasks. For example, in the above case of finding the relationship of achievement with intelligence, the intelligence as well as the achievement, say academic achievement of each individual can be found with the help of intelligence as well as achievement tests. The subjects will naturally differ from one another and by using the statistical technique of correlation; the desired relationship can be ascertained.

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