Educational psychology is a scientific field concerned with applying psychological theories and concepts to the understanding and improvement of teaching and learning in formal educational settings. In simpler terms, it is concerned with the study of how students learn and how teachers can help them to learn effectively.
Educational psychology draws on and combines various psychological theories and principles – such as those related to human development, motivation, learning, behaviour management and assessment, among others – in order to improve the conditions of teaching and learning. Educational psychologists study the process of learning not only among the general population but also among sub-groups such as gifted children and those with various learning disabilities.
The goal of educational psychology is not to provide specific prescriptions for teachers and other individuals who have an influence on a learner’s educational attainment, as if there were only a few set ways in which one can optimize the processes of teaching and learning. Rather, research in this field is designed to uncover general principles which can be applied in various ways across diverse educational settings and learners. Research in educational psychology is designed to answer questions such as: How do people learn? What motivates them to learn? And what factors interfere with learning?
Developmental psychology is the study of human growth and development that occurs throughout the entire lifespan. This includes not only physical development, but also cognitive, social, intellectual, perceptual, personality and emotional growth.
The study of human development is important not only to psychology, but also to biology, anthropology, sociology, education and history. Developmental psychologists help us better understand how people change and grow and then apply this knowledge to helping us live up to our full potential.
The specific tasks performed by developmental psychologists may vary somewhat based on the specialty area in which they work. Some developmental psychologists focus on working with a specific population, such as developmentally delayed children. Others specialize in studying a particular age range such as adolescence.
Some of the tasks that a developmental psychologist working with children might do include:
- Evaluating children to determine if they have a developmental disability.
- Investigating how language skills are acquired.
- Studying how moral reasoning develops in children.