Pooh's Corner: Teaching Educational Psychology at the Intersection of Children's Literature and Technology

By Bolton-Gary, Cynthia | Childhood Education, November-December 2013 | Go to article overview

Pooh's Corner: Teaching Educational Psychology at the Intersection of Children's Literature and Technology


Bolton-Gary, Cynthia, Childhood Education


Formerly an online publication, Focus on Teacher Education will now appear as a column in Childhood Education. One article will be featured three times a year. Your submissions are invited and we thank you for your faithfulness in readership.

With deep appreciation,

Lois and Maxie

"When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it." (Milne, 1928, p. 102)

When pursuing careers in education and teaching, the task of mastering and applying educational and psychological theory can be daunting. Theoretical study can be difficult without the prior knowledge and experience that allow critical thinking and concept mastery. Those studying to be teachers can be drawn to "quick fixes" rather than in-depth study about how theories can be analyzed, researched, and applied to guide instructional decisions. Children's literature and online technology can facilitate teacher candidates' efforts to construct meaning and promote interest in the theory taught in educational psychology.

Hansen and Zambo (2005) proposed that using children's literature in educational development and psychology courses creates the "connections between picture book characters, the children that they know, and the theories we want them to learn" (p. 39). Investigating how children's literature is used in an educational psychology course to facilitate student learning of overarching concepts, such as cognitive development, motivation, information processing, instructional strategies, and assessment, can shed light on the impact of this method. This article examines how we can link children's literature with theory to exemplify and scaffold theoretical concepts. Can illustrating psychological and developmental concepts through story and picture connect students with underlying constructs?

Children's literature is inherently interesting and entertaining; however, the main reason children's literature was selected as a method of instruction is because all students in the educational psychology course had prior knowledge of the sources in general (i.e., children's books), and most students were aware of the specific example used (i.e., Winnie-the-Pooh). Researchers indicate that prior knowledge cannot be overestimated when constructing new frameworks of knowing (Alexander, Kulikowich, & Jetton, 1994; Dorchy, de Rijdt, & Dyck, 2002; Pressley & McCormick, 1995). Prior knowledge has been defined as "the knowledge, skills, or ability that students bring to the learning process" (Jonassen & Gabrowski, 1993, p. 417). Since pre-professional education students come to the initial theoretical study of educational psychology with diverse prior knowledge and experience, it is important to take advantage of these familiar frameworks. Children's literature can become a "springboard for future learning" (Dorchy et al., 2002) as the students construct theoretical knowledge with familiar, identifiable, and entertaining characters and situations.

Typical content covered in an introduction to educational psychology course includes an overview of developmental theory and individual differences, with emphasis on Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development and basic tendencies of thought, Vygotsky's Socio-Historical Theory, Erikson's Stages of Individual Development, Bandura's Social Learning Theory, brain research, intelligence, and student diversity. Other core concepts covered include theories of learning and motivation, instructional planning and strategies, classroom environments, and assessment. Many of these concepts can be connected to children's literature to help students make concrete connections. In fact, Zambo and Hansen (2005) assert that, "virtually every theory or principle, with a little creativity and a good selection of stories, can come alive in the pages of a book" (p. …

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