Psychology of Education

Psychology within education has had a notable impact on pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning. With reference to various psychology of education readings as well as reference to my own teacher identity the below piece of literature will examine and critically discuss the most important personal characteristics involved in teaching and learning as well as the importance of the student-teacher relationship. When assessing the personal characteristics of a teacher and learner particular attention is paid to Maslow’s theory of motivation and Eysenck’s theory of personality. When assessing the student-teacher relationship particular attention was paid to Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory and Sullivan’s Self-System Theory.

Source: Hand drawn Picture

When studying the effects of personal characteristics on teaching and learning one of the key components was motivation and its significant impact upon the pedagogical approach of the teacher and the students growth and learning. Motivation refers to the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-orientated behaviour. It is essential for us as teachers to understand what exactly motivates each learner within our class and to successfully understand this we must look at the sources of motivation both intrinsically and extrinsically. One theorist who pays particular attention to motivation is Abraham Maslow (1943) when he introduced his concept of a hierarchy of needs (Figure 1). This theory highlights our desire to achieve life goals but recognises that in order to achieve motivation that needs which are lower down on the hierarchy must be satisfied in order to achieve needs which are higher up. This theory being applied to teaching and learning and suggests that the teacher must strive to understand what exactly their students require in terms of motivation will help them to achieve their educational and personal goals. This can be done through the setting of individual, attainable goals so that each learner experiences success rather than failure. Where deprivation of needs occurs, a stunting of personal development for higher needs occurs. In turn, our personalities are formed along chosen paths by human reactions when needs are met. This leads onto the importance of personality as it is a key component of professional attitude of teacher and has significant impact on the progression of students. There are multiple personality traits which are important in a successful teaching and learning environment such as listening, adaptability, being understanding and timeliness. Depending on the type of personality, a strong learner personality can have a positive or negative influence on the classroom environment for learning. When looking at traits of personality and their importance in education particular attention was paid to Eysenck’s (1996) theory of personality as it has been the most influential in education. Eysenck identified three domains but the main focus for the purpose of this analysis will be on the personal characteristics of introversion and extroversion. Eysenck (1972) suggests that there are clear links between introversion and academic success in education. This could be linked to their better study habits and ability to concentrate. The opposite can be said for extroverts as they may struggle to remain vigilant and maintain interest in school work. Eysenck also suggests that it is important for a teacher to maintain a good balance of introversion and extroversion.

Furthermore I will examine the relationship between a teacher and student and its importance in fostering positive behaviour and academic growth. NCSE (2010) suggests that ‘working together staff can create a culture and climate in the school which is accepting and supportive for staff, parents and pupils’.  This highlights the importance of working together and nurturing these key relationships within an educational environment. Bandura (1986) introduced the social cognitive theory which suggests that students develop a wide variety of skills and personality traits by simply watching people perform them. This modelling behaviour can therefore be used by teachers in their relationship with their students to foster positive social behaviour and communication skills. Social cognitive theory also highlights the importance of feedback and encouragement from teachers in relation to student performance. This is focused on by Rita Pearson in Figure 2 below. We can see that the relationship between a teacher and a student is essential if effective learning is to take place because ‘children don’t learn from someone they don’t like’ (R. Pierson, 2010)  

One other theory of psychology which provides further insight into the relationship of students and teachers is that of self-system theory which was introduced by Sullivan (1953). This theory can link back to the emphasis placed earlier on the importance of motivation as a personal characteristic to promote a successful teaching and learning environment as this theory emphasises the importance of student’s motivation and the importance of student-teacher relationships (McCombs, 1986). This theory suggests that the students arrive in the classroom with three basic needs (competence, autonomy and relatedness) all of which can be met through interactions with teachers and the learning environment (Deci & Ryan, 2002). Pedagogical approaches that foster competence, autonomy and relatedness are likely to produce the motivation required for academic success. Good relationships between teachers and students help students fulfil these needs. To reinforce their feelings of competence, teachers give feedback to students. Teachers who consider the needs and desires of their students, and display empathy and respect for these individual differences, strengthen the feelings of autonomy of learners. Teachers who develop a personal and caring relationship and encourage positive social interactions in their classrooms fulfil the relationship needs of their students (or social connection to school). Taken together, good relationships between teacher and student affirm to learners that teachers care about them and support their academic efforts.

Having researched and critically assessed the important personal characteristics and student-teacher relationships for teaching and learning the following key points were noted. Motivation is essential as a personal characteristic for teaching and learning, introversion as an aspect of personality can have numerous positive impacts on academic achievement and extroversion can have negative impacts on learning due to lack of concentration. Student-teacher relationships are essential to foster a positive and effective learning environment. The social cognitive theory describes the importance of teachers acting as role models for students as much of students behaviour is learned from observing others and the self-system theory describes the relationship of the student and teacher as being of high importance through linking this to three basic needs which can be met by the teacher to enhance teaching and learning through motivation.

Word Count: 1061

Reference List

Bandura, A. (1986) ‘Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory’. Englewood Cliffs.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M.  (2002).  ‘Overview of self-determination theory: An organismic dialectical perspective’, in E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan (eds.), Handbook of self-determination research, New York: University of Rochester Press, pp.3-33.

Eysenck, H.J. (1996) ‘Personality and the experimental study of education’, European Journal of Personality, 10(5), pp.427-439.

Eysenck, H.J. (1972) ‘Personality and attainment: An application of psychological principles to educational objectives’, High Educ, 1, pp.39–52.

Maslow, A. H. (1943) ‘A theory of human motivation’, Psychological Review, 50(4), pp.370-396.

McCombs, B. L. (1986). ‘The role of the self-system in self-regulated learning’, Contemporary Educational Psychology, 11, pp.314-332.

NCSE, Department of Education and Skills (2010) ‘Behavioural, emotional and social difficulties: a continuum of support: guidelines for teachers. [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 7 December 2020).

Sullivan, Harry S. (1953). ‘The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry: beginnings of the self-system. W.W. Norton & Company, pp.158-170

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: