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a branch of psychology dealing with the application of psychological principles and theories to a broad spectrum of teaching, training, and learning issues in educational settings. Educational psychology also addresses psychological problems that can arise in educational systems. Educational psychologists often hold applied as well as academic positions, spending their time in a variety of teaching, research, and applied pursuits.

Educational Psychology is the psychological study of learning within various educational situations. It covers the psychology of teaching, as well as the newer study of social psychology within school settings. Educational psychology seeks to understand how students each learn and how they develop. Education psychology covers a broad expanse of specialties, with educational psychologists focusing on different technology used in education, how teachers develop curriculum or worksheets as well as lesson plans and rubrics within their classrooms. It also covers special education for both gifted students and those with learning disabilities.

Because educational psychology studies human development as well as learning development, many psychologists’ previous work has been applied. Piaget and the theory of learning development is incorporated as it applies to students’ cognitive abilities at various ages, best allowing teachers to use teacher resources wisely for any age group. Kohlberg is equally implicated for moral development of students and how that contributes to their success or lack thereof within various learning environments with different learning materials present. Steiner’s work correlates child development encompassing theories of Kohlberg, Piaget, as well as physical and emotional development.

Seeing as individuals are unique in their construction, their abilities or challenges derived from learning or development are also unique. Educational psychology is responsible for understanding disabilities such as ADHD, dyslexia, speech impediments, hearing impairments, or any level of mental retardation. It is also responsible for understanding gifted intelligences and creativity.

To understand these, intelligence tests are administered, most famously being the Stanford-Binet and WISC IQ tests. This allows for broader understanding of economic effects on learning too. Major concepts within Education Psychology are learning and cognition. This covers formal education systems, whether private or public, and how students within these systems retain any information or skills learned, and how they are able to apply those skills or that information outside of the their classroom. Motivation covers a large portion of study as individual motivation internally affects how a student would behave and thus how well they are able to learn within certain settings.


Motivation is an internal state that activates, guides and sustains behavior. Motivation can have several impacting effects on how students learn and how they behave towards subject matter:

Provide direction towards goals

Enhance cognitive processing abilities and performance

Direct behavior toward particular goals

Lead to increased effort and energy

Increase initiation of and persistence in activities

Educational psychology research on motivation is concerned with the volition or will that students bring to a task, their level of interest and intrinsic motivation, the personally held goals that guide their behavior, and their belief about the causes of their success or failure. As intrinsic motivation deals with activities that act as their own rewards, extrinsic motivation deals with motivations that are brought on by consequences or punishments. A form of attribution theory developed by Bernard Weiner describes how students’ beliefs about the causes of academic success or failure affect their emotions and motivations. For example, when students attribute failure to lack of ability, and ability is perceived as uncontrollable, they experience the emotions of shame and embarrassment and consequently decrease effort and show poorer performance. In contrast, when students attribute failure to lack of effort, and effort is perceived as controllable, they experience the emotion of guilt and consequently increase effort and show improved performance.

The self-determination theory (SDT) was developed by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. SDT focuses on the importance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in driving human behavior and posits inherent growth and development tendencies. It emphasizes the degree to which an individual’s behavior is self-motivated and self-determined. When applied to the realm of education, the self-determination theory is concerned primarily with promoting in students an interest in learning, a value of education, and a confidence in their own capacities and attributes.

Motivational theories also explain how learners’ goals affect the way they engage with academic tasks. Those who have mastery goals strive to increase their ability and knowledge. Those who have performance approach goals strive for high grades and seek opportunities to demonstrate their abilities. Those who have performance avoidance goals are driven by fear of failure and avoid situations where their abilities are exposed. Research has found that mastery goals are associated with many positive outcomes such as persistence in the face of failure, preference for challenging tasks, creativity and intrinsic motivation. Performance avoidance goals are associated with negative outcomes such as poor concentration while studying, disorganized studying, less self-regulation, shallow information processing and test anxiety. Performance approach goals are associated with positive outcomes, and some negative outcomes such as an unwillingness to seek help and shallow information processing.

Locus of control is a salient factor in the successful academic performance of students. During the 1970s and ’80s, Cassandra B. Whyte did significant educational research studying locus of control as related to the academic achievement of students pursuing higher education coursework. Much of her educational research and publications focused upon the theories of Julian B. Rotter in regard to the importance of internal control and successful academic performance. Whyte reported that individuals who perceive and believe that their hard work may lead to more successful academic outcomes, instead of depending on luck or fate, persist and achieve academically at a higher level. Therefore, it is important to provide education and counseling in this regard