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What is Educational Psychology?

It’s currently what I am getting my Ph.D. in. More than a few times, people have inquired, what exactly is Educational Psych?

According to the APA (American Psychological Association, the regulation-setter of all things psychology), the study of Educational Psychology focuses on learning, teaching, and academic research.

Learning includes:

  • human development (10 year olds learn differently than 20 year olds)

  • cognitive ability (not just in age, but developmental disables as well)

  • memory (how does one acquire knowledge and recall at a later time)

  • learning styles (visual, aural, verbal, physical – one person may learn better through hands-on projects, while another may enjoy reading or writing)

  • motivation

  • Intrinsic motivation is the internal drive an individual has to do something. For example, I am pursuing my Ph.D. because I want to teach in higher education, do research, and move education forward in our society. This comes from my own passions.

  • Extrinsic motivation is the external force pushing an individual to do something. For example, a student may be pursuing their MBA simply because it is required for a work promotion.

Teaching includes:

  • methods and strategies (include all learning styles in teaching and assignments, crafting expectations and work load, choosing appropriate books and materials, etc.)

  • motivation (how to maximize learner’s motivation)

  • course layout (now online has become a place for education – how do we use technology efficiently and effectively to teach?)

  • communication and connection (to your students)

  • advising (teachers are more than instructors and evaluators of assessments, they are advisors, mentors, and in higher-ed they are often co-researchers)

And research? Well that involves all of the above!

Current academic research is critical in many ways. First, it moves academia, research, and society forward. This aspect was pierced into me in my undergraduate studies. The world is always changing, physically, and people of the world are always changing and growing, again physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and willful intelligence. To continue studying these changes is essentially critical to our survival in the long run! Just think of diseases, medication, global warming, etc.

Second, current research is important to the individual Ph.D. student so they are relevant, reliable, and a catalyst for change and education. As a current educator and advisor, this is invaluable. I must remain up-to-date in effective practices and have academic conversations with students, staff, faculty and the like. Without this, much of education would not take place.

Most of those who study educational psychology work in higher education, but there are many other opportunities: educational directors and coordinators, K-12 principles, school psychologists, researchers, etc. Educational psychologists work at colleges, k-12 schools, non-profits, test publishers, even in the military and more. Education takes place everywhere.

So to answer your question: Educational Psychology is much more than you think it is! Hopefully this gives you a better lens from where I am coming from in this blog as well.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any more questions about the field:

And remember:

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