Psychology in Teaching the Social Studies

By Ediger, Marlow | Journal of Instructional Psychology, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Psychology in Teaching the Social Studies


Ediger, Marlow, Journal of Instructional Psychology


There are definite principles of learning from educational psychology that teachers need to follow in teaching social studies. Each pupil needs to accept the objectives, learning opportunities, and appraisal procedures as purposeful. With the implementation of the psychology of education, pupils may accept the values of teaching and learning

A good social studies teacher needs to be a student in studying and using principles of learning from educational psychology. These principles of learning need to be appraised and applicable for teaching a given set of learners. Pupils differ from each other In interests, talents, abilities, styles of learning, and in intelligences possessed. It behooves the social studies teacher to make use of the latest findings in educational psychology in providing for individual differences among pupils. Each pupil needs to learn as much as possible. What is achieved presently is important to pupils now and at progressive levels of schooling, and in the work place of the future. The teacher needs to fit the psychology used in terms of characteristics and traits of individual learners. A school of thought in psychology may be appropriate for one pupil and not for others. Whichever school of thought in educational psychology is used in teaching, there are selected principles of learning that should be emphasized. These include the following:

1. learning should be meaningful to pupils. Pupils might then understand that which has been taught and learned.

2. learning needs to be interesting so that pupils are attentive and eager to learn.

3. quality sequence needs to be in the offing for ongoing lessons and units of study. Pupils then need to experience ordered content that moves gradually in an ascending order of complexity.

4. pupil purpose needs to be in the offing so that pupils individually experience reasons for learning and for achievement.

5. good attitudes must be developed so that an inward desire to learn is in the offing (Ediger, 1997).

Humanism as a Psychology of Instruction

Humanists have much to offer teachers in providing for the needs of learners (See Maslow, 1954). They are very interested in paying attention to the emotional needs of pupils. If pupils have negative feelings toward subject matter, the chances are that much learning will not occur. With positive feelings, individual pupils have a much better chance of being successful now and in the future. The self concept of a pupil then is very important in teaching and learning situations.

To develop adequate self concepts among learners, certain facets of a person's life must be provided for. There are pupils who come to school who are hungry. Approximately, 25% of children in the United States live in homes below the poverty level. Certainly, there are hungry children in any area/region who come to school. In some ways, the public schools have taken care of food needs of selected low socioeconomic level individuals with a free/reduced price breakfast and noon meal. Even then, there are seven days in a week, not five. There are also schools that provide no breakfasts, nor the noon meal. Sometimes, in after school programs, there are snacks in a latch key program for children whereby otherwise coming to an empty home would be in the offing. But, too many pupils are not in a latch key program, due to a lack of available school programs. Food needs must then be taken care of before pupils can learn and be successful in school. I am associated with the food pantry here in Kirksville. There are phone calls that call for food delivery from destitute persons. When delivering the food to these homes, the house and the surroundings have a thorough poverty-like appearance.

Besides food or nutrition needs, pupils also need to have proper clothing for the occasion and of the proper size. Ill-fitting clothes are an embarrassment. Dirty, ragged clothing worn by a few children is not conducive to learning nor is it accepted by others. …

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