Meaning and Relevance of Psychology for the Teacher


Meaning and Relevance of Psychology for the Teacher

The great capacity of human beings to adapt to changes in their environment amazes every one of us. Human beings have immense capacity to change behaviour to suit their purpose. Psychology, as a subject of study, is the product of the search to unravel what makes human beings different from other animals.

This page will introduce you to the study of psychology. We will discuss the meaning of psychology as a science, and the different branches of psychology. We will discuss the various domains of human behaviour, and the techniques of studying human behaviour.

Finally, we will discuss why educational psychology is a foundational course for teacher education.

At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

· Describe psychology as a scientific study

· Outline the major schools of psychology

· List, with examples, the different domains of human behaviour

· Examine the contribution of psychology to teacher education

Psychology as a Science

Science is a method of study. It is not on itself a body of knowledge. This method of study has unique characteristics. It is systematic. This means that it follows a definite procedure for gathering information. The method of science is logical. That is, it has a sequence for presenting facts and figures. It is verifiable. It is verifiable because data obtained do not depend on the peculiar character of the person collecting the data. What this in effect means is that human factors and biases are excluded, as much as possible, from the report.

Finally, it is replicable. Anyone can follow the procedure outlined and systematically arrive at the same results. Psychology is described as a science. It is a scientific study of human behaviour. It is a scientific study because it follows the scientific method of study in gathering information.

The scientific method is characterised by the following distinct steps:

1. Problem: A problem is sensed and questions are raised.

2. Hypothesis: A hypothesis is stated. Hypothesis is a tentative answer to the question.

3. Data: Relevant information is gathered. This information is used to test the hypothesis.

4. Data Analysis: Data gathered are collated and analysed in relation to the hypothesis.

5. Conclusion: Conclusion is drawn from the results of analysis of data.

A meaningful study of human behaviour is based on principles agreed on by the scientific community. The outcome of such a study must be supported by evidence. The evidence must be personal opinions or coincidence. Four criteria serve as acid test for a meaningful study of human behaviour.

 These are outlined below:

(a)      Objectivity

By objectivity, we mean that the results of the study should not be affected by the biases or personal preconceptions of the persons carrying out the study. The researchers must not exaggerate data to support their preconceptions. They must not ignore relevant evidence that contradicts their hypothesis.

(b)     Validity

Validity describes the soundness of any scientific study. This means that the study must measure what it sets out to measure. For example, a researcher who sets out to ascertain the average height of 12-year old boys and girls in a particular city, but goes ahead to use a weight measuring instrument to gather data and report findings in heights units will be reporting an invalid study. The researcher did not measure the attribute they set out to measure.

(c)      Reliability

Reliability describes the stability and consistency of measures obtained in a study. This means that, for a study to be reliable, other workers should, using the same measuring instrument and procedure for gathering data, arrive at the same conclusions. For example, a battery of intelligence test administered to the same child by two or more researchers should produce the same or similar scores.

(d)     Replicability

A study is replicable if different researchers, using similar techniques and similar subjects arrive at similar results and conclusions.

In addition to the criteria specified above, if you are designing a research project, you must be careful to work with a representative sample. A sample is representative if it is drawn randomly from the same population of subjects. This implies that the subjects of the study must be typical of the kinds of people the researcher seeks to study. For instance, a study on the effects of television viewing on children’s cognitive abilities might yield different conclusions depending on the age group or socioeconomic background of the subjects sampled for the study. You must consider these basic criteria no matter what research technique you have selected. Be it a naturalistic observational study or a controlled experimental study, these basic criteria must be respected.

Domains of Human Behaviour

Psychology is described as the science of human behaviour. Behaviour is here used to describe a general concept which covers a wide range of human activities. Some human activities are directly observable. If behaviour can be directly observed, it is said to be an overt behaviour. We may cite some examples of overt behaviour. Eye blink, muscle flex are observable. They are overt behaviour. Also, facial contortion and laughter are observable. Pounding fufu, driving a car, writing on the sheet of paper are all observable.

They are overt behaviours. They manifest and we see them. Some human activities, on the other hand, may not be directly observable. If you cannot directly observe behaviour, you describe it as covert behaviour. A covert behaviour can only be inferred from other observations. Examples of covert behaviour include: thinking, reflection, insight, conceptualisation, problem-solving.

We can only infer these behaviours from some other body signs or activities of the individual engaged in the covert behaviour. Human behaviour may be classified into one of three main domains. These domains are cognitive domain, psychomotor domain, and affective domain. We discuss each in more detail.

1.  The Cognitive Domain

Human activities or behaviours are classified under cognitive domain if they generally, knowledge as a cognitive object. They may be concrete or abstract knowledge. We may cite some examples.  Your teacher has taught you that Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is the Executive President of Nigeria, and you can recollect this knowledge in the cognitive domain. It is still possible for the teacher to show you the picture of the President of Nigeria; so when you see Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in reality you recognise him. That knowledge is concrete knowledge in the cognitive domain. Again, you are taught that the outer space is a void. The outer space contains no atmosphere. You are able to recall that knowledge. You have the knowledge as a cognitive object. It is not possible to take a real picture of the void of the outer space. Void does not exist as a sensory experience. It can only be conceptualised, not recognised. Voidance cannot be seen. The knowledge that the outer space is void is an abstract knowledge in the cognitive domain.

2.    The Psychomotor Domain

Human activities or behaviours are classified under the psychomotor domain if they generally reflect production of skills. Skill production involves manual control using fine motor actions. We may cite examples of behaviour at the psychomotor domain. Driving a motor vehicle is an activity in the psychomotor domain. So is typing on a computer keyboard. You should take note that when learning objectives are stated on the psychomotor domain; the instruction must specify the procedure the learner must adopt to reproduce the required skill. There is no tell-tale instruction for skill acquisition. The learner must be seen to have reproduced the psychomotor activity or skill.

3.    The Affective Domain

 Human behaviour is classified under the affective domain if it generally reflects emotions, attitude change, and development of interest or aversion. Such behaviours usually signal a latitude change in affections. We may cite some examples. Suppose you did not like children before. You undergo the course: childhood and adolescent psychology. You come to appreciate children. During your spare time, you take a walk voluntarily, without any promptings, to a neighbourhood children’s playground.

You unconsciously begin to enjoy the children and their activities. This attitude change is behaviour in the affective domain. Take another example. You are known to be abrasive to other ethnic groups in Nigeria. Your brother brings home from his youth service an Igbo lady for a wife. You complain and fuss. You openly show your dislike for the lady. All the same, the lady lives with your family. You discover what a nice lady she is. You begin to appreciate her and even her other Igbo relations. You have experienced an attitude change. That change in attitude is behaviour in the affective domain. Emotions are involved. You can cite other examples involving development of aversion or even fear or empathy. You should note that human behaviour is very complex. Behaviour may involve all three domains simultaneously. It may be difficult to strictly classify such behaviour belonging to the cognitive domain or psychomotor or affective domain. For example, the behaviour of a motor vehicle driver who swerves into a gutter to avoid running over a small child who suddenly jumped onto the road involves more than one domain.

There is the cognitive calculation of the speed and the distance of the approaching car from the child. There is the affective consideration that a human life is at great risk. There is the psychomotor skill in promptly swerving the car out of the obstacle on the road. Clearly, all the three domains come into play in that singule behaviour. Therefore, the classification scheme is for easy conceptualisation and understanding of behaviours.

Schools of Psychology

There are several schools of psychology. A school of psychology refers to a perspective, a view, or an interpretation of human behaviour from a standpoint. Different psychologists have interpreted human behaviour from different standpoints. The standpoint of a psychologist determines what aspect of human behaviour they study; what techniques they employ; the nature of information gathered; and the interpretation of data. Psychologists who share similar standpoints make up schools of psychology. A school of psychology has a specific viewpoint, uses a specific technique, and interprets behaviour from a known standpoint. We shall discuss three schools of psychology, namely: the psychoanalytic school, the behavioural school, and the cognitive developmental school.

1.          The Psychoanalytic School

The father of psychoanalysis is Sigmund Freud. Freud (1965) proposed that the human mind was topographical and dynamic. By that, Freud Y 7 meant that there are provinces or divisions in the human mind. These divisions are always moving and interrelating. According to Freud (1965), the divisions of the human mind may be conceived as three levels of consciousness. These levels are: the conscious mind, the preconscious mind, and the unconscious mind. The conscious mind represents the part of the human mind where thoughts, feelings, ideas, and images that one is aware of reside. The preconscious mind refers to the part of the mind directly beneath the conscious mind. It is from the preconscious mind that thoughts and feelings are easily brought to human consciousness. The unconscious mind refers to the part of the human mind that is out of awareness. Thoughts, ideas, feelings, and images that reside in the unconscious mind are hidden. It is here that human beings bury thoughts and feelings that cause them anxiety, guilt, fear, and other psychological discomforts, especially those that are the result of childhood conflicts. The materials in the unconscious mind are buried deep. They are not easily accessible. They can be inferred or understand only through dreams, slips of the tongue, the jokes people tell, manner of dress, life choices, likes and dislikes, fantasies, and relationships with others. Freud (1965) proposed that human personality was composed of three systems. These systems represent mental structures through which biological drives are mediated before they manifest as behaviour. These mental structures are:The id, the ego, and the superego.

The id represents Freudian personality structure that deals with basic instincts. The id is the seat of psychic energy and biological drives such as hunger, thirst, sex, self-preservation. The id relishes the pleasure principle. That is, it strives for the immediate gratification of drives and needs. The ego is the Freudian part of personality that deals with reality.

The ego is the rational part of the mind. It regulates the biddings of the id for immediate gratification of needs. It delays of personality. It is the moral id gratification to an appropriate opportunity. The ego relishes the reality principle. That is, it instructs the id to choose an appropriate or best time and manner for the discharge of psychic energy.

The superego is the Freudian personality structure i.e. the moral part of human personality. The superego incorporates the society’s rules and values. It is the agent of the society. It is the voice of authority or the police of personality. It is the moral arm of the world, and the values of one’s culture. The superego mediates the biddings of the id, and the ego.

Note that the id, the ego, and the superego represent an organised whole. Personality is not made of distinct pieces. The three mental structures work together to produce one personality type. All three levels of consciousness or awareness flow through them.

What is important is that the dynamics of personality will depend on the way that psychic energy is distributed among the id, the ego, and the superego. If energy is concentrated on the id, the individual will be uncontrolled and impulsive. The id controlled person will often find himself in trouble with the law. If energy settled primarily in the ego, the individual’s behaviour will be more realistic and socially appropriate. If the energy concentrates mainly with the superego, the individual’s behaviour will tend toward the rigid and moralistic. Individuals with very powerful superego have difficulty living full and open lives. Superego persons cannot initiate changes in social structures. They are usually pro-establishment persons. We shall not go into the details of Freud’s psychosexual development.

We will also not discuss Erik Erickson’s psychosocial development here. However, the crux of the psychoanalytic school of psychology is that childhood experiences significantly impact adult behaviour. Predominantly pleasant childhood experiences lead to healthy adult personality. However, predominantly frustrating childhood experiences lead to difficulty with personality development. Individuals who have difficulty with their personality employ in adult life defense mechanisms to protect their weak ego.

2. The Behavioural School

The behavioural school of psychology was founded by John Watson. To the school, the theoretical goal of psychology was the prediction and control of behaviour. The school focuses on the effect of learning on human development. The psychologists in the behaviour school seek to find out how children modify their behaviour as a result of experience.

According to Watson (1930), experience is the root of human behaviour. What a child learns, that the child becomes. Watson (1926) posited that a stimulus is the environmental situation or an internal condition that causes activity in human beings.

Behaviourists believe that the arrangement of evens or stimuli in the environment determine the child’s behaviour. In other words, children learn what they become from the events they encounter. Events in the environment generate consequences. These consequences, as encountered by the child, determine their behaviour. What this means is that children are shaped by the environment in which they live.

Therefore, the social environment of the child significantly impacts development and behaviour. The behavioural school of psychology initiated the first scientific study of human behaviour. They studied how specific stimuli or events in the environment gave rise to specific observable behaviour. Behavioural psychologists maintained that all behaviours are observable, measurable, and therefore predictable.

3. The Cognitive Developmental School

The father of the cognitive developmental school of psychology is Jean Piaget. The school focuses on understanding how mental structures promote thinking, reasoning, and purposeful or goal-directed behaviour. The psychologists in this school studied extensively how children come to know things. The subject matter of study of the cognitive developmentalists is human cognition. Piaget (1926) was specifically interested in understanding how children come to use images, symbols, concepts and rules to construct a worldview.

The cognitive developmental school of psychology is so named because one basic proposition of the school is that as people grow, change, and develop, so do their thought processes. Cognitive psychologists posit that as human beings develop intellectually, they build schemes or patterns of behaviour and thinking. That is, individuals construct their own diagrams of the world. Therefore, people’s mental schemes determine the way they interpret experience. Infants have limited schemes of the world. Experience, maturation, and learning elaborate those schemes. By adulthood, schemes have become very complex, encompassing such abstract ideas as love, peace, democracy, and justice.

 Relevance of Educational Psychology to Teacher

The study of educational psychology is important to the teacher trainee for many reasons. These reasons include the following:

(i) The major function of the teacher is to guide growth, development, and learning. Therefore, the teacher needs a thorough understanding of the patterns and characteristics of human development and behaviour.

(ii) Childhood and adolescent development gives the teacher trainee an opportunity to study the child from the early days of his life through adolescence. The patterns of growth, including times for rapid, slow, and rounding up of physical, intellectual, social and emotional development could be conceptualised in a short print span. The teacher trainee is thus in a position to identify what is normal or abnormal in any child’s growth and development.

(iii) There are a lot of individual differences in rate and timing of appearance or unfolding of the various aspects of the child’s development. The study of educational psychology affords the teacher trainee a unique opportunity to understand individual differences in children.

(iv) Hereditary and environmental factors interact intimately to produce observed behaviour of children. The study of child development gives the teacher trainee the opportunity to understand critical environmental factors that influence human growth and development.

(v) The study of educational psychology empowers the teacher to be able to predict, and control human behaviour. This in essence aids the teacher in their primary assignment, which is to guide the child’s development and learning.

(vi) The study of educational psychology exposes the teacher to various theories that explain human learning, motivation, information processing and transfer of learning sets. When the teacher marries the theoretical knowledge with the knowledge of patterns and characteristics of growth and development at the different stages of child development, they are in a better position to select age appropriate educational experience for children.

Psychology is a very broad field of study. It is an exciting field of human endeavour. Studying psychology will make you to, understand children’s behavior; it will also give you a deep insight into your own behaviour. The study of psychology will make you understand human behaviour better, so you will begin to better appreciate human relationships. You will begin to experience greater adjustment to the vagaries of human reasoning and living in a social environment.

Post a Comment