Essay About Educational Psychology of Lerner is being discussed.Learning is a result of the interaction of the individual and his environment. As such, it is not to be conceived of as something that takes place only in school. Creeping over the floor, Baby comes into contact with a radiator and bums his fingers. His behavior, so far as it is concerned with radiators, is changed forever. “Experience keeps a dear school,” as Benjamin Franklin well said, but we learn at no other.
The concept of experience is fundamental to education. The individual who undergoes an experience is changed. He is not the individual he was before he had the experience ; he is that individual plus the experience. Learning is possible only because we are changed by our experiences. Father spanked us to give us an “experience”!
Education, as a process by which the behavior of a living organism is changed, contemplates an environment. Sometimes we think of all the things, animate and inanimate, that surround us as our environment. Superficially, they are; but let us look deeper. I walk in the woods with a naturalist. Soon I hear him exclaim, “Ha, here is tril-lium!” and again, “Here is wild sarsaparilla!” To me it isn’t trillium nor yet wild sarsaparilla. We look at the same things, but we do not see the same things. The things we look at do not affect me as they do him. He and I have
the same surroundings but, obviously, not the same environment. The things that influence our activities — that shape, guide, or define them — are our real environment.
Life is an active relationship to one’s environment. Breathing is an active relationship to air; eating, digestion, assimilation, and excretion, to food; drinking or bathing, to water; going to bed or rising, to light; wearing clothing of various weights or materials, to temperature; and wearing clothing of light or dark colors, to direct or slanting rays of the sun. These relationships are not only active but dynamic, for through them we are able either to gather or to conserve energy.
Behavior is an index of the active relationship of an individual to his environment. Someone pricks me with a pin: I jump. Another threatens me with a gun: I swear out a warrant for his arrest or pounce upon him and by my behavior endeavor to influence his. A new book is on my desk: I study it and soon find congenial realms of thought. The mail arrives: I read it. A letter tells me of a friend’s misfortune: I feel sorry and decide to write him a letter at once. A mother hears her baby cry: she goes to him and ministers to his needs. She holds the baby close to her, rocks him, and sings a lullaby: he falls asleep. The environment may stimulate us to thought, feeling, or action.
The particular element or elements in the environment that influence our behavior constitute a stimulus or situation. What we think or feel or do is technically known as our response or reaction to the situation. To the situation of being in the woods and seeing certain flowers my friend the naturalist makes the responses of approaching, examining, feeling pleased, plucking specimens, calling to me, and thinking what he will do with the specimens when he reaches his laboratory.
The squirrels scampering up and down the trees, the caroling of song birds, the crows in raucous conclave, and the probable number of board feet of standing timber are not elements in the situation, for they exert no influence upon what he does. To the situation of being in the woods with the naturalist I make the responses of watching the squirrels, listening to the birds, wondering at my friend’s expressions of delight, thinking that he and I live in different worlds, and feeling embarrassed that I cannot share his enthusiasm. Except as I am one of the elements in his total situation and he in mine, we have the same surroundings; but we do not have the same environment.
When a baby is bo, he hasn’t an idea in his head. His surroundings, from the moment of birth, are the most complex that civilrization has yet evolved. The problems involved in learning to differentiate objects and associate with them their characteristic uses, to say nothing of learning a vocabulary that gives them names and enables him to talk about them, appear overwhelming. How, then, does he learn?
Let us first divest ourselves of a notion given currency by the late Professor William James, that to him “the world is one big, blooming, buzzing confusion.” That is precisely what it is not. Things that influence adults do not influence him at all. No part of his surroundings becomes his environment until he begins to react to it. Weeks elapse before he begins to feel the woolen blanket that covers him; then a day arrives when we find him stroking it in order to get sensations of wooliness and other sensations of texture. Give him a rattle at too early a stage of development and he will utterly ignore it.
His surroundings act upon him piecemeal, as ours do, and not as a whole. Even the rattle, when at last he grasps it, acts upon him piecemeal. It may be days or weeks before he senses all of its most salient qualities. His sense of touch informs him of smoothness. A temperature sense advises him of the object’s warmth or coldness. His kin aesthetic sense tells him of its dimensions and shape, and these qualities are confirmed by visual sensations that also reveal brightness or dullness of color. He puts the rattle to his mouth and experiences its taste and smell. He shakes it, and his auditory sense contributes other information.
When he plays with the rattle, he is oblivious of practically everything else unless, perchance, he experiences bodily discomforts or organic sensations of hunger. When these are relieved, he continues to play as before until, being tired, he falls asleep. A rather simple, blissful environment!
How educational psychology helps teachers
The facts of primary importance in the process of learning are (1) that situations do evoke responses and (2) that thereafter the responses tend to be connected with these situations. The connection between a situation and a response is known as an association or bond.
A large part of the work of the teacher is to give the pupils experiences that lead to richness of association. The course of study, from this point of view and no matter in what subject, is a body of experiences for the child to undergo to the end that he may acquire the bonds of thought, feeling, or action that are desirable in shaping his intellect and character. The teacher’s training consists chiefly in learning what bonds are to be formed, how they are to be formed, what hinders or facilitates their formation, what strength they must have, and how to test their strength, plus practice in the application of this knowledge to concrete situations in the training school.
This is but another way of saying that the teacher must gain ideals of pupil achievement in knowledge, skill, and character; learn how the curricular and other activities of the school may be used in effectuating her ideals; and acquire through practice in the training school an initial proficiency in teaching.
Behavior always, in all its forms, is a response or group of coordinated responses to a situation. Some responses of behavior are a part of our original nature and are made without any process of learning; these are termed reflexes and instincts. Other responses, distinctly the product of learning, become customary ways of thinking, feeling, or acting in familiar situations and are termed habits. Still other responses, mediated by thought and made to novel situations which neither original nature nor habit has equipped us to meet, are called rational.
Nature provides each of us with certain rather fixed and invariable responses, largely insubordinate to voluntary control, termed reflexes. The pupils of our eyes respond by dilation or contraction to changes in the intensity of light. We cough when our throats are irritated, hiccough when our stomachs are, and sneeze when our noses are. Onions, pepper, and smoke make us “weep.” Sudden noises make us jump. The papillary reflex and the groups of reflexes connected with digestion, respiration, circulation of the blood, or hiccoughing are entirely independent of volition.
Tears flow in spite of our efforts to restrain them. Sneezing may to some extent be inhibited by all of us, and some of us can avoid winking when a pointed object is suddenly thrust close to our eyes. The reflexes are a “built-in” system of responses that original nature provides for use in emergencies. We act and afterward think about the matter, if at all. When could we sleep if respiration, digestion, and the circulation of the blood required thought? Or how could these activities be initiated in our infancy if they demanded thought? And what would happen if we paused to think before withdrawing our fingers from a hot pipe?
Instincts too are inborn responses to situations, differing from reflexes chiefly in being less of a pattern type than they, more variable in individuals, and more susceptible of modification. It is impossible, however, to draw a sharp line of distinction between the two. Colin defined an instinctive activity “as a group of reflexes organized toward some definite goal and accompanied in their expression by a conscious correlate of more or less clearness, and attended by an affective tone of greater or less in-