Meaning, Nature, Scope and Relevance of Educational Psychology

What is Psychology?

The word, ‘Psychology’ is derived from two Greek words, ‘Psyche’ and ‘Logos’. Psyche means ‘soul’ and ‘Logos’ means ‘science’. Thus psychology was first defined as the ‘science of soul”.

Psychology as the Science of Soul. In ancient days, the Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle interpreted Psychology as the science of the soul and studied it as a branch of Philosophy. But soul is something metaphysical. It cannot be seen, observed and touched and we cannot make scientific experiments on soul.

Psychology as the Science of the Mind. It was the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant who defined Psychology as the science of the mind. William James (1892) defined psychology as the science of mental processes. But the word ‘mind’ is also quite ambiguous as there was confusion regarding the nature and functions of mind.

Psychology as the Science of Consciousness. Modern psychologists defined psychology as the “Science of Consciousness”. James Sully (1884) defined psychology as the “Science of the Inner World”. Wilhelm Wundt (1892) defined psychology as the science which studies the “internal experiences’. But there are three levels of consciousness – conscious, subconscious and the unconscious and so this definition also was not accepted by some.

Psychology as the Science of Behaviour. At the beginning of the 20th century, when psychologists attempted to develop psychology into a pure science, it came to be defined as the science of behaviour. The term behaviour was popularized by J.B. Watson. Other exponents are William McDugall and W.B. Pillsbury. According to R.S. Woodworth, “First Psychology lost its soul, then it lost its mind, then lost its consciousness. It still has behaviour of a sort.”

Definitions of Psychology

B.F. Skinner defined, “Psychology is the science of behaviour and experience.” Crow and Crow, “Psychology is the study of human behaviour and human relationships.” William Mc Dougall, “Psychology is the science which aims to give us better understanding and control of the behaviour of the organism as a whole.” Kurt Koffka, “Psychology is the scientific study of the behaviour of living creatures in their contact with the outer world.”

What is Educational Psychology?

Educational psychology is that branch of psychology in which the findings of psychology are applied in the field of education. It is the scientific study of human behaviour in educational situations. According to Charles. E. Skinner, “Educational psychology deals with the behaviour of human beings in educational situations”. Crow and Crow said, Educational Psychology describes and explains the learning experiences of an individual from birth through old age.” In the words of E.A. Peel, “Educational Psychology is the science of Education”.

Education by all means is an attempt to mould and shape the behaviour of the pupil. It aims to produce desirable changes in him for the all-round development of his personality.

The essential knowledge and skill to do this job satisfactorily is supplied by Educational Psychology. In the words of E.A. Peel, “Educational psychology helps the teacher to understand the development of his pupils, the range and limits of their capacities, the processes by which they learn and their social relationships.”

(In this way, the work of the Educational Psychologist resembles with that of an Engineer, who is a technical expert. The Engineer supplies all the knowledge and skill essential for the accomplishment of the job satisfactorily… for example, construction of a bridge.). In the same way Educational Psychologists, who is a technical expert in the field of Education, supplies all the information, principles and techniques essential for:

· Understanding the behaviour of the pupil in response to educational environment and

· Desired modification of his behaviour to bring an all-round development of his personality.

Thus, Educational Psychology concerned primarily with understanding the processes of teaching and learning that take place within formal environments and developing ways of improving those methods. It covers important topics like learning theories; teaching methods; motivation; cognitive, emotional, and moral development; and parent-child relationships etc.

In short, it is the scientific discipline that addresses the questions: “Why do some students learn more than others?” and “What can be done to improve that learning?”


Its nature is scientific as it has been accepted that it is a Science of Education. We can summarize the nature of Educational Psychology in the following ways:

1. Educational Psychology is a science. (Science is a branch of study concerned with observation of facts and establishment of verifiable general laws. Science employs certain objective methods for the collection of data. It has its objectives of understanding, explaining, predicting and control of facts.) Like any other science, educational psychology has also developed objective methods of collection of data. It also aims at understanding, predicting and controlling human behaviour.

2. Educational Psychology is a natural science. An educational psychologist conducts his investigations, gathers his data and reaches his conclusions in exactly the same manner as physicist or the biologist.

3. Educational psychology is a social science. Like the sociologist, anthropologist, economist or political scientist, the educational psychologist studies human beings and their sociability.

4. Educational psychology is a positive science. Normative science like Logic or Ethics deals with facts as they ought to be. A positive science deals with facts as they are or as they operate. Educational psychology studies the child’s behaviour as it is, not, as it ought to be. So it is a positive science.

5. Educational psychology is an applied science. It is the application of psychological principles in the field of education. By applying the principles and techniques of psychology, it tries to study the behaviour and experiences of the pupils. As a branch of psychology it is parallel to any other applied psychology. For example, educational psychology draws heavily facts from such areas as developmental psychology, clinical psychology, abnormal psychology and social psychology.

6. Educational psychology is a developing or growing science. It is concerned with new and ever new researches. As research findings accumulate, educational psychologists get better insight into the child’s nature and behaviour.

Thus, educational psychology is an applied, positive, social, specific and practical science. While general science deals with behaviour of the individuals in various spheres, educational psychology studies the behaviour of the individual in educational sphere only.


The scope of educational psychology is ever-growing due to constantly researches in this field. The following factors will indicate the scope of educational psychology:

1. Human Behaviour. It studies human behaviour in the educational context. Psychology is the study of behaviour and education aims at modification of behaviour. Hence the influence of Educational Psychology has to be reflected in all aspects of education.

2. Growth and development. It studies the principles governing growth and development. The insight provided by the study will help in scientifically planning and executing learner oriented programmes of education.

3. The Learner. The subject-matter of educational psychology is knitted around the learner. Therefore, the need of knowing the learner and the techniques of knowing him well. The topics include – the innate abilities and capacities of the individuals, individual differences and their measurements, the overt, covert, conscious as well as unconscious behaviour of the learner, the characteristics of his growth and development and each stage beginning from childhood to adulthood.

4. The Learning Experiences. Educational Psychology helps in deciding what learning experiences are desirable, at what stage of the growth and development of the learner, so that these experiences can be acquired with a greater ease and satisfaction.

5. Learning process: After knowing the learner and deciding what learning experiences are to be provided, Educational Psychology moves on to the laws, principles and theories of learning. Other items in the learning process are remembering and forgetting, perceiving, concept formation, thinking and reasoning, problem solving, transfer of learning, ways and means of effective learning etc.

6. Learning Situation or Environment. Here we deal with the environmental factors and learning situations which come midway between the learner and the teacher. Topics like classroom climate and group dynamics, techniques and aids that facilitate learning and evaluation, techniques and practices, guidance and counselling etc. For the smooth functioning of the teaching-learning process.

7. Individual differences. It is universally accepted that every individual differs from every other individual. This idea has been brought to light by Educational Psychology.

8. Personality and adjustment. Education has been defined as the all-round development of the personality of an individual. If educational has to fulfil this function all instructional programmes have to be based on the principles governing the nature and development of personality.

9. The Teacher: The teacher is a potent force is any scheme of teaching and learning process. It discusses the role of the teacher. It emphasizes the need of ‘knowing thyself’ for a teacher to play his role properly in the process of education. His conflicts, motivation. Anxiety, adjustment, level of aspiration etc. It throws light on the essential personality traits, interests, aptitudes, the characteristics of effective teaching etc. so as to inspire him for becoming a successful teacher.

10. Guidance and Counselling. Education is nothing by providing guidance and counselling required for the proper development of the child. This is very true, especially in the light of the extremely complex and problematic situation one has to face in the fast growing world. Educational psychology has come to the rescue by developing principles and practical measures helpful for providing effective guidance and counselling.

We can conclude by saying that Educational Psychology is narrower in scope than general psychology. While general psychology deals with the behaviour of the individual in a general way, educational psychology in concerned with the behaviour of the learner in an educational setting.


Educational psychology has contributed considerably to the creation of the modern system of education. The knowledge of educational psychology helps the teacher in the following ways:

1. To understand the Stages of Development: Psychology has clearly shown that human life passes through different stages of development before it reaches adulthood. They are infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Psychologists have also thoroughly studied the characteristic behaviour patterns in these different periods of life. Identification of these periods with different sets of characteristics and attributes as regards physical, mental and emotional development greatly help educationists to design curriculum and determine appropriate methods of teaching for students at different stages.

2. To Know the Learner: The child or the learner is the key factor in the teaching-learning process. Educational psychology helps the teacher to know his interests, attitudes, aptitudes and the other acquired or innate capacities and abilities; to know the stage of development linked with his social, emotional, intellectual, physical and aesthetic needs; to know his level of aspiration, his conscious and unconscious behaviour; his motivational and group behaviour; his conflicts, desires and other aspects of his mental health. So that perfect guidance and help can be provided and positive attitude towards the learner can be formed.

3. To Understand the Nature of Classroom Learning: Educational Psychology helps the teacher to adapt and adjust his teaching according to the level of the learners. A teacher is teaching in a class but a large number of students do not understand the subject-matter which is being taught. To deal with the students effectively in the class the teacher must have the knowledge of the various approaches to the learning process, principles, laws and factors affecting it then only he/she can apply remedial measures in the learning situation.

4. To Understand the Individual Differences: No two persons are exactly alike. Pupils differ in their level of intelligence, aptitudes, likes and dislikes and in other propensities and potentialities. There are gifted, backward, physically and mentally challenged children. Thus, psychology tells the teacher about the individual differences among the students in the class and the procedure, methodology and techniques to be adopted for them.

5. To Solve Classroom Problems: There are innumerable problems like truancy, bullying, peer pressure, ethnic tensions, cheating in tests etc. Educational Psychology helps to equip the teacher by studying the characteristics of the problem children, the dynamics of the group, behavioural characteristics and adjustments.

6. To develop Necessary Skills and Interest in Teaching: Educational psychology helps the teacher to acquire and develop necessary qualities and skills to deal with the problems created by the pupils, maintain a healthy atmosphere in the classroom and show concern regarding the progress of the child.

7. To Understand Effective Methods of Teaching: Educational Psychology has discovered several new approaches, principles. methods and techniques of teaching which are very helpful in today’s teaching-learning process. Educational psychology tells us how significant play and recreation are for the children and how play-way methods turn learning into an interesting task.

8. To Understand the Influence of Heredity and Environment on the Child: Educational psychology helps the teacher to know that the child is the product of heredity and environment. They are the two sides of a coin. Both play a prominent part in the all-round development of the child. While the child is born with a number of hereditary qualities, environment helps them to be modified according to the requirements of the society.

9. To Understand the Mental Health of the Child: Educational Psychology helps the teacher to know what are the factors responsible for the mental ill-health and maladjustment of a student and to suggest improvement thereof. Besides this, it also provides the teacher with necessary insight to improve his own mental status to cope up with the situation.

10. To Understand the Procedure of Curriculum Construction: Curriculum is an integral part of the teaching-learning process. Curriculum should be child-centred and fulfil the motives and psychological needs of the individual because child capacities differ from stage to stage. Educational psychology helps the teacher to suggest ways and means to curriculum framers to prepare sound and balanced curriculum for the children.

11. To Provide Guidance and Counselling: Today guidance to a child at every stage of life is needed because psychological abilities, interests and learning styles differ from person to person. Similarly, what courses of study the child should undertake in future is also a vital question. All these can be answered well if the teacher knows the psychology of children.

12. To Understand Principles of Evaluation and Assessment: Evaluation is an integral part of the teaching-learning process. How to test the potentialities of the child depends upon the evaluation techniques. The development of the different types of psychological tests for the evaluation of the individual is a distinct contribution of educational psychology.

13. To inculcate Positive and Creative Discipline: The slogan of the traditional teachers was “spare the rod and spoil the child.” Flogging the child was the chief instrument. Educational Psychology has replaced the repressive system with the preventive system. Now teachers adopt a cooperative and scientific approach to modify the behaviour of the students. Emphasis is laid on self-discipline through creative and constructive activities.

14. Educational Psychology and Research: Educational psychologists conduct research to improve the behaviour of human beings in the educational situation. For this purpose it helps in developing tools and devices to measure the performance and suggest remedial measures thereof.

15. To Know Himself/Herself: Educational Psychology helps the teacher to know about himself/herself. His/her own behaviour pattern, personality characteristics, likes and dislikes, motivation, anxiety, conflicts, adjustment etc. All this knowledge helps him in growing as a successful teacher.

16. Educational Psychology Helps in Professional Growth, Changing Attitude and Innovative Thinking: Inside the classroom, educational psychology has enabled the teacher to achieve proper conditioning of pupils by achieving and directing classroom programmes on human lives. Not only this, educational psychologists are busy in finding out innovations in the field of education. These innovations will bring about professional growth of the teacher.

In Conclusion, we can say that educational psychology has contributed considerably to the creation of the modern system of education. In teaching, we are dealing with three elements – the teacher, the student, and the subject. It has helped teachers, headmasters, administrators, inspectors, guidance and counselling workers, social workers to significantly develop an impartial and sympathetic attitude towards children and form them into integrated personalities.

Dr. John Parankimalil

About John Parankimalil

John Parankimalil, SDB, M.A. (English), M.Ed, Ph.D (Education), popularly known as P.D. Johny is a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco. He is presently the Rector and Principal of Don Bosco College, Tura, Meghalaya and Director of Don Bosco College of Teacher Education, Tura. He received the 1st Computer Literacy Excellence Award from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the President of India in August 2002 and the Guruvar Best Teacher Award from Shri Kapil Sibal, HRD Union Minister in 2009. He was formerly Principal of St Anthony's Higher Secondary School, Shillong and National President of All India Association of Catholic Schools (AINACS), New Delhi and the Charter President of Rotary Club of Orchid City, Shillong. He has authored several books. He is an Eduationist, Story-Teller and Leadership Trainer. He conducts seminars for Principals, Teachers, Students and Parents. His popular books include, He Can Who Thinks He Can (Macmillan), An Elocution Manual (Orient Longman), Progressive Parenting (Unicorn), Inspirational Stories for Purposeful Living (Babhani) The Way to Success and Happiness (Savio), How to Win Over Your Problems (Babhani), The Secrets of High Achievers (Babhani).
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11 Responses to Meaning, Nature, Scope and Relevance of Educational Psychology

  1. Rahi Neogi says:

    Thanks for the very relevant and helpful contents!!!!

  2. Anushree Rastogi says:

    Thanks for the notes

  3. saeed shoukat says:


  4. An excellent explaination

  5. Very academic, detailed and clear

  6. mir sajad says:

    tooo good to clear the concepts too superb

  7. Ishmael says:

    what are some of the possible questions under this topic

  8. Oooosh! I really love such a relevant note.

  9. Aktar Hossain says:

    Many many thanks

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