An educational psychologist develops tests, evaluates programs, and consults to provide best practices in teaching and testing. This role should not be confused with a child or school psychologist. Educational psychologists work in learning and testing centers, school districts, universities, training organizations, and many businesses to continually improve teaching methods. Their goal is to study how children and adults learn from birth to adulthood in various settings. Much of their research measures individual differences in learning and test-taking, including IQ tests. They research classroom dynamics and teaching styles. Since new technological ways of teaching are being used, the educational psychologist may be involved in evaluating educational technologies, such as computer-based training and distance-learning programs. In addition, this professional can design curriculum and instructional programs, as well as review special education and gifted learner programs. To be an effective educational psychologist, an individual should be good at math with good critical thinking skills.
To be an effective learner, aspects of memory, retention, and recall are evaluated and measured. An educational psychologist utilizes research on ways to improve memory by focusing and repetition. A lot of literature has been written and published on the subject of how to improve learning efficiency. Another widely publicized theory concerns the topic of continued learning and practicing new skills. Research has found that in order to keep a sharp memory with the maximum ability to recall, individuals must work to maintain an active memory with visual recall. This theory is supported when someone learns a language. By practicing the language, the information is stored in memory and can be easily retrieved. Rehearsing the information keeps the language in the pathways of the brain.
Another interesting phenomenon focuses on how individuals learn. Researchers have discovered that people learn in more than one way, therefore utilizing auditory, visual, and verbal methods to cement knowledge in the brain. The more places that information is stored in the brain, the greater the probability that information will be retained and retrieved. Educational psychologist studies have shown that testing enhances learning and provides individuals with better long-term recall of materials on information they learned. Another fascinating find was that if one person teaches another, it helps solidify the new knowledge in the brain. This reinforcement of knowledge can be conducted face to face or through podcasts, group discussions, or online.
Through educational psychology, we have learned that previous learning leads to new learning. Relational learning is the means of learning new information by associating it with things you already know. The old cliché “a child must walk before he runs” is a good example of how this behavior is learned. Putting knowledge into practice reinforces learned behavior. Researchers have found that a person could read a book or attend a class; however the new skill or ability will not actually be learned until they are able to put the skill into practice. An athletic skill or language shows how putting a skill into practice becomes more effective when the acquired skill is practiced.
An educational psychologist begins with a master’s in educational psychology (MEd). The student will receive an introduction to human learning, research methodologies, development, and cognition. Many students will conduct field work at a private or public school and then continue their education with a doctorate degree. An education specialist (EdS) will take about three years to complete and will allow the person to work in a school as a psychologist. The Doctor of Education (EdD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) will take between four to six years to complete and will focus on specific age groups, their development, behavior, educational. and emotional states.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average salary is ranges from $66,000 – $108,000 with expected growth in the field. Professionals in private practice can earn more through consulting.