Four Basic Approaches of Educational Psychology



刘佳 田庆武

【Abstract】Many scholars have proposed some great theories of foreign language teaching, among which four big approaches are basic in the study of contemporary education of psychology. In this paper, author gives a summarization about the four approaches in order to provide a basic idea for further studies.

【Key Words】behaviorism humanism constructivism social Interactionism

Ⅰ Introduction

In the last decade, there have been a growing body of research on psycholinguistics. Among so many theories and thoughts, four main approaches in educational psychology—Behaviorism, Humanism, Constructivism, Social Interactionism—deserve to be demonstrated.

Ⅱ Behaviorism

B. F. Skinner is the founder of modern behaviorism. He began with the premise that learning is the result of environmental rather than genetic factors. Skinner extended the possible application of principles of conditioning by introducing the notion of operants. He also emphasized the importance of reinforcement, which means the actions of making something stronger.

Ⅲ Constructivism

Piaget, Jerome Bruner and George Kelly are famous in this approach.

Piaget thinks the development of thinking and its relationship to language and experience is the focus of learning. Teachers should take learners as individuals, actively involved in constructing meaning.

Bruner believes the central aim of education is the conceptual understandings. People should take a broad view of the education of whole person.

George Kellys personal-construct theory begins with the premise of “man-as-scientist” constantly seeking to make sense of his world. People carry out their own personal experiments, construct hypotheses and actively seek to confirm or disconfirm them.

Ⅳ Humanism

Humanistic approach emphasizes the importance of the inner world of the learner and places the individuals thoughts, feeling and emotions at the forefront of all human development. Three representatives are involved: Erik Erikson, Abraham Maslow, and Car Rogers.

Erik Erikson thinks learning is a lifelong process. By focusing on important tasks at different stages of a persons life, it enables us to see that real-life learning involves challenges and often requires a particular kind of help from others.

Abraham Maslow demonstrates the Hierarchy of needs. He argues for two distinct categories of needs: deficiency needs and being needs. If being needs are not met, it would be difficult for people to fulfill other higher needs.

Beginning with the premise that human beings have a natural potential for learning, Car Rogers suggests that significant learning will only take place when the subject matter is perceived to be of personal relevance to the learner.

Ⅴ Social Interactionism

This approach maintains that we learn a language through using the language to interact meaningfully with other people. In this approach, there are two representatives: Lev Vygotsky and Reuven Feuerstein.

Vygotsky emphasizes the importance of language in interacting with people; not just speech, but signs and symbols as well.

Central to Feuersteins theory is the firm belief that anyone can become a fully effective learner. Based on this belief, he proposed the Structural Cognitive Modifiability, which means that peoples cognitive structures are not fixed but infinitely modifiable.

Ⅵ Conclusion

Behaviorism, Humanism, Constructivism and Social Interactionsim are the four main approaches in educational psychology. These approaches will provide language teachers with an introduction to the key issues and recent developments in psychology which will help them to understand better the ways in which their learners learn.


[1]Williams M. & Robert L. Burden . Psychology for Language Teachers[J]. Beijing, China: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2000

[2]Wu Jiang. Psycholinguistics: An Introduction to the Psychology of Language[J]. Foreign Language Teaching and Reach,1985


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