The Psychology of Education

Series 2nd Edition
Author(s) Martyn Long, Clare Wood, Karen Littleton, Terri Passenger, Kieron Sheehy
Publisher Routledge
Published 2010
Pages 488
Price £24.99
ISBN 9780415486903
Reviewed by Dr Jocelyn Wishart
ESCalate-University of Bristol
Review published 12 July 2011

The first thing to say about this comprehensive (400+ pages) text is that the teaching background of its authors shines through with psychological theory being introduced via educational settings throughout. Exemplars relevant to classroom settings make for an approachable and accessible introduction to theory ranging from early 20th Century behaviourism to 21st Century concerns about cyberbullying. The text, which addresses key current issues of concern to the UK teacher education community such as inclusion, behaviour and literacy (including learning to read through synthetic phonics programmes) appears essential reading for students on any B.A. Education Studies, B.Ed., PGCE or GTP taught programme.

In addition, its lively and engaging style will interest undergraduates studying Psychology who wish to learn more about the study of education and about learning itself. The text covers a similar range of psychological theories and paradigmatic experiments to the ‘gold standard’ texts by David Fontana and Dennis Childs brought up to date with, for example, recent research on dialogic teaching and the debate over cognitive styles. It is written clearly and, whilst targeted at undergraduates and initial teacher trainees, is accessible to both post-graduate specialists and motivated sixth formers studying A level Psychology.

The coverage is comprehensive. There are individual chapters on learning, assessment, individual differences and achievement, student engagement and motivation, the educational context, society and culture, learning interactions and social worlds, language, literacy, inclusive education and special educational needs, behaviour problems and dealing with them. In addition there is a short appendix that covers key terms often used in the statistical analyses of data collections made when studying education.

The text starts with a short introduction to different methodological approaches and different paradigms found in the study of psychology in education and then the first chapter dives right in with a comprehensive overview of the psychology of learning and associated theories moving right from the early 20th century classic studies to very recent research such as that on neuropsychology and ICT. The focus then moves onto assessment of learning in the second chapter including formative assessment and different types of summative tests. The next chapter looks at studies of how and why different individuals achieve differently on these and similar tests. Insights into motivation are key to understanding performance and chapter five addresses a range of issues relevant to student engagement and motivation including stress and the role of emotion.

Next, the authors present three chapters that focus on the social rather than the individual and include the wider sociocultural context of schooling. The chapter on educational context includes school effectiveness and class management as well as the physical context. Studies investigating issues relevant to society and culture such gender and ethnic diversity are addressed in the next chapter and this is followed by a close look at social interaction within the classroom and playground accompanied by a deeper investigation of dialogic teaching.

Classroom talk, of course, is central to dialogic teaching and the following chapter considers language in depth including language development, phonetics and syntax, language in relation to thought and issues arising where problems occur with a child’s speech or language. This is followed by a chapter on literacy that focuses on psychologists’ work into teaching reading and introduces the range of difficulties a teacher may expect and their origins.

Difficulties in accessing learning remain the focus for the next three chapters. The first is on inclusive education and special educational needs including provision for those that need particular support or a specific teaching approach. The final two chapters address in depth an extensive range of behaviour problems, their causes, their assessment and ways of dealing with them.

As a teacher educator I am delighted to have found this text and look forward to both using it to support the development of my own teaching and recommending it to students as further reading to inform their knowledge of the psychological theory that is so essential to understanding the processes of education. I can certainly recommend it to others.