Archive for the ‘Psychology of Education’ Category

Be yourself, be happy

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Insecurity is created whenever the focus in on how one looks, rather than who they are.

YOU have curly hair, but you want it straight; you spend hundreds at the salon to get that look. You are curvy, but you want to be stick thin; you spend thousands to achieve and maintain the look you want.

You have brown eyes, but you want blue; you spend money for coloured contacts to achieve that look. You are getting older, and you want to be young; thousands are spent to achieve the look you are going for.

Yet, at the end of the day, you are “you” and you cannot change that. We all want to be something we are not, and this feeling that we are less because we aren’t what we picture is making us depressed, anxious, moody, and insecure.

Men struggle with this thinking, but not nearly as much as women. Women are trapped by it. We can become obsessed with it. Not only are grown women trapped by it, but six-year-old girls are reporting that they want to be thinner, have different eye colour, different skin colour or prettier overall.

When you ask someone what they notice about another person, most of the time you will hear things such as their energy, their interests, or their unique quirks or personality. Rarely will it be about how someone looks.

When looks do come up, they are usually in the context of extremes. When you get close to someone, how they look becomes less and less important.

This feeling of knowing someone well and no longer caring how they look does not generalise to ourselves. In fact, the longer women are in their bodies, the more critical they become.

by Mary-Jo Rapini.

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Towards brain based learning

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Knowing how memory and the learning process work will result in a more complete education system.

Neuroeducation is defined as an education system that is based on principles of the neurosciences. It results in an education system that is built upon how the brain works.

Technology and advances in science and research have enabled us to peer into the smallest workings of memory, learning, brain development and networks.

It only makes sense that findings of this new research be incorporated into new educational practices.

Knowledge of the learning process and memory formation is and should be crucial to teaching practices in learning spaces.

However, neuroscientists have differing opinions as to when neural circuitry and brain networks are formed. Some advocate that neural networks are formed in early childhood, and perhaps to the early teenage years, while others propose it to be a lifelong process.

The brain is born with lots of redundant circuitry and cells, and a “pruning” process takes place during the developmental stage. This process is crucial in order to maintain an efficient brain.

There appears to be consensus that maximum efficiency and performance is during early childhood.

Need for experts

Children’s brains are most ready to learn and most eager for a high level of understanding and clarity. Therefore, childhood education should be delivered by the greatest expertise available.

by Dr Theva Nithy.

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Educational psychology

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Educational psychology is concerned with how students learn and develop, often focusing on subgroups such as gifted children and those subject to specific disabilities. Although the terms “educational psychology” and “school psychology” are often used interchangeably, researchers and theorists are likely to be identified in the US and Canada as educational psychologists, whereas practitioners in schools or school-related settings are identified as school psychologists. This distinction is however not made in the UK, where the generic term for practitioners is “educational psychologist”.

Educational psychology can in part be understood through its relationship with other disciplines. It is informed primarily by psychology, bearing a relationship to that discipline analogous to the relationship between medicine and biology. Educational psychology in turn informs a wide range of specialities within educational studies, including instructional design, educational technology, curriculum development, organizational learning, special education and classroom management. Educational psychology both draws from and contributes to cognitive science and the learning sciences. In universities, departments of educational psychology are usually housed within faculties of education, possibly accounting for the lack of representation of educational psychology content in introductory psychology textbooks.

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Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was one of the most influential researchers in the area of developmental psychology during the 20th century. Piaget originally trained in the areas of biology and philosophy and considered himself a “genetic epistemologist.” He was mainly interested in the biological influences on “how we come to know.” He believed that what distinguishes human beings from other animals is our ability to do “abstract symbolic reasoning.” Piaget’s views are often compared with those of Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), who looked more to social interaction as the primary source of cognition and behavior. This is somewhat similar to the distinctions made between Freud and Erikson in terms of the development of personality. The writings of Piaget (e.g., 1972, 1990; see Piaget, Gruber, & Voneche) and Vygotsky (e.g. Vygotsky, 1986; Vygotsky & Vygotsky, 1980), along with the work of John Dewey (e.g., Dewey, 1997a, 1997b), Jerome Bruner (e.g., 1966, 1974) and Ulrick Neisser (1967) form the basis of the constructivist theory of learning and instruction.

While working in Binet’s IQ test lab in Paris, Piaget became interested in how children think. He noticed that young children’s answers were qualitatively different than older children which suggested to him that the younger ones were not dumber (a quantitative position since as they got older and had more experiences they would get smarter) but, instead, answered the questions differently than their older peers because they thought differently.

There are two major aspects to his theory: the process of coming to know and the stages we move through as we gradually acquire this ability.

Process of Cognitive Development. As a biologist, Piaget was interested in how an organism adapts to its environment (Piaget described as intelligence.) Behavior (adaptation to the environment) is controlled through mental organizations called schemes that the individual uses to represent the world and designate action. This adaptation is driven by a biological drive to obtain balance between schemes and the environment (equilibration).

Piaget hypothesized that infants are born with schemes operating at birth that he called “reflexes.” In other animals, these reflexes control behavior throughout life. However, in human beings as the infant uses these reflexes to adapt to the environment, these reflexes are quickly replaced with constructed schemes.

Piaget described two processes used by the individual in its attempt to adapt: assimilation and accomodation. Both of these processes are used thoughout life as the person increasingly adapts to the environment in a more complex manner.

Assimilation is the process of using or transforming the environment so that it can be placed in preexisting cognitive structures. Accomodation is the process of changing cognitive structures in order to accept something from the environment. Both processes are used simultaneously and alternately throughout life. An example of assimilation would be when an infant uses a sucking schema that was developed by sucking on a small bottle when attempting to suck on a larger bottle. An example of accomodation would be when the child needs to modify a sucking schema developed by sucking on a pacifier to one that would be successful for sucking on a bottle.

As schemes become increasingly more complex (i.e., responsible for more complex behaviors) they are termed structures. As one’s structures become more complex, they are organized in a hierarchical manner (i.e., from general to specific).

Stages of Cognitive Development. Piaget identified four stages in cognitive development:

  1. Sensorimotor stage (Infancy). In this period (which has 6 stages), intelligence is demonstrated through motor activity without the use of symbols. Knowledge of the world is limited (but developing) because its based on physical interactions / experiences. Children acquire object permanence at about 7 months of age (memory). Physical development (mobility) allows the child to begin developing new intellectual abilities. Some symbollic (language) abilities are developed at the end of this stage.
  2. Pre-operational stage (Toddler and Early Childhood). In this period (which has two substages), intelligence is demonstrated through the use of symbols, language use matures, and memory and imagination are developed, but thinking is done in a nonlogical, nonreversable manner. Egocentric thinking predominates
  3. Concrete operational stage (Elementary and early adolescence). In this stage (characterized by 7 types of conservation: number, length, liquid, mass, weight, area, volume), intelligence is demonstarted through logical and systematic manipulation of symbols related to concrete objects. Operational thinking develops (mental actions that are reversible). Egocentric thought diminishes.
  4. Formal operational stage (Adolescence and adulthood). In this stage, intelligence is demonstrated through the logical use of symbols related to abstract concepts. Early in the period there is a return to egocentric thought. Only 35% of high school graduates in industrialized countries obtain formal operations; many people do not think formally during adulthood.

Many pre-school and primary programs are modeled on Piaget’s theory, which, as stated previously, provides part of the foundation for constructivist learning. Discovery learning and supporting the developing interests of the child are two primary instructional techniques. It is recommended that parents and teachers challenge the child’s abilities, but NOT present material or information that is too far beyond the child’s level. It is also recommended that teachers use a wide variety of concrete experiences to help the child learn (e.g., use of manipulatives, working in groups to get experience seeing from another’s perspective, field trips, etc).

Piaget’s research methods were based primarily on case studies [they were descriptive]. While some  of his ideas have been supported through more correlational and experimental methodologies, others have not. For example, Piaget believed that biological development drives the movement from one cognitive stage to the next. Data from cross-sectional studies of children in a variety of western cultures seem to support this assertion for the stages of sensorimotor, preoperational, and concrete operations ( Renner, Stafford, Lawson, McKinnon, Friot & Kellogg, 1976).

However, data from similar cross-sectional studies of adolescents do not support the assertion that all individuals will automatically move to the next cognitive stage as they biologically mature. Data from adolescent populations indicates  only 30 to 35% of high school seniors attain the cognitive development stage of formal operations (Kuhn, Langer, Kohlberg & Haan, 1977). For formal operations, it appears that maturation establishes the basis, but a special environment is required for most adolescents and adults to attain this stage.

There are a number of specific examples of how to use Piagetian theory in teaching/learning process.


  • Bruner, J. (1966). Studies in cognitive growth : A collaboration at the Center for Cognitive Studies. New York: Wiley & Sons.
  • Bruner, J. (1974). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Dewey, J. (1997a). Experience and education. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co.
  • Dewey, J. (1997b). How we think. New York: Dover Publications.
  • Kuhn, D., Langer, J., Kohlberg, L., & Haan, N. S. (1977). The development of formal operations. in logical and moral judgment. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 95, 97-188.
  • Neisser, U. (1967) Cognitive psychology. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts.
  • Piaget, J. (1972). The psychology of the child. New York: Basic Books.
  • Piaget, J. (1990). The child’s conception of the world. New York: Littlefield Adams.
  • Piaget, J., Gruber, H. (Ed.), & Voneche, J. J. (Ed.). The essential Piaget (100th Anniversary Ed.). New York: Jason Aronson.
  • Renner, J., Stafford, D., Lawson, A., McKinnon, J., Friot, E., & Kellogg, D. (1976). Research, teaching, and learning with the Piaget model. Norman, OK: University of  Oklahoma Press.
  • Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and language. Boston: MIT Press.
  • Vygotsky, L., & Vygotsky, S. (1980). Mind in society : The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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Right brain learning

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Computers, television and video games are almost a part of nature for children growing up in this day and age, but if left unmoderated, exposure to these devices may endanger a child’s brain development.

While computer games may be good for the left brain development, parents need to know that it is important to strike a balance between their child’s right and left brains, said right brain education expert Pamela Sue Hickein.

Hickein, who is the founder of TweedleWink, a right brain education centre said: “There is a corpus callosum, which is a bridge linking the right and left brains and this is important because a person needs both the right and left brain to do things.”

She said that parents have a big role to play in contributing to a child’s brain development.

“If a child is gifted, it’s probably because the parent spends time with them.”

Emphasising the importance of a parent’s role, Hickein said that a young child has a very active right brain, and often there is no filter because the left brain is not yet active.

“This is why parents need to act as that filter, and make sure that only the positive things go in.”

She described the right brain as a sponge, with the ability to absorb everything the child sees or hears.

“The left brain only starts to develop when a child starts to talk. This is why toddlers and early pre-school children do matching, and they learn about shapes and colours. All these activities are developing the left brain.”

Using a right-to-left brain approach in educating children, Hickein said the classes at TweedleWink trained a child’s visual ability, vocabulary, geography and world customs education, music education, reading, maths, science and art.

As an example, Hickein said, “Art is a thought form that goes through the right brain, and is expressed by the left brain. So while artists need a very active right brain, they also need their left brain to express themselves, because without the left brain, their artistic thoughts cannot be processed.”

She said she also believed that it was important to find out what a child is interested in, and what their natural strengths are.

“It’s the same concept as work. If a child likes what they are learning, they will not feel like they are learning.”

After all, “All children have the potential to be gifted in something, they simply need to maximise their potential.”

by Alycia Lim.

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Panic disorder, depression can be treated over Internet: Study

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

STOCKHOLM: Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) via the Internet is just as effective in treating panic disorder (recurring panic attacks) as traditional group-based CBT, according to a new research from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institute (KI).

“Internet-based CBT is also more cost-effective than group therapy,” said Jan Bergstrom, a doctoral student at the Center for Psychiatry Research at KI, reports China’s Xinhua news agency.

“The results therefore support the introduction of Internet treatment into regular psychiatry, which is also what the National Board of Health and Welfare recommends in its new guidelines for the treatment of depression and anxiety,” Bergstrom said in a statement.

It is estimated that depression affects some 15% and panic disorder 4% of all people during their lifetime.

Depression can include a number of symptoms, such as low mood, lack of joy, guilt, lethargy, concentration difficulties, insomnia and a low zest for life, the research said.

In the Internet-based CBT, the patient undergoes an Internet- based self-help program and has contact with a therapist by email.

The present doctoral thesis includes a randomised clinical trial of 104 patients with panic disorder and compares the effectiveness of Internet-based CBT and group CBT within a regular healthcare service.

The study shows that both treatments worked very well and that there was no significant difference between them, either immediately after treatment or at a six-month follow-up, the research said.

Karolinska Institute becomes famous around the world partly because the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is decided here every year. – Bernama

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