Psychological approaches in education


Psychological approaches in education

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Cognitive psychology and behaviourism theories exhibit various similarities and differences. On the one hand, behaviourism is a theory that concentrates on how learners acquire knowledge and skills during the learning process (Buckley, 2019). It focuses on the notion that all behaviours result from learners’ interaction with the environment. The theory states that environment affects behaviours which means that inherent or hereditary factors affect the learner’s behaviour. The significant contribution of



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Behaviorism lies in its impacts on students’ behavioural reactions in a classroom setup. It also enables teachers to appreciate their students’ diverse home environments and lifestyles (Ormrod et al., 2017).

On the other hand, cognitive psychology refers to the study of students’ mental processes like attention, memory, perception, thinking, and problem-solving skills. The significant contribution of cognitive psychology theory lies in its ability to help students focus and connect previous knowledge to present knowledge. Teachers can apply cognitive psychology to lessen the cognitive load and to stimulate learners to establish richer mental representations. As a result, learners develop effective knowledge acquisition, knowledge transfer, good memory, critical thinking, and new skills (Buckley, 2019).

Comparison of the two approaches about motivation

The two psychological approaches apply the law of motivation in enhancing knowledge acquisition by learners. For instance, cognitive psychology theory relies on students’ beliefs, principles, and attitudes to learners’ motivation in the learning process. The theory takes into account both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. For example, learners may be motivated to achieve academic excellence based on beliefs, internal expectations, and knowledge about things and past experiences. Such experiences may affect determining how actively information is received and processed in the learners’ minds. Extrinsic motivation also affects learners’ attainment of cognitive skills, especially if they do so to obtain goal objects or rewards (Ormrod et al., 2017).

The behavioristic approach scrutinizes how learners become motivated to learn through internal drives as well as external goals. Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation enable learners to produce effective learning behaviour. Teachers apply behaviourism to guide learners on how they ought to react and respond to specific stimuli. Teachers may incorporate positive reinforcement to help students achieve effective learning (Buckley, 2019). Positive reinforcement must be frequent to remind learners to achieve the teacher’s expectations. Some of the behavioristic styles include incentives, students’ drive, and learned motives.

Comparison of the two approaches concerning connecting new knowledge to previous knowledge

Teachers utilize cognitive psychology theory to help learners build upon previous knowledge as well as ideas. Such an approach enables learners to link and apply new concepts to the previously acquired knowledge. For instance, retrieval practice helps to enhance teaching by enabling students to remember previously learned knowledge (Buckley, 2019). Secondly, teachers use feedback to promote knowledge acquisition by assessing past knowledge and new knowledge.

Additionally, distributed practice enhances knowledge acquisition through the distribution of lessons over a specific period. Distributed practise learners to first understand previous knowledge before learning new materials. On the other hand, behaviourism enables learners to link previous knowledge and new knowledge through spontaneous recovery (Ormrod et al., 2017). Teachers may enhance remembering of old content through the reintroduction of rewards. Learners, therefore, relate rewards with previous knowledge, which in turn enhances memory. Sometimes students use the cramming approach to receive positive reinforcement in terms of rewards. Such behaviour may occur where evaluation occurs over a short duration of time (Buckley, 2019).

 Comparison of the two approaches concerning differentiating instruction

Cognitive psychology takes into account individual differences in a classroom setup. The theory focuses on the idea that students learn best when teachers consider individual differences in academic ability, gender, cultural background, and learning styles. Notably, learners with cognitive differences usually take longer to complete learning tasks than learners with typical cognitive functions (Buckley, 2019). Since such students may experience difficulty focusing, various instructional methods are applied to ensure that they reach their maximum potential. Such methods involve grouping learners according to their learning abilities, capitalizing on learners’ interests, and applying different learning styles based on learners’ abilities (Ormrod et al., 2017).

Behaviourism also considers individual differences in learning. Different learners exhibit different learning behaviours based on their interaction with the environment. To ensure that the differences are taken care of, teachers may use repetition to enhance learning. Teachers are also encouraged not to overcorrect the learners as this may harm learning. Therefore, instructors ought to apply positive reinforcement throughout the class. Rewards should be age-dependent as a reaction to stimuli is dependent on the age of learners (Ormrod et al., 2017). The teacher should also incorporate multiple intelligences into the curriculum to account for multiculturalism.



Comparison of the two approaches concerning multiculturalism

Cognitive psychology theory emphasizes both individual learnings and social learning (Ormrod et al., 2017). For instance, teachers may make use of tasks that take into account cultural differences during social learning. Some students may develop specific problem-solving skills as a result of cultural experiences. The teacher makes use of such experiences to shape the way learners solve problems related to learning. Individual learning enhances individualized feedback, which the teacher assesses to determine learners’ attainment of various cognitive skills (Buckley, 2019).

Behaviourism concentrates on social learning, where students learn by observing their peers’ behaviour during the learning process. As the teacher rewards the students through positive reinforcement, other students thrive to obtain similar rewards (Buckley, 2019). Intrinsic motivation enhances individual learning where each learner sets individual academic goals and works towards achieving them. Another strategy of ensuring individual behaviourism involves giving individualized tasks to learners and sharing the response with the rest of the class. Both cognitive psychology and behaviourism theories consider differences that arise as a result of multiculturalism (Ormrod et al., 2017).

Comparison of the two approaches concerning technology in the classroom

Cognitive psychology theory encourages the use of technology in the classroom. The use of technology enhances learning, understanding of a concept, and academic achievement. Cognitive psychologists also encourage the use of technology because it also boosts motivation to learn, emboldens collaborative learning, and supports the improvement of critical thinking and problem-solving skills (Buckley, 2019). Technology such as spreadsheets and graphical representation enhances understanding and memory since learners can relate with concrete objects. Students may also use mathematical models to solve problems in various subjects. Mathematical models enhance the problem-solving skills of learners, which also makes the teachers’ work easier (Ormrod et al., 2017).

In terms of the behaviourism approach, incorporating technology enables teachers to concentrate on desired performances and supplies positive reinforcement. Technology use augments the adjustment and internalization process of learning. In addition, behaviourists suggest using technology to enable learners to obtain well-timed feedback even though the teacher may be physically absent. Technology acts as a stimulus since learners are more prone to welcome technological devices as opposed to classical materials during the learning process. As a result, the teacher expects positive outcomes in improved academic performance (Buckley, 2019).

General summing up

Cognitive psychology and behaviourism theories offer psychological solutions to educational problems in a classroom setup (Ormrod et al., 2017). However, they both have their pros and cons. For instance, cognitive psychology enhances problem-solving skills among learners. Through various interventions, learners achieve cognitive skills as evidenced by critical thinking portrayed by learners after a learning process. It also enables students to learn new things faster since their memory is enhanced (Buckley, 2019). By the end of the learning process, learners achieve concept formation, which means they can think abstractly. On the other hand, the cons of cognitive psychology include the inability to measure internal processes like attention and perception. Rather than evaluating these processes directly, cognitive psychologists apply tests that measure behaviours.

One of the advantages of behaviourism is its ability to define behaviour plainly and quantify behaviour changes. However, the use of behaviourism takes time to achieve the desired outcome and is very procedural. In addition, behaviourism, as experienced in classical conditioning, involves trial and error to determine behaviour. Given that the current school curriculum is involving and exam-based, teachers may not have time to apply behaviourism in the learning process (Buckley, 2019).


List of References

Buckley, Jessica Belue. (2019). A Grounded Theory of Education for Sustainability in the            Postsecondary Classroom. Review of Higher Education, 42(3), 965-989.

Ormrod, J., Anderman, M., & Anderman, L. (2017). Educational psychology: Developing learners (4th ed., Multimedia ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

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