Education | Theory and Method in Educational Psychology
P526 | 6255 | Dr. Don Cunningham
Welcome to the course Education P526, Theory and Method in
Educational Psychology. Let me introduce myself. I am Dr. Donald J.
Cunningham (Ph.D., University of Illinois), the Barbara Jacobs Chair
in Education and Technology as well as Professor of Education,
Semiotic Studies, Cognitive Science and Informatics (and soon,
Learning Sciences!) at Indiana University. All that said, I prefer to
be called Don and try not to take my professional titles and
credentials too seriously. I have worked in the field of Educational
Psychology for over 35 years and still find the topic challenging and
rewarding. This is only my second time teaching this class so I am
still in the process of figuring out good ways to organize it to
increase its usefulness in light of the diverse backgrounds and
career goals of the students in the Department of Counseling and
Educational Psychology. I shall endeavor to be sensitive to your
needs and I hope you will offer constructive suggestions for making
the course more valuable to you and to those students who will study
it in the future.
The course is described in the Bulletin of the School of Education as
covering the “major conceptual systems and methodologies that shape
educational, school and counseling psychology”. We will trace these
theories and methods historically and in terms of their current
influence in the field. Given the applied nature of the fields of
counseling, educational and school psychology, we will pay special
attention to the ways in which educators, trainers, counselors,
parents, policy makers and many others can use these theories and
methods to make their endeavors more productive and useful. This
course will introduce and illustrate the proper use of these tools in
providing insights into defining and solving problems. The emphasis
will always be on the use of these theories to solve realistic and
relevant problems drawn either from your own personal experience or
from cases we will study. It is only when you have experienced
applying these theories to actual problems that you can readily see
their strengths and weaknesses.
I have used the word "tool" several times already and it is an
important one to understand in the context of this course. I claim
that theories and methods are tools much like hammers and
screwdrivers are tools. A hammer is a useful and effective tool if
your task is to drive a nail into a board. You can try to use a
screwdriver to drive a nail, but I suspect you will fail and wind up
with cuts and bruises. Likewise, if you try to drive a screw with a
hammer, the wood will split and the bond is unlikely to hold - but a
screwdriver will accomplish the task very well. And despite the best
efforts of our most clever tool makers, there is no such thing as a
tool that meets all of our needs.
As you probably already know, there is no single theory of
psychology, no dominant methodology. Theories and methods carry with
them a world view, a conception of what it means to be human: what it
means to learn something, to teach something, to know something, to
be a person. It is important that we examine these world views so
that we can better judge the appropriateness of using a particular
theory and/or method. To extend the analogy, to a two year old child
with a hammer in her hands, everything in the world needs a good
pounding. If we limit ourselves to one or a few theories, or if we
fail to see the kinds of assumptions that theory makes about the
world, we will commit a similar error. If we limit ourselves to a
behaviorist approach to learning, for example, we run the risk of
regarding all of our behavior (from simple forms like disliking
broccoli to complex forms like understanding quantum mechanics) as a
function of reinforced practice. One of my major aims for the course
is that you carry away with you an understanding of the variety of
tools in your chosen field and a sense of when they are and are not
There are three major sections of the course. First we will examine
some of the grounding assumptions of psychology: What counts as data?
What claims can we make? What methodologies are acceptable? What does
it mean reason like a psychologist? Second, we will dig into the
origins of psychology, tracing it from its roots in philosophy and
physiology to the modern day. We will also pay some attention to the
methods of history and their strengths and limitations in portraying
an accurate picture of psychology. Third, we will be visited by the
various program areas in the Department of Counseling and Educational
Psychology to get an overview of the current theories and
methodologies. By the time we are done, I hope you will have a good
sense of what it means to be a psychologist and your role in the
I mentioned the diverse backgrounds and goals of the students in this
class. This will present both opportunities and challenges. Some of
you have an undergraduate major (or perhaps even a Master’s degree)
in psychology while others may have very little background in
psychology. I am going to assume that most of you do have a solid
background in psychology and structure our activities based upon that
assumption. But I will also provide suggestions for more introductory
readings and tasks for those who need them. You will notice that I
have ordered a variety of books for the class, some of which are
introductory, others more advanced. Those just beginning in
psychology, for example, will find the Schultz and Schultz book to be
a comprehensive history of the field. Those who have already taken a
history of psychology class may want to select a more advanced
resource like Benjamin’s and read the original papers of our
Class procedures and assessment.
Class sessions will consist mainly of lecture and class discussion of
basic issues and distinctions necessary to understand the field of
psychology and what it means to be a psychologist. Class sessions and
reading assignments are listed below. You are expected to attend
class sessions and to contribute to the discussion of the issues
raised in the readings and in class. If you have questions about the
readings, please raise them in class.
Your grade in this course will be determined in the following ways:
1. Meta-theoretical analysis and class presentation (IMPACT!) (30%) –
I will provide more details on this assignment in class. Basically, I
will form you into groups, one for each of the major schools/periods
in psychology. The group will work with me and take responsibility
for one of the two class sessions we will devote to that topic,
emphasizing the lasting impact (if any) of a school of psychology on
educational, school and counseling psychology. They will also prepare
a meta-theoretical analysis according to a template I will distribute.
2. Intellectual history (30%) – I will distribute guidelines later.
Basically I will be asking you to trace your own intellectual
history, in which you lay out your beliefs about psychology and trace
their origins through things you have read, people who have
influenced you. The goals of this project (which I have borrowed from
Myrtle Scott who used to teach P526) are to provide you with a better
understanding of you current beliefs and to have some direct
experience with historical data and historical methodology.
[Counseling Psychology students, because they are taking this class
for 2 credit hours rather than 3 are not required to do this
assignment. Many have found it to be a valuable experience, however.
I can arrange for you to receive an additional hour of independent
study graduate credit if you choose to complete this assignment.]
3. Two short (5 double spaced pages maximum) reflexive papers due at
various points throughout the semester (30%) - Reflexive papers are
unlike the typical course paper. The word reflexive means "directed
or turned back upon itself". In these papers I want you to turn the
approaches we are studying back upon themselves and examine their
assumptions about the nature of learning, the mind, what it means to
know something, the nature of learners, the character of knowledge,
what it means to teach, and so forth. In these papers I don't want
you to simply tell me what the authors we read have said. I want you
to evaluate their ideas from some particular perspective that you
feel strongly about (the scientific method, humanism, a school
psychologist, a teacher educator, etc.) and determine how well the
assumptions underlying that approach match those of your perspective.
For example, how well can these models handle some practical or
theoretical problems in your field? On what basis do you make your
judgment? I will provide some examples of reflexive papers to help
you get the idea. In grading these papers, I look for your ability to
see multiple perspectives, skepticism grounded in theory and data,
juxtaposition of ideas in unique ways, etc. We will talk more about
this in class. Papers are listed as due three times during the
semester. You may select the two dates you will use, to accommodate
to the class presentation requirement.
4. Class Participation (10%)--My subjective estimate of your
contribution to class discussions, attendance, etc. I will, from time
to time, ask you to complete some tasks outside of class and bring
the results back to share. I will not formally grade these tasks but
will assess your work as we talk about the tasks in class. For
example, I will ask you to complete “1 minute papers” after each
presentation by program areas.
I detest assigning grades but it is the Policy of the School of
Education that every student be assigned a grade for the course. I
will follow the grading policy adopted for graduate courses in the
School of Education found on lucky page 13 of the Bulletin of the
School of Education Graduate Program:
A = Outstanding achievement, exceptionally high level
A- = Excellent achievement, very high level
B+ = Very good achievement, thorough command
B = Good achievement, solid, acceptable performance
B- = Fair achievement, acceptable
These words are very subjective and therefore grades will be
determined based on my best judgment. Grades of A and A- will usually
be less common than grades of B+, B or B-.
NOTE: I do not give incompletes except under extraordinary
circumstances. Keep up with the reading and attend classes and you
will have no trouble succeeding.
Tentative Schedule, Fall, 2002
Date/Topic/Readings 1/Readings 2
Sep 2 Getting organized/Skim all/Skim all
Sep 4 Thinking like a psychologist/Stanovich, Ch 1-2/Driver-Linn (OC)
Sep 9 What counts as evidence?/ Stanovich, Ch 3-4/SRE p 1-126 (skim!)
Sep 11 Reasoning about results/ Stanovich, Ch 5-6/Turner Ch 1-2 (OC)
Sep 16 Being realistic/ Stanovich, Ch 7-9/Turner Ch 3
Sep 18 Avoiding pitfalls/Stanovich, Ch 10-11/Turner Ch 4
Sep 23 Where do we go from here?/Stanovich, Ch 12/Turner Ch 5, skim 6-
Sep 25 History of psychology overview/S&S, Ch 1-3/EdPsychist (OC)
Sep 29 Structuralism/S&S Ch 4, 5/Self selections
Oct 2 IMPACT!/?
Oct 7 Functionalism/S&S Ch 6-8/ Self selections
Oct 9 IMPACT!
Oct 14 Behaviorism/S&S Ch 9-11/ Self selections
Oct 16 IMPACT! /?
Oct 21 Gestalt, Early Cognitive Psych/S&S Ch 12, 15/Self selections
Oct 23 IMPACT!
Oct 28 Psychoanalysis, Humanistic/S & S Ch 13&14/Self selections
Oct 30 IMPACT!
Nov 4 Inquiry program area/TBA
Nov 6 Inquiry program area/TBA
Nov 11 Counseling Psychology/TBA
Nov 13 Counseling Psychology/TBA
Nov 18 Learning, Cognition & Instruction/TBA
Nov 20 Learning, Cognition & Instruction/TBA
Nov 25 Work session on histories/None
Dec 2 Development -David Estell/TBA
Dec 4/Development –Anne Stright, etc./TBA
Dec 9 School Psychology/TBA
Dec 11 Wrap up
Dec 19 Final examination @ 10:15- 12:15? ?
Reflexive papers due 9/25, 10/30, and 12/4. Intellectual history is
due 12/12 at 5:00 pm. Meta-theoretical analysis is due the day of
your class presentation.
* This all looks very organized and structured. I reserve the right
to change this at a whim. And I encourage you individually and
collectively to structure the course to best suit your own self
chosen goals. ALL IS NEGOTIABLE. If you are not prepared to assume
major responsibility for your own learning, I strongly encourage you
not to take this class.
Ordered for class:
American Psychological Association. (2001). Publication manual of the
American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Washington, DC:
American Psychological Association.
Benjamin, L. (1997). A history of psychology: Original sources and
contemporary research (2nd ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill.
Schultz, D. P. & Schultz. S. E. (2004). A history of modern
psychology (8th ed.) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth
Shavelson, R. & Towne, L. (2002). Scientific research in education.
Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Available on-line at
Stanovich, K. E. (2004). How to think straight about psychology (7th
ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon
Weston, A. (1992). A rulebook for arguments (2nd Ed.) Indianapolis,
IN: Hacket. Available on-line at
Zimmerman, B. & Schunk, D. (2003). Educational psychology: A century
of contributions. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.