School of Education - George Mason University

Educational Psychology

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Educational Psychologists help people to realize optimal conditions for learning in settings such as education, business, government, competitive sports, community building, and the military.

When we educate ourselves, whether it is in school or the workplace or during recreation, we make better decisions and have more background knowledge to draw from, which in turn, improves the lives of ourselves and those around us. Learning is important to all professional disciplines, and Educational Psychologists are committed to enhancing this life-long learning.

Our mission is to develop professionals who:

  1. apply principles of learning, cognition and motivation to vital problems in the area of education in a variety of settings;
  2. develop a solid understanding of research, assessment, and evaluation methodologies; and
  3. develop an analytical and scholarly approach to critically assessing theoretical perspectives, research, and practice within and across content domains.

By creating a supportive and collegial environment with faculty from numerous educational disciplines and expertise, prospective students are expected to develop skills to meet the needs of diverse populations and design and implement effective educational programs appropriate for a broad range of cultural contexts.

Our faculty holds leadership positions in various professional organizations such as…

  • President of Seminar for Research in Art Education
  • Program Officer at the National Science Foundation
  • Program Co-Chair, APA Division 15
  • Associate Editor of School Science and Mathematics Journal
  • Graduate Council Advisor for Studying and Self-Regulated Learning SIG in AERA
  • Editorial Board Member for
    • Encyclopedia of Out-of-School Learning
    • Journal of Science Teacher Education
    • Gifted Child Quarterly
    • Contemporary Educational Psychology
    • Educational Technology Research and Development Journal
  • Principal Investigator for projects funded by the following grant programs
    • NSF Cyberlearning
    • NSF DRK-12
    • NSF BCC
    • Virginia MSP

Learn more about our M.S. in Educational Psychology Programs

What is educational psychology?

Educational psychology is the branch of psychology concerned with the scientific study of human learning. The study of learning processes, from cognitive, social, emotional, and developmental perspectives, allows researchers to understand individual differences in intelligence, cognitive development, affect, motivation, self-regulation, and self-concept, as well as their role in learning. The field of educational psychology relies heavily on research methods, including testing and measurement, to enhance educational activities related to instructional design, classroom management, and assessment, which serve to facilitate learning processes in various educational settings across the lifespan.

  • Cognitive

    Each person has an individual profile of characteristics, abilities and challenges that result from predisposition, learning and development. An Educational Psychologist can use measurement techniques to determine individual differences in intelligence, creativity, motivation, as well as the capacity to process information and problem solve in order to optimize these factors for individuals.

  • Social

    People learn and develop understanding through collaboration with others. Educational Psychologists examine and evaluate how people learn in different social settings such as face-to-face or online virtual collaborations and research how well people learn in these settings.

  • Emotional

    We now know that learning isn’t only functioning at a cognitive level, but also includes emotional factors such as values, attitudes, and beliefs. Educational Psychologists develop assessments for these factors and learn how the social, emotional and cognitive factors interact in how people learn.

  • Developmental

    As humans grow, they have different developmental abilities. For example, a 1st grader isn’t expected to be able to do well in a subject such as calculus because it is so abstract. Educational Psychologists work to align learning situations so they are most appropriate for different developmental periods.

Educational Psychology is Interdisciplinary. It is informed primarily by psychology, neuroscience, sociology, and cultural studies. Educational psychology in turn informs a wide range of specialties within educational studies, including instructional design, educational technology, curriculum development, organizational learning, decision making, adult training, special education and management. An example of how interdisciplinary educational psychology is, refer to the list of contexts below from a sample of our students’ capstone projects for the MS in Educational Psychology degree:

  • Childhood Obesity
  • Evaluation of a Foster Parent Training Program
  • Self-assessment on College Student Motivation and Academic Achievement
  • Calibration in Volleyball
  • Promoting Art Education in India
  • Helping Adult Students Persist in ESOL Classes
  • Using Social Support to Predict Physical Activity
  • Decline of Empathy in Medical School
  • PTSD and Eating Disorders
  • Giftedness and Brain Research
  • Stereotype Threat
  • Formative Assessments for Military Training
  • Challenges for Dance Programs in Public Schools
  • Text Anxiety
  • Electronic Media and ADHD
  • Evaluation of the GMU Writing Center on Non-Native English Speakers
  • Intelligent Tutoring Systems
  • Evaluation of Sports United Internship
  • Culture Shock on Language Learning
  • Examining the Co-Teaching Experience
  • Life Satisfaction of Chinese Youth

What Does an Educational Psychologist Do?

An educational psychologist may

  • assess learning and emotional needs by observing and consulting with multi-disciplinary teams to advise on the best approaches and provisions to support learning and development
  • evaluate and analyze certain teaching methods, testing methods, and educational programs
  • create and develop new educational methods, instruments or programs
  • formulate interventions that focus on applying knowledge, skills and expertise to support local and national initiatives
  • advise, persuade, support and negotiate with teachers, parents and other education professionals
  • collaborate with other professionals and facilitating meetings, discussions and courses
  • review and develop policies