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Educational Psychology – Theory, Research, and Teaching: A 25‐year retrospective

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This article presents a brief overview of developments in educational psychology over the last twenty‐five years. It firstly presents an historical context by reviewing four basic emphases in educational psychology; cognitive psychology, behavioural psychology, social cognitive theory and humanism. The article then reviews the growth in cognitive psychology research by briefly examining developments arising from Piagetian, Vygotskian and information processing theories. The article examines the development of constructivist approaches to learning and teaching, and the growth in cognitive theories of motivation. Cross‐cultural, methodological and other developments in educational psychology are also briefly examined. The article concludes with five paradoxes to stimulate the reader to consider some implications of this 25 year overview.
Educational Psychology
Vol. 25, No. 6, December 2005, pp. 585–599
ISSN 0144-3410 (print)/ISSN 1469-5820 (online)/05/060585–15
© 2005 Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/01443410500344670
Educational Psychology – Theory,
Research, and Teaching: A 25-year
retrospective
Dennis M McInerney
*
University of Western Sydney, Australia
Taylor and Francis LtdCEDP_A_134450.sgm10.1080/01443410500344670Educational Psychology0144-3410 (print)/0144-3410 (online)Original Article2005Taylor & Francis Ltd25
6000000December 2005DennisMcInerneySELF Research CentreUniversity of Western SydneyBankstown CampusLocked Bag 1797Penrith SouthDC, 1797, NSWAustraliad.mcinerney@uws.edu.au
This article presents a brief overview of developments in educational psychology over the last
twenty-five years. It firstly presents an historical context by reviewing four basic emphases in
educational psychology; cognitive psychology, behavioural psychology, social cognitive theory and
humanism. The article then reviews the growth in cognitive psychology research by briefly examin-
ing developments arising from Piagetian, Vygotskian and information processing theories. The
article examines the development of constructivist approaches to learning and teaching, and the
growth in cognitive theories of motivation. Cross-cultural, methodological and other developments
in educational psychology are also briefly examined. The article concludes with five paradoxes to
stimulate the reader to consider some implications of this 25 year overview.
There is, or should be, a strong link between educational psychology theorising and
research and teaching-learning processes. Best practice in classrooms, whether at
school or in post-compulsory schooling, should reflect what the best theorising and
research has to offer. But “best” is context specific and often time limited. What was
considered “best practice” 30, 20, or even 10 years ago is not necessarily considered
best practice today. Some practices have stood the test of time and are still in vogue,
either directly or through some sort of metamorphosis. Other practices have been rele-
gated to history’s dustbin as misguided, not useful, or based upon flawed research.
The learning worlds of today are far more complex and multi-layered than they
were 30 years ago. And by this I mean not only in terms of the variety and complexity
of information that individuals need to learn, but also in terms of the availability of
learning pathways that were only dreamed of and experienced through The Jetsons
cartoons. Today the digital world and the internet have revolutionised both what we
learn and how we learn. Naturally this new context has made some old approaches
*SELF Research Centre, University of Western Sydney, Locked bag 1797, Penrith South DC,
1797, Australia. Email: d.mcinerney@uws.edu.au
586 D. M. McInerney
and theorising about learning and teaching obsolescent. In other ways the new context
has enabled us to scrutinise old theories more closely and breathe new life into them
through research, theory, and practice that capitalises on this new technology.
In this review I do not pretend to cover all theoretical and research issues that have
been part of the history of educational psychology over the last 25 years. Rather, I want
to take a rather idiosyncratic view as a teacher, researcher, theoretician, and author of
educational psychology texts and research. My analysis is also based on a review of
the contents of the journal Educational Psychology since its inception 25 years ago.
I have been teaching and researching in educational psychology for over 30 years
and tremendous changes have occurred in both its content and emphases, as well as
in the themes that characterise the research that underpins teaching. While my short
review could never be comprehensive, it will attempt to give an overview of signifi-
cant developments over that period of time from both a researcher’s and teacher’s
perspective, particularly in the Australian context. I go back to a little before 1980 to
give a context for where research over the last 25 years has come from.
Curriculum Emphasis on Educational Psychology has Declined
Educational psychology formed a greater part of the basics (what we called the foun-
dations) of teacher training and education 25–30 years ago – in other words, a
greater percentage of student time at university, particularly for people training as
educators or for related fields, was spent studying educational psychology. At my
institution, for example, we have had to fight a continuing battle over the years to
preserve an identifiable presence in course structures.
The battle has been fought on two fronts. First, there have been competing
demands for curriculum space from a whole raft of contemporary “key areas” such as
technology, and at the same time there was a diminution in total available teaching
time for all subjects. Second, the battle was against the consistently argued case that
educational (and developmental) psychology should be integrated with other founda-
tion and curriculum areas in composite subjects. In this latter case, the identity and
quality of educational psychology offerings have often been compromised. Ironically,
as teaching time for educational psychology diminished, the depth of theorising and
range of topics explored through research increased, and there has been a burgeoning
of research and scholarly journals related to educational psychology.
Range of Topics has Expanded
The range of topics covered by educational psychology courses 25–30 years ago, as
well as the range of research areas of interest, was considerably narrower than today,
and the emphases were also different. The currently increasing range of topics
reflects the growth of new theoretical and research interest and a phenomenon
whereby kernel research and theoretical interests exploded into a range of new but
related interests. I deal with this “explosion” later in this review. However, it is inter-
esting to see recycled in much of the research and theorising of today concepts that
were key to educational psychology a quarter of a century ago.
Theory, Research, and Teaching 587
Four Basic Emphases
There were four basic emphases in educational psychology research 25 years ago (e.g.,
Joyce, Showers, & Rolheiser-Bennett, 1987). These are each covered in turn below.
Cognitive Psychology
Cognitive psychology encompassed the work of Gagné, Ausubel, Bruner, and
others, and a whole raft of cognitive processing topics such as the transfer of learning
(then referred to as “training”), the role of prior knowledge, massed versus distrib-
uted practice, the 7 ± 2 rule (cognitive load), serial position effect, whole and part
learning, mnemonics, and so on (e.g., Eysenck 1984; Shuell, 1986; Wessels, 1982;
earlier resources that are of historical interest are Kingsley & Garry, 1957; Seagoe,
1972). Many of these constructs had great similarity to, and were precursors of,
what we now call metacognition and metacognitive processes, but were not labelled
as such; many, such as transfer of learning and the relevance of prior learning, were
conceptually more simple than in today’s theorising and research.
Over recent years the amount of research reported on metacognitive strategies and
training (often in the areas of reading and mathematics education) has increased
considerably, with specific examinations of the nature of effective skills and strate-
gies, their development, and whether skills and strategies should be trained indepen-
dent of content or embedded in content.
Related to investigations of metacognition was a growing interest in learning style
and cognitive style research. Early volumes of the journal Educational Psychology, for
example, had little on metacognition, learning styles, and cognitive styles. Learning
and cognitive styles, in particular, subsequently became an increasingly dominant
area of research interest in this and other journals. Indeed, three special issues of
Educational Psychology were dedicated to cognitive and learning styles, in 1991
(Volume 11, Issue 3–4; e.g., Riding & Cheema, 1991), 1997 (Vol. 17, Issue 1–2;
e.g., Rayner & Riding, 1997), and 2000 (Volume 20, Issue 3; e.g., Zhang, 2000).
Behavioural Psychology
The second basic emphasis, behavioural psychology, and mechanistic views of learn-
ing in which individuals were seen more as bundles of operants shaped by reinforce-
ment than active thinking and perceiving processors of information, while still strong
at the beginning of the 1980s, was in decline. While the father of behaviourism,
Skinner, acknowledged that people (and higher primates) thought, deliberated, felt,
and so on, these cognitive and affective processes could not be observed, and hence
did not provide a path to a science of behaviour which the observance and manipula-
tion of operants did. During the 1970s and early 1980s much research was reported
on individualised behaviourally-oriented teaching programs such as the Personalised
System of Instruction (PSI; Keller & Sherman, 1974) and Uninterrupted Sustained
Silent Reading (USSR; see Gambrell, 1978), but the radical behaviourism which
dominated previous decades was dead.
588 D. M. McInerney
Early volumes of Educational Psychology published articles with a behavioural empha-
sis in which teaching was seen as a process of transmitting external knowledge to
students through demonstration, reinforcement, and controlled and sequenced prac-
tice (see Wheldall, 1987). There were articles on praise and punishment, task analysis,
direct instruction, precision teaching, contingency programs, behavioural checklists,
and the like. By the end of the 1980s there were very few articles with this orientation.
The last volume of Educational Psychology that appears to have had a major emphasis
on behavioural approaches was published in 1996 (see Wheldall & Carter, 1996).
Behavioural psychology is still a force reflected in practice if not in research
(McInerney & McInerney, in press 2006). Positive teaching and applied behaviour
analysis approaches receive some continuing research attention. In particular, tech-
nology has allowed for many of the principles of behavioural teaching to be re-
explored with state-of-the-art computer equipment and programs. Sophisticated
modern computer programs not only allow realistic simulation of learning situations,
but provide opportunities for immediate correction and feedback, many alternative
learning paths, and “intelligent” reactions to choices made by the learner, although
these important developments are still not fully realised and more research and
development needs to be done.
Social Cognitive Theory
A third emphasis, social learning theory, largely identified with Bandura and derived
from behavioural theory, was prominent in the early 1980s (Bandura, 1977, 1986).
This theory was re-labelled social cognitive theory in later years to take into account
the “thinking” component of modelling. Social learning theory was seen, in many
ways, as a logical marriage of cognitive and behavioural approaches. Considerable
research was reported on the effects of modelling, and, indeed, even today there are
significant research articles based on social cognitive theory. In particular, it has seen
a resurgence of theoretical and research interest more recently through self-efficacy
and self-regulation research, which are major areas of research reported in journals
such as the Journal of Educational Psychology, Contemporary Educational Psychology,
and the American Educational Research Journal. These themes have not been promi-
nent in Educational Psychology until more recent volumes (e.g., Volume 23, 2003).
Humanism
A fourth emphasis covered in those early days, sometimes referred to as the “third
psychology”, was humanism, originally identified with Rogers (1961, 1969, 1983)
and Maslow (1968). Humanism was seen by many as an antidote to many of the
overly mechanistic approaches to learning and teaching being promulgated at the
time, as well as to some of the overly cognitive theories of learning and motivation,
sometimes labelled as “cold” (e.g., Silberman, Allender, & Yanoff, 1976). In some
ways the humanistic theoretical approach to education and learning has seen a
rebirth in research in the 1990s into caring schools and communities of learners, and
Theory, Research, and Teaching 589
still acts as an antidote to overly “cold” theoretical approaches to motivation and
learning (e.g., McInerney & McInerney, in press 2006; Noddings, 1992, 1995).
In general, the first three (cognitive, behavioural, and social learning) theories
emphasised a skills-based approach to teaching and learning (what we might loosely
call a science of teaching and learning) that was teacher dominated. In the late 1970s
and 1980s, the micro skills of teaching took centre stage in much teacher prepara-
tion, and if you review micro skills material you will see an interesting blend of early
cognitive, social learning, and behavioural principles espoused (e.g., Turney, 1985a,
1985b). Micro skills programs (there were a number of these internationally) were
buttressed by research represented in contemporaneous journal literature. At the
same time there was considerable research into teachers, teaching, school learning,
and school curricula. Volume 11 Issue 1 (1991) of Educational Psychology was domi-
nated by articles dedicated to teacher processes. Although there is not such an
emphasis on these topics today, there is periodically an article related to teacher
motivation, teacher efficacy, teacher strategies, teacher values and beliefs, and so on.
What is around is more likely to be located in practitioner journals than in research
journals. An area that is attracting considerable contemporary attention these days in
journals is teacher efficacy, school/classroom efficacy, and collective efficacy.
The Growth of Cognitive Psychology Research
As suggested above, over the last 25 years cognitive psychology has come to domi-
nate educational psychology theorising and research. Early cognitive models looked
at the most effective ways of structuring learning so that it could be effectively assim-
ilated in a relatively final form by the learner. This approach is reflected in the
schema theories of Gagne and Ausubel. An alternative approach was presented by
Bruner, who emphasised discovery learning – a process of learning through which
learners were expected to discover or “construct” their own understandings and
knowledge from challenging problems. The word “construct” was not generally in
the lexicon of educational psychology at the time. Considerable research in the
1970s and 1980s was conducted into the effects and benefits of discovery learning,
open discovery, and guided discovery. Every now and then articles still pop up today
which examine the relative values of guided and free discovery approaches to learn-
ing (e.g., De Jong & Van Joolingen, 1998).
Today we see a vastly increased range of research based on cognitive psychology.
Interestingly, social learning theory and a number of behaviourally based theories,
such as positive teaching and direct instruction, have increasingly included a
cognitive element (perhaps to make the theory and practices more attractive in an
academic world largely critical of such approaches). Furthermore, beneath the
surface of many cognitive approaches to learning (such as strategy instruction à la
metacognition, and situated cognition), you may see some behavioural principles in
cognitive clothing (e.g., Pressley, Harris, & Marks, 1992).
Much of this recent cognitive emphasis, such as information processing, schema
theory, and cognitive load, has its roots in the work of people such as Gagne and
590 D. M. McInerney
Ausubel, as well as in computer science. Information processing frameworks have
characterised much research in mathematics, science, and reading over recent years,
and in many ways have lent themselves more effectively to experimental studies than
a number of other research themes and models. Considerable interest has been
shown in examining the effectiveness of various learning and study strategies, again
often in the context of mathematics, science, and reading.
Cognitive Development and Educational Practice
During the 1970s and 1980s Piaget’s work was being introduced to English-speak-
ing countries. Indeed, for a number of years at my college there was a two-hour
subject solely dedicated to Piaget (this had nothing to do with the fact that our direc-
tor at the time had written one of the early books on Piaget and the application of his
theory to teaching and learning, and this was the prescribed text!; McNally, 1977).
The study of Piaget was of immense importance and is still today; however, the
emphasis has changed considerably. In the 1970s and 1980s the research and teach-
ing emphasis was on the structuralist elements of Piaget’s theory, dealing with
children growing through a discrete set of cognitive stages – sensori-motor, preoper-
ational, concrete operational, and formal operational – whereby they develop
increasingly sophisticated ways of handling the world of knowledge. Indeed, this
emphasis on the structuralist elements of the theory led educators to design what
have been termed developmentally appropriate curricula based on Piaget’s stages
(see Fleer, 1996; Forman, 1980). There was considerable research to test out this
theorising, and much of it took place in cross-cultural settings. Increasingly, the
structuralist elements of Piaget’s theory were challenged (Halford, 1989).
In the 1980s little time was spent on researching, or indeed teaching, Piaget’s
notion that learners construct their own schemas through personal interaction with
the world of experience – referred to as personal or cognitive constructivism. Indeed,
I cannot recall that this notion was paid much attention until recently – probably as
a result of neo-Piagetians fine tuning the balance of the theory, especially as research
evidence for the structuralist component of the theory became less definitive (Bidell
& Fischer, 1992). Nevertheless, the important point here is that this component of
Piaget’s theory has formed a foundation for much of the constructivist theorising
that we see reflected today in research and theoretical publications in educational
psychology (McInerney & McInerney, in press 2006).
Additionally, very little time was spent in educational psychology research on the
social dimensions of learning. Usually research was on the individual learner and
what the teacher/instructor did to or for the learner to make him or her learn, or the
cognitive processing that characterised individual learning. One exception to this
general pattern was social learning/cognitive theory which dealt with social interac-
tions, but here the focus was on social interaction as a source of modelling through
which learned behaviour was acquired via the observation of others and reinforce-
ment. Over the past 25 years the social dimensions of learning have become a major
focus of theory and research in educational psychology. This development included
Theory, Research, and Teaching 591
increasing attention to the social elements of Piaget’s theory (DeVries, 1997) and
increasing focus on the theorising of Vygotsky.
The name Vygotsky and the term social constructivism did not appear much in
the educational research journals and textbooks of the 1970s and 1980s in Australia
and the United States. However, as time moved on, Vygotsky became a strong focus
of attention. Vygotsky’s theorising clearly threw emphasis on the social dimensions
of learning; he believed that learners construct their own meanings within social
environments – a notion that has been termed social constructivism in contrast to
Piaget’s personal constructivism (Kozulin & Presseisen, 1995; Moll, 1990).
An important theoretical element of Vygotskian theory that received considerable
research attention is the zone of proximal development (ZPD; Smagorinsky, 1995).
The ZPD is typically thought of as each person’s range of potential for learning, where
that learning is culturally shaped by the social environment in which learning takes
place. The ZPD has been, and still is, researched through studies on scaffolding and
mediated learning, reciprocal teaching, distributed learning, collaborative learning,
and learning communities (Alfassi, 1998; Hart & Speece, 1998; King, Staffieri, &
Adelgais, 1998; McInerney, McInerney, & Marsh, 1997). These types of study have
given us new and valuable perspectives on the nature and processes of learning which
are far removed from the didactic teaching-learning processes prevalent in the 1970s.
A related concept of increasing importance in educational psychology is sociocul-
tural constructivism, which emphasises the wider social, cultural, and historical
contexts of learning and the reciprocal interaction of these contexts with the individ-
ual’s learning in order to construct shared knowledge (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996;
Marshall, 1996). Considerable theoretical and empirical advances have been made
examining both social and sociocultural constructivism. And so constructivism as a
major force in educational psychology was born (although of course somewhat belat-
edly in the United States and Australia, as Vygotsky died in the last century – and
had had a much earlier impact in Europe).
As well as Vygotskian theorising emphasising the importance of the social
construction of learning, there was a growing interest in the social dimensions of
learning generally, which led to considerable research into co-operative and group
learning, with research investigating various programs such as STAD, TGI, Jigsaw,
and Group Investigation (e.g., Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne, 2000; Kagan, 1994;
Qin, Johnson, & Johnson, 1995; Slavin, 1991), the effectiveness of peer modelling
techniques such as reciprocal teaching (Hart & Speece, 1998), and the use of learn-
ing networks of various kinds such as the computer-supported intentional learning
environment (CSILE) approach which was researched in the 1990s (e.g., Hewitt &
Scardamalia, 1998; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1995). These efforts, while beginning in
the late 1970s, became more prominent in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Constructivism
When my co-author and I were developing the first edition of our text in the early
1990s we opted for the catchy title Educational Psychology: Constructing Learning
592 D. M. McInerney
(McInerney & McInerney, 1994). It seemed to reflect some of what we had read in
the research and theoretical literature at the time. Constructivism was still some-
what on the fringe of educational psychology and was not even included in some of
our competitor texts at the time. For our second edition (McInerney & McInerney,
1998) we made a thorough revision and opted to expand the constructivist
elements. We did this with some trepidation, as we were not sure that constructiv-
ism would continue to be a dominant psychology and we didn’t want our book to
be tied to a fad. Indeed, there were many debates about the fruitfulness or other-
wise of constructivism at meetings such as the American Educational Research
Association, with competing metaphors of learning vying for attention. When revis-
ing the book for its third edition (McInerney & McInerney, in press 2002) we were
concerned to investigate how constructivism had fared over the intervening years.
Much to our relief the amount of journal space spent on constructivism and
approaches to learning and teaching based on constructivism had multiplied enor-
mously. As I revised the fourth edition of the text (McInerney & McInerney, in
press 2006), constructivism seemed firmly established in the theoretical and
research literature, as evidenced by a large range of educational psychology and
related journals such as Journal of Educational Psychology, British Journal of Educa-
tional Psychology, Contemporary Educational Psychology, Educational Researcher, and
Review of Educational Research.
Constructivism underlies many contemporary research themes such as information
processing, metacognition, self-regulation, self-efficacy, peer tutoring, scaffolding,
learning strategies and study skills, and a range of research themes related to mathe-
matics. It has been something of an iconoclastic force in educational psychology and
psychology in general – particularly radical constructivism, which asserts that all
knowledge is individually constructed and equally valid (von Glaserfield, 1995).
Constructivism certainly dented ideas that knowledge was fixed and immutable and
could be passed on from teacher to learner in a transmission mode. I am not sure how
this theory would sit with Skinner, Ausubel, or Gagne, let alone the recent informa-
tion processing theorists, but I do know we would have had difficulty with the notion
30 years ago when the dominant teaching technique was transmission of knowledge.
Motivation theory
Motivation theory and research was still highly influenced, 25–30 years ago, by
reinforcement theory (or biological versions of it), with a pinch of intrinsic motiva-
tion and variability theory thrown in to leaven the process. Considerable research
was directed towards examining the effects of intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards on
motivation, and whether the use of extrinsic rewards was positive or negative (e.g.,
Ryan & Deci, 2000). At times this issue flares up again, with conflicting research
demonstrating either that extrinsic rewards undermine intrinsic motivation and
performance or that they do not (e.g., Cameron & Pierce, 1996). Theorising about
which motivators determined action was relatively elementary and never satisfacto-
rily explained complex motivated human behaviour effectively. Nevertheless,
Theory, Research, and Teaching 593
research based on elementary approaches, such as reinforcement theory, provided
educators with a battery of motivational skills that worked.
However, there was growing interest in cognitive models of motivation (Ames &
Ames, 1984). So over the 25-year period to the present a vast range of cognitive
theories of motivation, and in particular ones reflecting constructivist theorising,
have been developed and explored through research – many with underlying similar-
ities, but still providing different and important perspectives on what motivates
learners (McInerney, 2005a). Among these are attribution theory, expectancy-value
theory, goal theory, self-determination theory, personal investment theory, self-
worth theory, and self-related constructs such as self-concept, self regulation, and
self-efficacy theories, as well as situated cognition.
To my mind the growth in cognitive theories of motivation is one of the most
significant of any area in educational psychology over the last 25 years, and is
strongly reflected in the increasing number of articles dedicated to motivation that
are published in educational psychology journals. This shift from elementary and
basic theories of motivation based on behavioural models to cognitive interpretations
has had a strong impact on the ways in which we look at classrooms and schools, and
in particular their structures vis-à-vis learning. Today there is considerable research
evidence to support the view that:
teachers, schools, and classrooms should emphasise mastery goals and de-empha-
sise performance goals;
students should be encouraged to be origins rather than pawns in their
approaches to learning;
feelings of personal worth directly relate to learning and achievement;
self-determination and choice may be key elements of effective motivation and
learning;
attributions for success and failure to internal and controllable causes such as
effort are more likely to enhance motivation and achievement than attributions to
external and uncontrollable causes such as luck; and
expectations for success and valuing success are important ingredients of school
achievement.
These insights from cognitive motivation theories and research give rise to many
suggestions for reinventing schools so that they become places of success for all
students. Unfortunately there is evidence that many schools are still stuck in a time
warp more characteristic of the 1970s and 1980s.
Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Perspectives
It is quite apparent that there has been a surge of interest in cross-cultural issues and
the application of theories and research to heterogeneous groups. Schools and
educational institutions were relatively homogeneous in their approach to teaching
25 and more years ago, even if the student body was anything but homogeneous. In
other words, a one-size-fits-all approach to theory, research, and application was
594 D. M. McInerney
common. Over the 25-year period there has been an increasing recognition of the
great diversity that characterises learners culturally, socially, geographically, and
linguistically, and of the need to take this into account in our theorising, research,
and practice (McInerney, 2005a, b). So we see increasingly reflected in mainstream
educational journals articles related to diversity which take a cross-cultural approach
(see also McInerney & Van Etten, 2001, and later volumes in the series).
It was probably the close and increasingly methodologically sophisticated scrutiny
of blockbuster theories such as those of Piaget, Vygotsky, Kohlberg, and others in
societies characterised by diversity that began the cross-cultural trend in educational
psychology. The introduction of cross-cultural perspectives has been enormously
important. There is an increasing number of cross-cultural articles in educational
psychology journals, particularly articles related to validating measuring instruments
and methodologies among diverse groups. This emergence of the relevance and
importance of cross-cultural studies is well reflected in articles published in
Educational Psychology, probably reflecting the international spread of contributors to
the journal. The journal is not North American-dominated. This shift from a
monocultural research perspective to a multicultural one has had an important effect
on the way in which we think about the universality of Western theorising and prac-
tice, and challenges us constantly to avoid a one-size-fits-all paradigm for research
and classroom practice.
While not related to cross-cultural issues per se, there has been an increasing
interest in looking at psychological phenomena from a male/female perspective, and
the interaction of sex and culture. While many of these studies are labelled studies in
gender they do not effectively tease out the differences between sex (a biological
imperative) and gender (a sociocognitive construction). Typically, early research
examined the nature and causes of differences between the sexes on a raft of
outcomes (such as reading, mathematics, and science), initially centring more
specifically on the need to improve the performance of girls in traditionally male
areas (e.g., Halpern & LaMay, 2000). Today there is considerable interest in investi-
gating why males appear to have slipped behind girls on a number of major educa-
tional criteria.
Other Research Themes
Clearly the dominant research theme after learning styles and cognitive styles
research is reading research. Along with learning and cognitive styles research it
swamps other areas. For example, there have been two issues of Educational Psychol-
ogy dedicated to reading – a double issue in 1992 (Volume 12, Issue 3–4) and a
‘thick’ issue dedicated to recent research on reading in 2004 (Volume 24, Issue 6).
Despite only two dedicated issues, articles on reading research have been frequently
present from the earliest days of the journal. Major research themes were, and still
are, concerned with demonstrating the relative effectiveness of whole-word
approaches and phonics. It is fascinating to see how particular themes and emphases
go around and come back again in reading research over a 25-year period.
Theory, Research, and Teaching 595
A number of other themes got a good airing at times in the journal. For example,
educational assessment got a special issue in 1988 (Volume 8, Issue 4) when it was a
reasonably hot topic of research. Bullying and self-concept have also received expo-
sure since about 1995, but not much prior to that. Research related to special educa-
tion has been consistently represented in the journal from the earliest issues. While
the focus of a number of articles was mainstreaming, the range of topics covered
under the banner of special needs education was quite broad.
Methodological Developments
It is quite apparent when one does a broad sweep of the educational psychology
research literature over the last 25 years that the methodological and statistical
sophistication required of researchers has increased enormously and, indeed, it
appears at times that the sophistication demanded by journals for publication of arti-
cles outstrips, in general, the skills of most practitioners and many researchers. The
methodological skills needed to stay on top of the game are growing exponentially.
One of the developments of note over this period of time has been the increasing
representation of qualitative research methodologies or combinations of qualitative
with quantitative methods.
Five Paradoxes
In conclusion and in the context of the above brief overview I would like to discuss
five paradoxes and ask you to reflect on them.
1. Constructivism
There appears to be a paradox in the new emphasis on constructivism as the route to
effective learning. Research into learning certainly suggests the importance of the
active, transforming role of the learner. Research into teaching, however, demon-
strates the importance of direct instruction, which is largely based on behavioural
principles. Indeed, the strongest finding from research into teaching and learning
appears to be that the only approach that clearly and unambiguously works is direct
instruction, albeit with some cognitive components in recent models (Rosenshine,
1986; Rosenshine & Meister, 1995; Swanson & Hoskyn, 1998; Weinert & Helmke,
1995). This paradox has yet to be resolved. This is not to say that there is not signif-
icant research support for various other models of instruction such as cooperative
and group learning models.
I would like to see more research examining the positive effects of constructivist
approaches to teaching and learning relative to the clearly demonstrated positive
effects of techniques based on behavioural approaches. Perhaps one solution to the
paradox lies in what is determined to be the appropriate outcome of learning. Perhaps
outcome measures tested are low-level knowledge and skills that are relatively easy to
reproduce through direct instruction methods. If we devised research which effec-
596 D. M. McInerney
tively measured more complex and deeper learning outcomes, as well as attitudes and
the relationships between various elements of learning, and related these to either
constructivist or behavioural approaches, we might see a different set of findings.
2. Impact on Policy and Practice
As the field of educational psychology has become more complex and rich, offering
much to the policy-maker and practitioner, there is seemingly less impact on the world
of teaching. Many practices in classrooms still reflect the transmission and reinforce-
ment dogmas of the 1970s and 1980s. In other words, recent theory and research
seems to have had a disappointing impact on educational policy and practice. Why is
this so? For example, new approaches to understanding motivation such as goal
theory, and new approaches to teaching such as constructivism, appear to have
limited impact. Perhaps teachers find it too difficult to implement constructivist
approaches because they do not have sufficient training and expertise, are confused
by the varieties of constructivism (personal, social, sociocultural, radical), are under-
resourced for such “open” techniques, or are constrained by accountability strictures.
Perhaps teachers fail to make use of the wealth of information coming from cognitive
motivation research because the area is so clouded by a plethora of similar yet conflict-
ing theoretical and research paradigms, as well as an overload of information. Or
perhaps teacher socialisation, overwhelms whatever research findings and practices
based on these teachers were exposed to through their training. Maybe we do an inad-
equate job of educating teachers, and their on-the-job situation precludes enough
opportunity for them to fine-tune general findings from research to their local context.
3. Cross-Cultural Dimensions
While the study of sociocultural influences on cognition, learning, and motivation
has burgeoned, and cross-cultural psychology has much to say about cognition,
learning, and motivation, little of this finds its way into mainstream educational
psychology textbooks. Why is this the case when we are preparing educators for
educational settings characterised by diversity?
It is also of note that many cross-cultural studies show that there is less variation
between groups than within groups, so we need to de-emphasise stereotypes based
on ethnicity and culture, yet such stereotypes still abound in both the research and
applied literature. Indeed, one still reads in texts and research literature that such
and such a group has such and such learning and motivational characteristics based
on some dated anthropological, sociological, or psychological research conducted 40
or 50 years ago. Why is this so?
4. Teaching Time
In inverse proportion to the growth in educational psychology research and theorising,
the amount of time made available to it in tertiary education programs for professionals
Theory, Research, and Teaching 597
such as teachers and counsellors has diminished (in my personal experience). The
more educational psychology has to offer, the less time it has to offer it in.
5. Research Training
While journals demand growing methodological and statistical sophistication in
research articles, the time available to teach these skills in postgraduate courses in
psychology and related areas is declining. This situation is made even more odd by
the fact that there is great pressure today to publish in top-rate journals while
completing one’s doctorate. How can we address this problem?
Conclusion
A review such as this can never be complete, and other writers would perhaps have
taken another approach. Indeed one reviewer of this article suggested that I tackle
more fundamental issues such as changes in the criteria by which people judge scien-
tific evidence, the impact of other disciplines such as sociology on educational
psychology, the politicisation of educational research, research that is undertaken for
funding rather than scientific reasons, and the impact of educational psychology on
other fields such as social work, counselling, and medical and paramedical practices.
Another reviewer suggested that I look at the field by dividing research into different
categories to the ones I chose, namely pure research, applied research, interdiscipli-
nary research, and policy research. These alternative approaches are worth consider-
ing and in your personal survey of the field, as you mull over 25 years of educational
psychology, you might like to take one or other of these approaches. I wish you well!
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank sincerely Ray Debus, Martin Dowson, Herb Marsh, Andrew
Martin, Mike Pressley, Phil Winne, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful
comments on earlier drafts of this paper. They kept my historicity in order and my
idiosyncrasies in check.
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Educational psychology, an applied branch of psychology, provides the essential base toward understanding the entire dynamics of teaching and learning including curriculum development, curriculum transaction, and educational management. The discipline has the potential to make learning a living and engaging process. It is a socially significant field linked with the issues of educating minds and building character in the society. It assumes greater significance in the present-day context where providing quality learning to each child is the target of the government. Against this backdrop, the chapter traces the developments in the field of educational psychology in modern India and presents a critical appraisal of the accomplishments and challenges faced in the areas of teaching–learning, curricula offered, methods, and issues for future research. It has been argued that, with a view to make learning a meaningful exercise for all children, there is need for context-specific research problems and use of innovative research methods. One may expect a change in the nature of the engagement of professionals working in the field of educational psychology in the India in years to come.
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Growing up Constructivist - Languages and Thoughtful People Unpopular Philosophical Ideas - A History in Quotations Piaget's Constructivist Theory of Knowing The Construction of Concepts Reflection and Abstraction Constructing Agents - The Self and Others On Language, Meaning and Communication The Cybernetic Connection Units, Plurality, and Number To Encourage Students' Conceptual Constructing.
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This study investigated the effects of a structured reading comprehension technique, reciprocal teaching, on postsecondary students at risk for academic failure. The sample comprised 50 at-risk students enrolled in a community college who participated in either the reciprocal teaching or cooperative learning condition. The reciprocal teaching group performed significantly better than the comparison group on reading comprehension and strategy acquisition. There were no differences on perception of study skills. In secondary analyses, poorer readers in the reciprocal teaching condition benefited differentially, outperforming poorer readers in the comparison condition on both reading comprehension and strategy acquisition measures. That a structured reading comprehension strategy for college-age students was effective has implications for the design of remedial courses at 2- and 4-year colleges.