What Does an Educational Psychologist Do?
When you use the word psychology, people generally think of clinical psychology. However, psychology is a much broader discipline than that. Basically, it is the science of human behavior and mental processes. Within the field are many different professions. One example is an educational psychologist, which we’ll focus on today.
The goal of this article is to educate the reader on the job functions of an educational psychologist, as well as the profession’s current situation in Spain. The profession is not well-known, but educational psychologists perform a much-needed job and contribute to quality education. In today’s world, they have a lot of obstacles to overcome and burdens to bear that make their job complicated.
What is an educational psychologist?
An educational psychologist has the mission of studying and intervening in human behavior within the context of education. Their ultimate goal is to develop the capacity of people, groups, and institutions. Now, the word “education” should be taken in its broadest sense, including all kinds of training, learning, and personal and collective development.
The field of study and intervention that educational psychologists work with is related to the cognitive processes associated with or derived from learning. They reflect on and develop their work at all psychological levels, including social, personal, biological, and health.
It’s common to confuse educational psychologists with other professions, like teachers, guidance counselors, and child psychologists. While they’re all very different professions, it’s necessary for them to all work together for the child to have a quality education.
- Teachers are tasked with the study of education and educational models.
- Guidance counselors guide people throughout their academic and professional lives.
- Child psychologists treat mental disorders that arise in childhood.
As with any science, there are two main aspects of educational psychology: theory and practice. On the theoretical side, you see psychologists who do research and create and expand upon theories and processes regarding educational psychology. On the practical side, educational psychologists use the knowledge gained from academic research to improve the quality of education.
The functions of educational psychology
Next, we will explain the functions of educational psychology according to the General Council of Psychologists of Spain:
- Intervention, according to the students’ educational needs. First, the educational psychologist should study and anticipate the educational needs of their students. Then they can act on them to improve their educational experience.
- Functions associated with professional and vocational guidance and counseling. The main goal here is to help develop students’ competencies. By helping them take inventory of their personal, vocational, and professional goals and abilities, students can steer the direction of their own education and make their own decisions.
- Preventative functions. The educational psychologist should intervene by taking appropriate measures to prevent possible educational problems. In addition, it’s important to consider all people involved (parents, teachers, children, guidance counselors, etc.).
- Improvement of teaching methods: It’s extremely important to pay attention to teaching methods. Educators must study and apply the best educational techniques for students to learn and grow well.
- Family training and counseling. Family is an important part of education. Through studying and subsequently counseling family members, they can develop effective family education models. As a result, the lives of everyone in the family will improve.
- Socio-educational intervention. Education doesn’t just come from the person’s academic and family life — everything in their environment plays a role. It’s the responsibility of the educational psychologist to study how the current social system influences education. That way, they can intervene in what needs intervention.
- Research and teaching. Finally, for all the other functions to be fulfilled, solid research is needed to know which directions to take. And all research would be useless without teaching that spreads the knowledge to other professionals and students.
Current state of educational psychology
Educational psychologists today are faced with a wide variety of issues. The biggest ones are lack of awareness, little support from public administrations, professional confusion, and a hostile educational system.
In fact, most people have never even heard of an educational psychologist. Hence they have no visibility and it’s harder for them to spread their knowledge and get funding for research. Exposure to these professionals and the work that they do is necessary to increase visibility of the discipline, which is so important to the quality of education.
In addition, public institutions don’t even recognize educational psychology as such. People who study it are viewed as guidance counselors or teachers by the government. The lack of support isn’t just seen in how they’re labeled, but also in the few resources that are granted to the discipline.
Due to poor state organization, there’s confusion about the different functions of educational psychologists. In one position, a single person might act as teacher, educational psychologist, and guidance counselor. Instead of one person doing the work of many, there should be a team of well-coordinated professionals working towards high-quality education for students.
The current educational system is full of problems that complicate the practice of educational psychologists. In fact, it seems as though the goal of the current system is different than what it was originally designed for.
Last but not least, people in political power make decisions that ignore the recommendations of scientific research. Applying good initiatives in a system that doesn’t work won’t solve the problem. Instead, the educational system needs structural change if it’s going to be worthy of the name “education.”
Education is a very important field and has great influence on future generations. Therefore, we need to spread knowledge about educational psychologists and the difficult role they play.