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Monday, 5 May 2014

Should Psychology be included in Initial Teacher Training?




I am not a psychologist, but I am a teacher who works with young children. I have to consider their likes and dislikes, quirks, baggage, personalities and brains on a daily basis and therefore psychology forms a large part of my everyday professional life. It, I believe, is actually a HUGE part of my day to day teaching and impacts on everything I do in class all day, week, term and year. 

I am also pragmatic, a realist who deals with the here and now in a very practical way, I am therefore a Pragmatic Psychologist - All of my life I have been asking about the greater possibilities of life. I have never been satisfied with the answers I have been handed. What else is possible beyond that and beyond that, I would ask as a child and still do now? What more is there? What if there is a whole different world available for you? What would you really like to choose?

I am most definitely an amatuer Pragmatic Pyschologist self taught in the school of life when it comes to most things, which again demonstrates my pragmatic personality, and in my own very individual way Pragmatic Psychology is the questions where awareness begins. Asking questions unlocks awareness so you can see what is and so you can perceive a different possibility, allowing you to see a different way that you have not been able to see before.  So here is todays very pragmatic question - Should Psychology be included in Initial Teacher Training?

Psychology is both an applied and academic field that studies the human mind and behaviour. Whilst a large part of psychology is devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to applications for psychology. In addition to mental health, psychology can be applied to a variety of issues that impact health and daily life including performance enhancement, self-help, motivation, productivity, and of course education. Some of the areas of psychology which apply to education are:

Cognitive Psychology - the study of human thought processes and cognitions. Cognitive psychologists study topics such as attention, memory, perception, decision-making, problem-solving, and language.

Developmental Psychology - is an area that looks at human growth and development over the lifespan. Theories often focus on the development of cognitive abilities, morality, social functioning, identity, and other life areas.

Education Psychology - with the main focus helping children with emotional, social and academic issues.

Social Psychology - which is a discipline that uses scientific methods "to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of other human beings" Gordon Allport (1985).

So where is its relevance in the everyday classroom? Well as a Primary School teacher I can only really provide some of the answers within that setting but I suspect the answers would also apply within other educational setting too.


The things a teacher has to consider before the teaching even begins:

Organising the Learning Environment - This is not an easy task, one of the first things to consider is creating a positive ethos which considers, the emotional well-being of the learners, that is the relationships between the adults and children and children with children, the rights and responsibilities of everybody in the class, the relationships with the wider community including the parents, the systems for promoting good behaviour and regular attendance, the systems for combating bullying and the day to day classroom routines. Then there is the physical environment: The physical environment has an impact on learning. It can be supportive of both independent learning and group and peer work. The considerations include classroom layout, effective use of space and the equipment available as well as the organisation of the tables.

Pupils as individuals or Rosenthal's Pygmalion effect, Attention first came to the issue of teacher expectations in 1966, when Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson published the results of a powerful study later known as the Pygmalion Effect. According to Tauber (1998), the Pygmalion Effect asserts that "one's expectations about a person can eventually lead that person to behave and achieve in ways that confirm those expectations" As part of the study
 group of teachers were told that randomly selected students were about to experience an intellectual growth spurt. These student actually experienced a significant boost in performance because of the teacher's expectations. Adding to the argument that expectations by the teacher has a huge impact on the amount of learning that pupils performance.

The next consideration is Motivation, both on part of the pupils and the teacher - Motivation is literally the desire to do things. It's the difference between waking up early to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day. It's the crucial element in setting and attaining goals. I mention teacher and pupils because in the current educational climate teaching is not an easy career choice. NQTs coming into education face many challenges and will need to be truly motivated to be able to face them for themselves and their pupils. Pupils also face challenges, they are tested from the age of two and have huge expectations placed upon them throughout their formal education journey. Keeping them motivated is I think crucial.    

Teaching and facilitating Collaboration 'the action of working with someone to produce something', otherwise known as group work. If we expect children to learn how to become better at working in groups, it’s not enough simply to assign group work. We must teach them how to be better group members. The skills they need include listening to each other, being able to communicate effectively and problem solving  which are huge skills in themselves. for the teacher then it is not as simple as deciding on seating plans or deciding how many pupils will sit at each table but who will work the best together, should they be in single or mixed ability groups and do they have the skills to work together as a group?


As I have sat here and today and unpicked my thoughts in order to answer the question should psychology be included in initial teacher training?, for myself and for you, I have come to my own conclusion which is that psychology is a huge part of everyday teaching. It has a ripple effect it impacts on almost everything that we do and It therefore seems ludicrous that it wouldn't form a standard part of teacher training. 

What is your conclusion?