Why is educational psychology a science

educational Psychology


educational Psychology

Alexander Renkl

Instead of a definition
What do good school lessons look like? Can students also use their knowledge later in their job? What possibilities and dangers does the computer open up for learning? How can you advise students with learning difficulties? What effects do depictions of violence on television have on children? How can health-promoting behavior be strengthened in children? What does it mean whether you are an only child or have siblings? How can you be parents at Parenting difficulties to advise? This is a selection of interesting questions that Educational Psychology is concerned with. Typically, an attempt is made to find answers through quantitative-empirical research and the formulation of theories based on it. The questions mentioned come from the two main areas of educational psychology: "Teaching and learning" and "Education and socialization". In research on the Teaching and learning (Weinert, 1996; 1997) a variety of topics are taken up that are related to the conditions, processes and effects of teaching and learning: Individual learning requirements (e.g. prior knowledge, learning motivation), learning processes (e.g. learning strategies), differentiation of different learning goals (e.g. different types of knowledge), determinants of learning (e.g. design of learning environments), possibilities of diagnosing learning prerequisites and learning success (e.g. intelligence tests), learning disorders (e.g. reading and spelling weaknesses), advice (e.g. school career advice), evaluation of teaching attempts, international school performance comparisons and much more The area of ​​teaching and learning is the main focus of the PP. A good half of the contributions at the last conferences of the “Pedagogical Psychology” specialist group in the German Society for Psychology were assigned to this area.
In the area of Upbringing and socialization (Schneewind, 1994) is about personal development in the context of the socially mediated social and material environment (socialization). Education is of particular importance. If one looks at the overall socialization conditions, one can distinguish between different levels. On a micro level, the main focus is on the effects of (parental) upbringing and family processes. At the meso level, it is about how different microsystems influence each other (e.g. home and school). The effects of contexts are examined as exosystems, in which the child does not participate, but which are nevertheless important for them (e.g. parents' workspace, media). Finally, on a macro level, one addresses the influence of culture on socialization processes (e.g. cultural comparisons). In addition to the analyzes of educational and socialization influences, related interventions are also the subject of research (e.g. advice). Roughly a quarter of the contributions dealt with "Education and Socialization" at the last meetings of the specialist group "Educational Psychology". In addition, other topics are taken up, such as unemployment, integration of foreigners, giftedness, children's play and Eco-psychology. Finally: Educational psychologists have been involved in a number of research methodological and statistical developments, such as - recently - in the development of multi-level analytical procedures, related to this, growth curve models.

Findings in educational psychology: a selection
1) Probably the best confirmed result is that the strongest single determinant of learning is the Prior knowledge the learner is. The more someone knows about a subject, the easier it is to learn. This can be explained, among other things, by the fact that good previous knowledge allows you to assign meaning to the material presented and to find points of contact for the new in your own knowledge base. However, previous knowledge can also be a hindrance. When concepts contradict scientific opinions, but in the Everyday experience are rooted, it is very difficult to change them. For example, children are so reluctant to give up the intuitive concept of the flat earth because the idea of ​​a round earth contradicts derivations from fundamental theories of children. These state that in the case of a round earth "Australians have to stand upside down and fall from the earth". It can be said that previous knowledge usually greatly facilitates learning. Sometimes, however, hinder intuitive ideas the acquisition of knowledge sustainably. In addition to prior knowledge, other learner characteristics also play a role, such as intelligence, interests or school-related self-concept (self-confidence). In addition, determines the Quality of teaching the learning success. It also shows that children with a higher level of intelligence and prior knowledge are less affected by quality deficits in teaching than those with unfavorable learning conditions (“aptitude-treatment-interaction”).
2) The answer to the question about good teaching depends in particular on the learning objective. When acquiring basic knowledge or basic arithmetic or reading skills, lessons that are usually referred to as "direct instruction" are beneficial. This is characterized by a strong teacher control, a "small step" procedure with many exercise and feedback opportunities and a clear structure. To a certain extent, the teacher takes the learner by the hand and induces important learning processes.
3) Does the goal consist in imparting a deeper understanding of concepts (e.g. the theory of evolution) or should intuitive concepts such as that of the flat earth be changed? Direct instruction as suboptimal. Here children should take a more mentally active role. By deeply dealing with complex problems, by articulating one's own prior understanding, by giving explanations or justifications, through reflection and discussion in small cooperative groups, through active (re) discovery of contexts and the like, productive learning processes can arise here. In recent years, a number of instructional models have been designed within the framework of which the above-mentioned learning activities can be realized (e.g. Anchored instruction). This so-called Models of situated learning contain components such as Project teaching, cooperative learning, Learning with computer-based simulations etc. The main problem here is that the above-mentioned forms of teaching and learning are less likely to lead to the goal than direct instruction in the case of acquiring basic skills. One of the reasons for this is that pupils, for example when they are supposed to learn about complex problems, are often overwhelmed and therefore need competent support. However, doing this is an extremely demanding task for the teachers, for which they were usually insufficiently prepared in their training. At this point there is still a lot of research to be done. In many cases, empirical studies under “privileged” circumstances (high implementation effort, highly motivated teachers, etc.) implement new instructional models that lead to favorable effects. However, when these models are introduced on a broad basis and in everyday teaching practice, manifold problems usually arise. What is needed is a profound one Implementation research.

Educational psychology: who is it for?
The recipients and thus the potential users of educational psychology can be roughly divided into three groups: researchers outside of educational psychology, students and practitioners. a) The influence of educational psychology on the other psychological subdisciplines is, apart from some research methodological developments, slight. As a so-called application subject, however, educational psychology often falls back on concepts from developmental, social, general and differential psychology. At the same time, a characterization of educational psychology as a (pure) application subject is incorrect insofar as it also carries out a great number of basic scientific studies on learning, upbringing and socialization processes. Educational psychology is closest to the Empirical pedagogy connected, from which it can hardly be distinguished. The annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association is the most important international conference for both educational psychology and empirical education. b) The largest number of students who deal with educational psychology are, both nationally and internationally, students of teaching posts. This is reflected, among other things, in the fact that textbooks that are widely used internationally (e.g. Gage & Berliner, 1996) focus entirely on questions of school learning focus. In the psychology diploma course, educational psychology is a compulsory application subject in the main course. With a corresponding range of courses, it is not advisable to focus on learning at school, as there are hardly any career opportunities in this area. Priorities, such as adult education or Learning with new media, make more sense here. c) Practitioners who apply findings from educational psychology are of course school psychologists and educational advisors. In recent years, educational psychology has also received increasing attention in adult education. In some cases, there is also cooperation between the corresponding chairs and companies or chambers of industry and commerce, which take up instructional models from educational psychology in their training and further education concepts.