Psychological Foundation of Education: Importance in Teacher Education Programme



Psychology is the “science of mind and behavior”, Silverman (2014) defines psychology as “the science that seeks to describe and explain and on decision, to change the behaviour of man and other animals.” Education also means change in the behaviour of an individual. So, education and psychology are as inseparable from one another as two sides of a coin. Without understanding the psychology of a child the teacher cannot educate him in the true sense of the word. Psychology is the most important of the foundations of education. It plays pivotal role in the process of teaching and learning. The psychology used specifically in education is called psychological foundation of education. We can say that both psychology and education are interrelated. Education is the shaping of behavior, whereas psychology is the study of how, when and Why to shape these behaviors.


Thus Psychological foundation of education is an applied branch of psychology that deals with the application of the principles of general psychology to the problems of education. We can, in more simple words, say that ‘psychological foundation of education’, applies knowledge to educational problems.




One notable relevance of psychological foundation of education to a classroom teacher as given by Seifert and Suttton (2009) is that it equips the teacher with the ability to study teaching and learning situations.Psychological foundation of education provides the teacher with principles that illuminate classroom instruction by providing a framework for studying the learning process, the learning situation and the educational system (Mnkandla, 1999). Through the study of psychological foundation of education the teacher acquires vital knowledge on the characteristics of learners and information on the effects of learning on individual students. This allows the teacher to take into consideration the learners’ characteristics when planning and delivering lessons. It allows the teacher to deal carefully with different groups of students with a wide variation in ability, needs and intelligence. The teacher can therefore use different teaching methods based on the ability, needs and intelligence of the students (Beihler and Snowman, 2000). For example as this teacher has witnessed in some schools, students are grouped in classes according to performance such as from class A to class G. In this case the level of intelligence decreases from class A to class G. In the given situation psychological foundation of education helps the teacher make use of remedial methods to assist pupils with poor performance.

Psychological foundation of education allows the teacher to deal with individual differences in pupils (Smith, 2012). As shown by Berk (2003), children differ in mental thinking ability, genetic make-up, temperament, cognitive styles, intelligence, learning styles and motor development. Knowledge of ways individuals differ enables the teacher to adjust instructional programmes to the individual needs of learners.An example is teaching children with special needs. The teacher applies psychological foundation of education to adopt the relevant curriculum, teaching activities, teaching methods and material that meets the special educational needs of individuals with disabilities. A teacher who teach a student with physical disabilities may use teaching materials such as stand up tables, moveable chalkboards and pencil holders that are specially adapted to suit the needs of the child.  The teacher can also do an assessment to gather information about a student in order both to identify the strengths of the student and to decide what special educational support thestudent needs might need (Makotore and Zindi, 2000).

Psychological foundation of education also allows the teacher to know the classroom teaching and learning process by providing the teacher with a better understanding of principles involved in the process of learning and teaching which are vital in a school setting (Husan and Postlewaite, 1994). Smith (2012) articulates that a better understanding of classroom teaching and learning principles by the teacher is helpful for transacting the content to the students effectively, which includes classroom climate and the teaching competence which are required for effective communication and presentation of content. Slavin (2013), concurs with this notion by further postulating that psychological foundation of education helps the teacher gain knowledge on the appropriate approaches of teaching. For example the behaviorism learning theory has four major concepts which are stimuli, responses, reinforcement, punishment and behavior modification. This theory helps the teacher to understand the learning of skills and attitudes in students. In a given classroom situation, the teacher might reinforce concepts through written exercises and homework. The theories may also be applied in classroom management when handling problems. For example the teacher can establish classroom rules to express standards of behavior for which individual students need to take responsibility. These rules encourage the students to be responsible for learning and showing respect for each other (Seifert and Sutton, 2009).

Psychological foundation of education enables the teacher to identify the stages of development and growth in pupils and to apply methods of teaching that are likely to be effective at each of these stages (Mwamwenda, 2009). Methods of teaching are based on the developmental characteristic of the students and the theories of child and adolescence development. For example History is taught effectively to small children with the help of storytelling methods because small children like stories. Smith (2012) concurs with this by stating that psychological foundation of education aids the teacher in choosing teaching and learning aids appropriately.

Classroom teachers can develop curricula using and applying psychological foundation of education. According to Mwamwenda (2009), psychological foundation of education is helpful in developing curricula of different levels of students in different subjects. In the preparation of a curriculum, psychological foundation of education assists the teacher to prepare the curriculum that will best suit age, needs and the interests of students who will study that particular subject. For example, the curricula in primary schools include sections of physical education (PE) and home economics to keep the children interested. In Zimbabwe teachers prepare the junior certificate Science curriculum different from the ordinary level Science curriculum considering the age, needs and interests of the students.

Another relevance of psychological foundation of education to a classroom teacher is that it allows the teacher to measure, monitor and assess the learning outcomes of students. According to Child (2007) psychological foundation of education enables the teacher to assess the progress made by the students and the teacher’s effectiveness in transmitting information. The testing activities help in measuring learning outcomes of the students to judge their improvement and progress (Makotore and Zindi, 2009; Slovin, 2013,Woolfolk, 1995). For example most teachers use tests and exercises to evaluate pupil’s progress. The results of the students in the tests and exercises allows the teacher to group children within a class according to their ability and teach accordingly.

The teacher can apply psychological foundation of education bring about desirable changes in the student’s behavior. Seifert and Sutton (2009) are of the view that with the use of psychological foundation of education, the teacher can create learning conditions that provide knowledge and experiences to the students for behavioral change. Behaviorist approaches to motivation assist the teacher to encourage students to sustain and to increase their behavior towards specific goals. The teacher takes into account individual differences in attitude towards school and how the pupil feels about specific subjects.  For instant, there are some students who have fear for subjects such as Mathematics. The teacher can apply the knowledge of psychological foundation of education to motivate the students and to allay such fears in order to reduce the feelings of ‘dislike’ towards the subject.

Psychological foundation of education also aids the teacher in the preparation of the time table. The classroom teaching of various subjects is organized by a perfectly arranged time table. Preparation of the time table needs knowledge of psychology, as the difficult subjects like mathematics and science must be placed in the first periods and other subjects like history, geography may be placed in the last periods. According to Prakash (2014),this is done because students are considered to be more mentally active in the early hours of the day.

Berk (2003) postulated that psychological foundation of education can be applied by a teacher to help in the language development of the students. Communication in a classroom serves a unique combination of three purposes at once which are content, procedures and behavior control. The teacher uses class activities to take on patterns that guide communication in ways that class members learn to expect, often without even being reminded. Some the common class activities are lecturing, questions and answer, discussion and group work. Each of these structures influences how communication among teachers and students tends to occur and each is itself sort of an implied message about how, when, and with whom to interact (Seifert and Sutton, 2009).

According to Makotore and Zindi (2000), psychological foundation of education is well applied by a teacher in the guidance and counselling of the students. Counselling is done to help the pupils to solve individual to solve some problems of abuse, vocational selection and community conflicts. It allows the teacher to advise students in all aspects of well-being so that the student can reach his/her potential.


In conclusion the relevance of psychological foundation of education to a teacher education programme is undeniable. Factors that show this relevance include, equipping the teacher with the ability to study teaching and learning situations; helping the teacher to study the ability, interests, intelligence and needs of the student. Other factors include allowing the teacher to adopt different techniques of teaching for effective communication and it aiding the teacher in curriculum development. Other factors that shows the relevance of psychological foundation of education to a classroom teacher are that it allows the teacher to measure and monitor learning outcomes and progress of pupils and it enables the teacher to identify the stages of development in pupils and apply methods that are likely to be effective at each stage.


Prakash J (2014). Introduction to Psychology. New Delhi: A.I.T.B.S.

Seifert K and Sutton R (2009). Educational psychology. Global text project. Zurich. Switzerland

Slavin R (2013). Educational psychology; theory and practice. Peason publishers. Boston

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