Psychology Jobs > Educational Psychologist

Educational psychologists mainly study educational institutions such as schools and how students learn within these institutions. In addition, an educational psychologist will research and study topics such as, how people learn, how to motivate students as well as the use of memorization.

Educational psychologists can also focus on certain segments of the population, such as adult learners, preschoolers, as well as elementary and high school aged children.

They may also focus on studying gifted students as well as students with learning disabilities and even how learning takes place within groups.

Educational psychology has its roots in the ideas of some of the earliest philosophers concerning education and how things should be taught. Philosopher's as far back as Plato and Aristotle questioned and debated this topic and, not surprisingly, the debate continues today.

Of course, today, educational psychologists have a lot more information that can be used in the debate over best learning methods and how to motivate students.

What's the Difference Between an Educational Psychologist and School Psychologist?

In North America the two terms, educational psychologist and school psychologist are used to identify psychologists who focus on different aspects of education. Both psychologists are interested in students and how they learn, but a school psychologist focuses more on the individual aspects of learning (i.e., how individual students learn, clinical issues, etc.), whereas an educational psychologist focuses on research and the institutional-level issues.

This distinction is not made in some other countries like England where the term educational psychologist is used to refer to psychologists who focus on research and educational institutions as well as to psychologists who focus on the individual student and clinical treatment. Let's take a little closer look at each:

Educational Psychologist: An educational psychologist works at more of a group or organizational level instead of an individual level like a school psychologist. An educational psychologist will be involved in program development and program implementation. This could mean not only designing the program but also training teachers on how to implement the new program. Educational psychologists may also be involved in helping teachers improve their skills when it comes to teaching children with behavioral problems or learning disabilities.

School Psychologists: Although school psychologists may be interested in research and use it to help develop treatment plans for students, they typically provide counselling to students who are having difficulties in school. These difficulties may be a result of behavioral, learning or developmental difficulties. School psychologists may also use a number of different assessment tests to help identify children with learning disabilities or other problems that may need to be addressed by a student's teacher or the school system.

educational psychologist job The main difference between the two occupations is on the focus of the work. If you are more interested in developing research into how people learn as well as evaluating and implementing various programs to help students, then becoming an educational psychologist may be the right choice for you. If you are more interested in working one-on-one with students then you may want to look into becoming a school psychologist. Although educational psychologists can end up working with individual students, their main focus in on the organizational level as well as conducting research.

What Does an Educational Psychologist Do?

An educational psychologist usually works in either a school setting or a research setting. The type of work that is done is dependent on which setting or organization an educational psychologist works in.

Even though an educational psychologist may work in the schools, this does not mean that the primary focus will be working directly with students although this may be a part of their job. Educational psychologists can be involved in the developing and implementing of tests to assess a student's ability as well as evaluating and designing school programs.

Psychometric Testing: Psychometric tests are tests used that help evaluate a person's ability, intelligence and other attributes. An educational psychologist will use psychometric tests to help assess a student's progress and how well they are learning. Many educational psychologists who work with gifted students or students suffering from learning disabilities will research which tests are best for evaluating this segment of the school population.

Program Development: The educational psychologist may also be involved in developing programs to help the students reach their full potential. These programs could be developed to deal with issues faced by students with learning disabilities, gifted students or just the general student population. An educational psychologist may also need to develop new school programs to meet any new government regulations. The educational psychologist will use the results of research into how students learn to develop a program that will help the student's progress.

Program Evaluation: An educational psychologist working in a school may also be required to help evaluate the educational program and look for areas where the program can be improved. A school program needs to be evaluated for a number of reasons. A good program evaluation will look at how the program can be improved, if the program is effective as well as evaluating the usefulness of certain parts of the program. A program evaluation can also ensure that all governmental regulations and requirements are met.

Types of Evaluations: There is a variety of different program evaluations that can be done by an educational psychologist. Two general types of program evaluations are formative evaluations and summative evaluations. A formative evaluation looks at how well the program has been implemented while a summative evaluation looks at the impact of the program.

Program evaluations can also be theory based or stakeholder based. A theory based evaluation will investigate how well a program conforms to the theory behind the program. In order for this kind of evaluation to take place, the theory behind the program needs to be clearly delineated and the theory will help shape the way the evaluation is structured and conducted.

A stakeholder based evaluation will look at the users of the educational system in order to evaluate how well the program meets their needs. The users in an educational organization are the students, the teachers and the administration. The administration includes not only the administrative staff at the school but also the administration at the local, state and federal level.

An educational psychologist may be required to evaluate a system based on the requirements of any one of these users. For example, if the federal government instates an educational policy, the government may want an evaluation done by an educational psychologist to determine how well the program has been implemented.

A well designed program evaluation will provide information about how well a program is doing as well as how well it has been implemented. It will also provide information that can be used in improving the program as well as possibly effecting a change in policy.

Type of Information Collected: Regardless of the type of evaluation being done, most program evaluations will collect data relating to achievement, motivation and attitude. For example, the educational psychologist can collect information relating to student achievement, student satisfaction, student disciplinary action as well as the number of students passing the course.

Educational psychologists may also choose to collect information from the teachers in order to evaluate a program. Some of the information collected from teachers will include teacher satisfaction and perceptions of the program. Other factors such as the school's goals, and the attitude of the administration would also be evaluated by an educational psychologist.

Data Collection Methods: One of the first things an educational psychologist will do is to collect data for the evaluation. Data can be collected through questionnaires, interviews, case studies and focus groups as well as collected from looking at school records. The method of data collection will depend on the type of research being done and what the research questions are.

Program evaluation is not the only area that may require an educational psychologist. The psychologist may also be involved in the design of the program and help schools implement the program properly.The example of a federal initiative works here as well. If the government decides to implement certain strategies to deal with various school issues, an educational psychologist may be called upon to develop a program in order to implement these strategies.

These policies don't need to come only from the federal level but could also come from the state or local levels as well. The local school board may decide to implement a certain policy which will require the skills of an educational psychologist.

Research Organizations: In addition to working within the educational system itself, an educational psychologist may work in a research organization studying and researching various subjects related to how we learn. Educational psychologists are not only interested in how school aged children learn but are interested in how people of all ages learn.

In order to develop theories about how people learn over the course of their life span, an educational psychologist will study growth and development in humans as well as cognitive psychology and behavioral theories. The educational psychologist will use all of this information and apply it to educational theories in an attempt to develop better ways to both teach and learn.

The research that an educational psychologist conducts can attempt to answer a number of different questions but they all have to do with education and learning. For example, an educational psychologist may want to look at how parents can help motivate their children to learn, how play time can affect school absenteeism and even the effects of watching TV in the morning before school on school performance. Basically, any question that is related to education and learning is open to the educational psychologist.

Methods of Research: There are number of different methods that an educational psychologist can use to conduct research and some of these methods are similar to the methods used in program evaluation. An educational psychologist can use observation and psychometric tests as well as questionnaires and interviews to gather data and develop research into educational theories.

When an educational psychologist is confronted with a unique situation, then a case study may be the more appropriate method. In a case study, the educational psychologist will take an in-depth look at an individual to try and explain why something happened.

Although case studies can be valuable it is important to remember that the reason a case study is done is because the situation is unique which may mean that any information gathered may not be applicable to the general population. You can refer to the AlleyDog glossary for more information about Case Studies.

Correlational and experimental research are two other methods of research that an educational researcher can use. In correlational research, an educational psychologist is looking at how strongly two different variables are connected. For example, an educational psychologist may want to look at the correlation between a permissive teaching style and student's self control.

Correlational research does not mean that one variable causes the other; it just means that if one variable occurs then it is likely that the other variable will occur as well. In our example, the permissive teaching style may have caused a decrease in a student's self control but it is just as likely that a student's self control may have resulted in a teacher developing a permissive teaching style. Please refer to the AlleyDog glossary for more information about Correlations

If an educational psychologist is looking to show causation then the psychologist may choose to perform experimental research. Causation simply means that one variable causes the other to occur. In experimental research, the educational psychologist can change one variable to see how it affects a different variable. For example, a research may implement a specific study program and study the change in a student's test scores compared to a control group who did not take the study program. More information about experiments can be found in the AlleyDog glossary.

Research by educational psychologists can occur at one time or over a longer period of time. For example, if a researcher wants to look at self esteem in students who are in Grade 3, then the research will look at all the students in Grade 3 at one time. This is called cross sectional research. If a researcher wants to look at how self esteem changes over time, then a longitudinal study will be done. This type of study may look at self esteem in the same students as they progress through Grades 3, 4, 5 and 6.

How To Become An Educational Psychologist?

In order to become an educational psychologist, you first need to obtain a graduate level degree in educational psychology. Many schools offer both Masters and Doctoral degrees in Educational Psychology. Once you have that, you may decide to work in the field or as a faculty member at a College or University.

The job outlook for educational psychologists is good, with the U.S. Department of Labor estimating that the growth rate for educational psychologists will grow faster than the average rate of job growth.