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Essay Example: Applying Psychology to Teaching and Learning

8 pages
1977 words
Harvey Mudd College
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In psychology, we study how the human mind works, and why it functions as it does. In my observation, this study is a very significant field in the understanding of other areas, especially the field of education. Understanding psychology in education terms is vital as almost everything related to teaching and learning has an origin in the foundations of psychology. To be a successful teacher, as I intend to, the understanding of the concept of psychology that everyone goes through a couple of stages in development in their life and that even though they all follow the same sequence, the rates differ from one person to another.

The study of psychology has changed my view of the learning process. I have come to realize that, contrary to the popular opinion, not to mention my misguided beliefs before taking this course, teaching and learning comprise many complicated aspects and characteristics that make them complicated processes. Before I learned about educational psychology and how much is invested in teaching and learning, I thought these two were simple processes that only involved presenting knowledge to the student in a way they could understand. For sure, I was wrong, and I know how various aspects of teaching and learning were and are still acknowledged in my education, something that I could not see as an outsider. This course together with the fieldwork I have done have substantially changed my outlook as I aspire to be an excellent teacher. I now see the entire education process in a better way, and I am confident that this knowledge will be precious when I go on to teaching.

Concepts like the Ecological Systems Theory and its effects on students will also be of great benefit for me in my practice. To me, the learning of microsystems is vital for how I will teach in the future. Before learning about all the different systems and factors that the microsystem of a student consists of, I had thought that only peers, culture and family influenced the life of a student. I have come to understand that many things in educational psychology are interrelated and the aspects that impact a student's life such as financial and home environments are of significant influence. This realization is fundamental to me, and all other teachers should recognize these different systems as they in turn influence other vital areas of teaching and learning. For instance, once I am a teacher, I will put into consideration the fact that students do not all have the same lifestyles or situations, this will help in determining my expectations to each one of them individually so that I do not expect more of any one of them than they are capable.

Another area of educational psychology that I am sure will help me very much in becoming an excellent teacher is Behaviorism. It is an essential concept of educational psychology as it is linked to many other areas crucial to teaching and learning. In behaviorism, we study that the human behavior which can be analyzed by examination and analysis of the behavioral events we observe, in contrast to subjective mental states. The understanding of this concept is very crucial to a teacher. After learning different types of reinforcements and punishments in education, I was in a position to connect and apply it in both situations that I have observed and also project it in possible conditions that might occur in my classroom in the future. I will personally focus keenly on ensuring that I use reinforcement and punishment, among other tools, because it has been hugely beneficial to my peers and me. Support, also, motivates a student to behave appropriately, this eventually results in success in whatever they were doing. With a victory, the student gets to feel more competent in whatever they are doing because they can do it correctly, this increases their self-efficacy. All these things, both directly and indirectly, influence a students attention in class. Once the student believes they are capable, along with the rewards they gain from appropriate behavior during learning, they are motivated and to pay more attention. Although I had known that reward systems were used, the complexity of their influence on concentration, an essential part of the foundation of learning, was not apparent to me.

My student observations have also been instrumental in understanding how I can be a successful teacher and the methods that are effective and which ones are not regarding learning. I was able to make observations by connecting the content I was learning to the situations in the classes which strengthened my understanding. There were many instances I reflected on how influential teachers were to students' lives and how important their role was in educating adolescents.

One of the instances was in a Physical Education class when I observed a student walk in class excited and told Mr. J how the knowledge he had taught had proven helpful outside of course. The student has used the experience gained in a musculoskeletal system unit which involved prevention of injuries and first aid, to help her brother who has been injured playing a game of catch. The student was happy she had learned what to do in class from what the teacher had taught and was calmly able to hand the situation (Physical Education). I observe that this means the transfer of knowledge from a subject in school to help in a real-life case. Such opportunities are prevalent especially for adolescents where instruction given by teachers helps them in life on daily basis.

In another case, a student approached Mr. J to thank him as a teacher for helping him achieve his goals. In a physical fitness test at the beginning of the year, he had taught the students on self-regulation to maintain proper fitness, by planning, making reflections and adjusting. The student had been working on losing weight and was having a difficult time. Through the lessons on self-regulation, planning his workouts, meals, and assessment of his progress, taught by the teacher, he was able to lose the weight he wanted (Physical Education). Adolescents can apply such skills taught by teachers in many other aspects of their life. This way, real learning is attained.

In a Chemistry class, one of the students was taking chemistry for a second time as she had failed in the previous year. Mr. P asked the student why she thinks she had failed and what would help her pass this time around. The student said that she had no interest in learning the subject because she felt not good enough. The teacher started handing out articles and cool' pictures at the beginning of each topic. He also began putting in extra effort by remaining after class to explain topics in which the students were struggling. The students were able to get grades in the 90's-100 range that year. The influence that teachers have in the lives of students, especially adolescents, not only in school immense. Cultivating the right attitude both in and out of class influenced the life of the students immensely.

B. ELLs, Students With Special Needs and Teacher Responsibility

Today, in almost every classroom, we find a diverse group of students, creating a variety of needs and skills. Every teacher should understand that a diverse group has different cultural backgrounds, motivation, and skills. Even though it is hard to accommodate all of them at once, it is crucial that a teacher does not teach one student at the expense of all the others. Too much focus on the needs of one student results in neglect of the others and creation of unequal learning opportunities. A teacher must thus create lessons in a way that involves all students.

Creating such lessons is hard. To develop a plan that actively involves every student, a teacher must first identify the different needs of the students and formulate the lessons with the objective of attending to every need. One of the ways is teaching using various formats and mediums that increases the chances that students will absorb and retain the information. Presenting knowledge in multiple ways ensures that if a student doesnt understand one way, they will get the information the other way. I have had an opportunity to witness this first hand.

In a Chemistry class, Mr. J chose to play a Youtube video with a song on the periodic table in an attempt to help the students memorize some elements they needed to know for Reagents. This audio was beneficial as it appealed to the students who learned better through auditory methods. Some students pay more attention this way, and it is very relevant in the modern world as a massive part of our culture is now learned through music. The video also provided a fun way of recalling the information in a way that was not boring (Chemistry). In the same way, Mr. J introduced the football unit in physical education using videos of NFL players in training, playing and practicing ballet. This way, the teacher modeled the skills to be taught so that the leaners could see the correct body movements. They saw exactly how they were to move to achieve the end goal, rather than just verbally explaining what to do (Physical Education).

Teachers have to know what works for the students regarding attention and motivation as every student is different and this affects how they learn. For instance, in my observations for physical education, a class that I observed had to share the gym with another. On this day, I decided to follow both and make a comparison of how the two conducted their sessions and which had more effective lesson plans. Both were doing soccer. Mr. J's class, however, seemed to be running more smoothly and his students more actively involved. After 84 minutes, I found Mr. J to have a better lesson plan. As the students played, he gave verbal praises and instructions while the other teacher just watched. Learning is not always practical when physical prompts are employed on their own, verbal-linguistic is sometimes necessary. Some need reassurances before they proceed (Physical Education).

In addition to the different ways students learn, teachers should consider special needs the students may have. These could be physical, cognitive, or social. A common special need is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). This is a chronic condition where individuals have difficulty maintaining attention (Mayo Clinic, 2017). The hyperactivity, impulse behavior, and low self-esteem they present with can be major challenges in class as such students are often disruptive, and in a class like Chemistry where students deal with chemicals, this might be harmful. Also, these students cannot focus and therefore tend to do poorly in school. Teachers must be able to recognize such situations and plan accordingly.

One of the students in the Chemistry class had ADHD and could not pay attention or follow instructions. In lab experiments, he starts playing with equipment before the instructions have been given. Other students in his group get frustrated as he wastes time, messes around, and does not contribute to the team. The teacher tries to keep his focus by giving him a specific task to do in the group, making it seem like an outstanding job to motivate him to do it. When he gets distracted by some equipment, reminding him to get back to his task as it is vital keeps him focused.

Motivation and Self-Regulation for Learning

Learning comprises of many factors, one the most important ones is motivation. Motivation is an internal state that brings about, guides and maintains behavior and has an influence on the general willingness or desire that someone has to do something. It plays a vital role in learning as once it comes down to it, the things that people do things because they want to, or don't want to. In learning, paying attention is importan...

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