Educational psychology related questions

The psychology of the Like button

Some of the most popular social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram make prominent use of the "Like" button. As Facebook writes, Like Button is "a way to give positive feedback or to connect with things you care about on Facebook. You can like content that your friends post to give them feedback or like a Page that you want to connect with on Facebook." When users see the number of "likes" their content receives, they often report feeling "great", "loved", and "supported". In contrast, content that receives very few likes can lead to feelings of loneliness and ostracism.
Why do you suppose people, especially millennials (, have become so invested in the like button? Answer this question by proposing two different psychological theories or perspectives that may help to explain why likes (or lack of) make people feel the way they do. These theories can be from a broad perspective like behaviorism or motivation, or be more specific such as theories of need for belongingess, connectedness, or social capital (these are just examples, you can propose others).

For each of the two theories or perspectives that you chose, please:

a) Elaborate how behavior and feelings surrounding the like button can be explained in terms of the concepts specific to that theory or perspective.
b) Provide any empirical (better) or anecdotal (not as good) support for using this theory or perspectives to interpret liking behavior
c) Propose the broad outlines of one study that might help further test if liking behavior can be explained by the theory or perspective that you chose.

The reciprocal relationship between ed tech and ed psych

A.    What ideally is the 'reciprocal relationship' between educational psychology and educational technology? Support your argument with relevant educational research and theory.
Next, provide three examples or cases of this reciprocal relationship. In each case, consider what technology facilitates and challenges for research and practice.
B.    Describe a research idea of your own that involves learning technologies.  
How does that idea make use of knowledge and methods from educational psychology?  
How does the idea not draw upon educational psychology, and what are the pluses and minuses of that lack of connection? 
Finally, in your example, reflect on the influence of educational psychology on educational technology and of educational technology on educational psychology. How is this relationship ‘reciprocal’ or not?
You may, in your answer to any or all parts of this question, be more expansive than just dealing with “educational psychology” and include as well cognitive psychology and the cognitive and learning sciences.

Learning and testing 

A few kids from the local high school have approached you to help with an appeal they are making to the local school board. 

Here is the context for their appeal: As in any high school, they students take many tests and quizzes over the period of the semester - often once every week or two, for almost every academic class they are in. 

Their high school has a policy that does not allow students to take any of their graded tests or quizzes home with them. Once these tests or quizzes are graded the students are allowed to review them in class but then have to return them to the teachers. The students cannot review their performance at home (either by themselves or with a tutor or parent). Also, when the end of year examinations come around the students feel the need for these tests to review the work done over the year but have no way of doing so. 

The students believe that this policy is unfair, since it prevents them from learning from their past efforts and mistakes. They suspect that the only reason this is done is to allow teachers to continue to use the same tests over and over again year after year. They have appealed to the school to change this policy but have been turned down. They are now preparing a presentation to the school board and have invited you, an expert on educational psychology and learning theory, to help them make their case. 

Your task is to make a sound coherent argument for why these tests and quizzes should be returned to the students. You should cite theory, research and scholarship appropriately. Remember you are making a case for a certain point of view and against others, so it is important to both construct an argument for your position as well as arguments against the other position. Your response will be best served if you treat the opposing arguments as intelligent and reasonable. Creating a “straw man” argument involving an oversimplified, clearly weak position is not a good strategy for a Comps response. NOTE: This is a real situation in a local school district, not something constructed solely for the sake of this comprehensive examination.

Perspectives on Assessing and Fostering Motivation
A central concern in any educational setting should be, “Why would a student want to learn something?” For this Comps question, you are asked to discuss the nature of three different perspectives on motivation, and how they lead to different implications for assessing and fostering student motivation.

Phenomenon. Begin by selecting a subject-matter area you are familiar with (math, foreign language, technology, etc.)
Perspectives on motivation. Next, consider the question “Why would a student want to learn this subject-matter” from three different perspectives on motivation. A “perspective” does not necessarily have to be a major psychological paradigm such as behaviorism, cognitive perspective, and so on. A perspective is any point of view that makes distinctive assumptions about what motivates learning. In your discussion of the three perspectives make sure you make clear the distinctive features of each perspective on what motivates learning of your particular subject matter.
Assessing Motivation. Describe ways to assess the degree to which students are motivated to learn the subject matter that would be true to the distinctive assumptions of each perspective. Make sure to describe what would count as evidence of motivation from each perspective, and how you could collect and analyze this evidence.
Fostering Motivation. Describe ways to get students motivated to learn the subject matter that would be true to the distinctive assumptions of each perspective.

Outcomes, effects, cause

Using theory and research from your own area of interest, evaluate the following statement: “Any outcome is both an effect and a cause. Thus, a student is an active participant whose thinking, feeling, and/or behavior is both a reaction and a stimulus for subsequent outcomes.” As part of your evaluation, assess the extent to which this statement characterizes psychological processes within your own area of interest. At a minimum, provide three examples as well as a discussion of the insights and challenges associated with this view of psychological processes.

Cultural context

Contemporary cultural developmental theorists argue that understanding the effects of socialization beliefs and behaviors requires situating them in their cultural context (see e.g., Bornstein, 1995). From this perspective, the same belief or behavior may yield different outcomes in different cultural contexts because it assumes a different meaning in each, or different beliefs and behaviors may yield the same outcome in different cultural contexts because they assume the same meaning in each.

Identify two different domains in which understanding culture increases understanding of the mechanisms of socialization by demonstrating those beliefs and behaviors that are influenced by culture, and those beliefs and behaviors that cut across culture. Take care to be specific about the relevant details of the research and, for each domain, highlight key questions that remain to be answered about the role of socialization beliefs and behaviors in different cultural contexts. 

The cognitive revolution

In the history of educational psychology, theory and research shifted from a dominant behavioral perspective on human learning and development that emphasized behavior, environment, and reinforcement to the view that emphasized cognitive structures and processes, and behavior. But since that period, views of human learning and development have continued to shift. 

1.     Describe the shift toward a more cognitive perspective using research in your area of interest to illustrate your point. How did the way researchers conceptualize the phenomena of interest change and how did these changes reflect the broader shift toward a more cognitive perspective?

2.     Describe how research methodology in your area of interest has changed in connection with the broader theoretical change toward a more cognitive perspective. Aspects of methodology you discuss can include research questions, study design, data sources, and data analysis.

Culture and learning

Recently, significant attention has been given to relations between culture and learning, and specifically to how that culture affects learning. But, the term “culture” is often weakly conceptualized. Your task in this response to describe and assess some of the key issues in (1) defining what we mean by “culture,” and (2) tracing its impact on learning.

1. Identify and describe two quite different conceptions of culture from among theorists and researchers who have conceptualized and studied the relations between culture and learning. Assess their weaknesses. 

2. In these two conceptions, is culture integrated with (or not distinguished from) family and parental effects on learning, or is culture conceptualized as a factor not reducible to family and parental effects? In your view, is one conception superior to the other on this issue? Explain why?

3.  Does one (or both) of these conceptions allow for or support the analysis of individual differences within a single culture, or do they suggest that the effects of culture on the learning of its members are homogeneous and uniform? In your view, is one conception superior to the other on this issue? Explain why?

Adolescent development

Adolescent development is a complex process upon which many factors may have effects. Your response should:
1.     Select an area of adolescent change (e.g., social or emotional) and use an existing conceptual framework to illustrate how development is a complex process in this particular area. Draw on empirical research to clearly show how development in this domain is complex.
2.     Propose one or two original research questions that target this complexity. Explain why these questions are important.

Draw on relevant conceptual and empirical research to illustrate your point and demonstrate your knowledge of this topic.

Understanding Individual Change

A central concern in developmental and educational psychology is understanding individual development – that is, how knowledge and abilities change over time. Select an area of development of particular interest to you and describe how changes occur over time in what someone knows or is able to do in this domain. You need not discuss this from birth through adulthood, but rather select a range of years or stage within the life course -- for example ages 2 -6 or early adolescence. Then, discuss factors that shape development in this domain. Cite relevant research and theory.

Interaction and learning

In just about all learning, there is interaction. The interaction may between the learner and the instructor, other learners, technology, instructional materials, or numerous other aspects of the environment.

The kind of interactions deemed to be educationally worthwhile depends on one’s beliefs about learning. The purpose of this question is to get you to consider the qualities and conditions of educationally worthwhile interaction.

In your response, clearly address the following: 

1.     Using your area of interest, describe a kind of interaction scholars have argued is important for facilitating learning.

2.     Present an argument grounded in scholarly literature for how this kind of interaction functions in the process of learning.

3.     Describe two contrasting instructional settings that might support this kind of interaction. The point here is to break away from the impractical and incorrect assumption that good learning can only take place with a particular activity in a particular environment. For example, does your conception of interaction only allow for good learning in cooperative group activity? Is good learning impossible through lectures? Your discussion of the two examples will help to highlight what you feel are essential features of the interaction and the conditions in which they occur.

4.     Generate one or two research questions about the interaction in these two instructional settings and their relationship to learning. Explain the particular issues related to interaction you discussed earlier these questions are aimed at. Justify why these are important issues to study.

The Role of the Environment in Learning

In just about every psychological perspective on learning and/or development, the environment or context plays a significant role.  Select two perspectives on learning and/or development that you find particularly interesting or important to your area of research. In a compare and contrast discussion of the two perspectives, address the following issues.
    •    How is the “environment” defined? Why is it defined in this way?
    •    What is the role of the environment in learning and/or development?
    •    What is the relationship between the learner(s) and the environment?
    •    What are important differences in the role of the environment distinguish these two perspectives?  Why are these differences significant?
    •    What are important similarities?
    •    Finally, what puzzles, questions, or insights emerge from your discussion as you think about the role of the environment in learning or development your own area of research interest? The purpose of this part of the question is to give you an opportunity to demonstrate more than just your recall of what you already know. It’s a chance to reveal how you react to or are inspired by these ideas.
For all parts of this question
    •    Use examples to illustrate each of your points. These examples can be actual examples taken from research or your own experience, or they may be hypothetical.
    •    Draw on the conceptual and empirical literature to support your discussion.

Critiquing Discovery Learning

Prominent educational psychologist Richard Mayer, in a recent article in the American Psychologist, claims that certain educational theories become prominent because they conform to dominant ideologies, rather than as a result of rigorous testing for validity and usefulness. Mayer (2004) discusses the constructivist idea of discovery learning as an example. Mayer (2004) cites evidence from the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s that discovery learning – where “students are expected to work in groups in a learning environment with little or no guidance” from a teacher (p. 14) – is not particularly effective. Yet, he claims, constructivist ideology continues to champion this approach. In addition, Mayer (2004) claims that psychology plays a critical role in keeping the focus in educational research on evidence-based arguments rather than ideology.
This very short article by Mayer is appended to this question (the citation is below). Your task is as follows.
Mayer, R. (2004). Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery learning: The case for guided methods of instruction. American Psychologist, 59(1), 14-19.
After carefully reading the article by Mayer, write a response to his article. You can agree or disagree with him, but in either case you should take a position on points (i) – (iii) below, all of which are discussed by Mayer, and respond as well to questions (iv) and (v):
(i) Whether or not Mayer presents convincing evidence to support his claim that discovery learning is not effective;
(ii) Whether or not constructivism should be considered more of an ideology than an empirically testable theory;
(iii) Whether or not you agree with Mayer’s assessment of the role of psychological research in exploring educational issues.
(iv) Whether discovery learning is or is not an essential component of a contructivist orientation.
(v) What alternative theoretical approach to learning would Mayer favor, and why would that be on more or less solid ground than discovery learning?
Your response should draw from both theoretical and empirical writings and should make very clear how key terms are being used in your answer (e.g., research, discovery learning, constructivism, theory, and so on ).

Learning and Development or Learning versus Development?
Theories of learning and theories of development have much in common but also differ in fundamental ways. Psychologists and their theories often can be placed with more or less certainty into those dealing with "learning" and those dealing with "development".  In contrast, others see these two bodies of theory and research as largely overlapping and differing only by degree, such that development might be characterized as the cumulative result of learning.  Alternatively, one might see them as relatively distinct ways of knowing but complementary in the sense that the application of any theory of learning needs to be placed in the context of a lifespan developmental perspective that gives systematic attention to the chronological age of the learner.
Please discuss your perspective on the distinction between learning and development.
A.  Briefly compare and contrast learning and development as these terms are used in research.  Give one example of a theory or theorist whose work is most often thought of as taking a learning perspective and one whose work takes a developmental perspective. You might mention other examples of how this distinction plays out in journals and scientific societies, as well as domains studied.
B. Discuss whether you see your own scholarly inquiry as guided more by a theory (or theories) of learning or by a theory (or theories) of development, or by some combination of the two.  In your discussion, be clear as to why you take the perspective you take by citing a specific theory (or theories) that guide your current work and the features of these theories that you find most congenial to the issues you are studying.

The Location of the Mind
During your graduate studies, you may have more than likely come across the question “where is the mind” and the related question, “where is knowledge.” Responses to this question can range from “there is no mind”, to “the mind is in the head of the individual”, to “the mind is distributed across people”, to “the mind is distributed across people and tools”, and so on.
-       Part 1. Trace the history of this discussion. Connect your discussion to particular fields(s) of research as a way of illuminating the significance (or lack of significance) of this enduring issue. Describe how perspectives on the location of the mind and knowledge have changed and the reasons why they have changed.
-       Part 2. In your opinion, how do these changes represent progress? How might they not represent progress? Keep in mind that change and progress are not synonymous.
For all parts of this question
    •    Use examples to illustrate each of your points. These examples can be actual examples taken from research or your own experience, or they may be hypothetical.
    •    Draw on the conceptual and empirical literature to support your discussion.

Nature vs. Nurture
“Nature vs. Nurture” has been a topic for heated discussion and sometime violent debates for many years. Recent examples include the controversies caused by the publication of the “Bell Curve” and former Harvard University president Lawrence Summer’s comments about women and science. The issue will not go away and how we address it has significant consequences on education. As an expert in educational psychology, you have been invited to write an essay on this topic for a magazine serving education practitioners. The purpose of your essay is to answer, in clear language, the following questions:
1.    What is this nature vs. nurture debate about?
2.    Why is it important?
3.    Based on available research, how would you address this issue?

Development and Education
Educators are interested in moving learners from one level of understanding to another.  Often, these learners are not adults. Instead, they are children at various ages and levels of cognitive development. How might these variations change the fundamental task for teachers? In other words, how might the processes of learning differ for learners of different ages?  If they are different, how are they different?  If not, how are they similar?  Be sure to support and illustrate your ideas by citing relevant research findings.  Potential sources include, but are not limited to, the literature on cognitive development, adult learning, cognitive psychology, and developmental neuroscience.

Instruction Under the Assumption of Constructivism
It is now pretty well established that good teaching (and good software for learning) must presume that learners will construct their own sense of a teacher’s lesson (or the software’s activities), whether the learner’s constructive processes are primarily individual and cognitive in nature (based in the conceptions that the learner take to be relevant to the lesson’s content) or social, communal, and cultural in nature (shared social practices). If learners are making sense in quite different ways, a number of important questions emerge.
What are the major implications for effective teaching (teaching that produces substantial learning)?
How is this view of  “effective teaching” different from a view of instruction that makes no substantial assumption of sense-making?
How does the assumption of students’ sense-making change the control (and sense of control) that teachers have over learning outcomes?
How does assessment of learning change when learning trajectories and learning outcomes differ across students?
Pick a content area (where you might be teaching or designing software to support learning) and address these questions. Cite relevant theory and empirical research in support of your responses.

Understanding individual change
A central concern in developmental and educational psychology is to understand individual development – that is, how knowledge and abilities change over time. Select an area of development of particular interest to you and describe how changes occur over time in what a child knows and is able to do in this area. You need not discuss this from birth through adulthood, but rather can select a range of years -- for example ages 2 - 6. Then discuss factors that influence this development. Cite relevant research and theory.