Psychological Theories in Education

For Week 1 of Psychology and Sociology in Music Education: Perspectives and Applications, we began reading several chapters from Developmental and Educational Psychology for Teachers: An Applied Approach. These chapters gave us a broad overview of the text; psychological research; theories of cognitive development from Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner; and theories of personal and social development from Freud, Erickson, Rogers, Maslow, and Marcia. We also had our first Live Classroom, and we were required to write a response to our readings.

Most of the content from this week’s reading was review of topics covered in my undergraduate Educational Psychology course. This particular text looks at psychology through the lens of an educator: what are the implications of this research for education? We were asked to read Chapters 1, 5-6, and 9-10. Chapter 1 covered introductions to psychology, sociology, and research. Chapters 5-6 discuss theories of cognitive development. Chapters 9-10 delve into personal and social development. Later in this course, we will read about creativity from Chapter 7. I am also curious about the content on cognition and information processing from Chapter 8.

Cognitive Development

The book defines cognitive development as “the development over time of the ability to think and reason and to understand the world in which we live” (p. 91). The theories of cognitive development the text discussed were those of Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and Jerome Bruner. Rather than going into detail of each theory, I’ve linked to each psychologist’s Wikipedia page which can give you a start on each.

These chapters also discussed how language development impacts cognitive development which I found similar to Postman and Weingartner’s thoughts in Teaching as a Subversive Activity. From the text:

Language is a symbol system made up of a phonology, the collection of sounds of a language, semantics, the meaning given to these sounds (the meaning is arbitrary), and a grammatical structure to coordinate these sounds and meanings. Grammar consists of three main components: syntax which governs word order, inflections which alter words for specific meanings (such as ‘s’ for plurals and ‘ed’ for past tense), and intonation, the rising and falling pitch speakers use to denote a question, finality in a statement, surprise, and so on. Finally, language competence depends upon the child knowing how to use language in different social contexts; this is referred to as pragmatics. Language is modified according to the social situation in which individuals find themselves. (p. 118)

Personal and Social Development

To look at how children develop their personalities, the text looked at theories from Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and James Marcia, as well as discussing concepts like attachment, sociometry, parenting styles, self-concept, and self-efficacy. Similar to the theories and concepts for cognitive development, I will not discuss them in detail here. Rather, I have linked the corresponding Wikipedia pages, and my Reading Response below addresses some of my thoughts from this section of our reading.

Reading Response

The method this course uses for reading responses is different than the one used in our Philosophy and History course where we posted to a discussion board and responded to peers’ posts. In this course, the prompt functions like a quiz where we have 2 hours to respond to a prompt in 250-300 words.

Prompt: How might some of the theories you read about this week influence your teaching practices, or why are they unlikely to make a difference?

Response: The theories that struck me the most this week revolved around the development of identity and personality. A theme in my own learning, inside and outside of this course, has been “knowing what we know about x, why do we continue to ‘do school’ in the ways that we do?” where x could be any number of theories about learning, development, education, or other topics.

For example, if we know that Baumrind’s (1967) concept of authoritative parenting is the most effective style of parenting for adolescents to adjust personally and in school, schools should be looking to create loving and supporting environments with high expectations, clear and consistent behavior rules, and students involved in making decisions (p. 224, 277). That same example works with Erikson’s (1963) fifth psychosocial stage of ego development—identity versus role confusion (p. 226). If we believe adolescents are beginning to experiment with with their identity, schools should be providing safe opportunities for students to do so in the form of extracurriculars and other activities that support identity exploration socially. Similarly with Marcia’s (1966, 1967, 1980) identity statuses, schools should be providing safe opportunities for students to explore alternatives and formulate values and goals (pp. 229-231).

While I do not currently have a classroom of my own, my view of my previous classrooms and those in which I have been substitute teaching show a focus on content at the expense of the human development of the students. My students’ daily time with me was spent developing musical concepts and skills without any intention given to how they were developing as people. Through initiatives like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and restorative justice, schools are beginning to think more about the social development of students, but this thinking feels like another initiative rather than a holistic approach to helping students develop. Knowing what we know about how children and adolescents develop cognitively and socially, why do our school structures put such a strong emphasis on content? I want my teaching practices to demonstrate to students I care about who they are and how they develop while experiencing content.


Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.