Educational Psychology

Developments and Contestations
Living reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


Educational psychology is a multifaceted and contested domain of knowledges and practices that resists simple definition. Its forms and foci have varied across time and place, and strands of knowledge and practice that have travelled under this disciplinary descriptor have been shaped by, and contributed to, shifting understandings of the problems and promises of education. Concepts of individual differences and forms of mental measurement are readily associated with the emergence of educational psychology. Yet, its history is broad in scope, including concerns with child development, adjustment, learning, and behavior. This chapter focuses on two major strands of historical studies of educational psychology: key figures and disciplinary developments; and critical analyses of its knowledges, practices, and impact. A concise overview of the history of educational psychology from the late nineteenth to the late twentieth century is provided. The chapter considers major strands of thought, contexts of emergence, and sites of development, as documented by historians. This includes exploration of foundational influences and examination of the role that various waves of psychological thought have played in shaping policy and in forming understandings about best practice in education, from compulsory schooling spaces to more informal educational sites such as child guidance clinics and preschools. Alongside this mapping of the historiography, central debates about the scope, promise, dangers, and effects of psychology as a foundational knowledge for education are outlined. Here, consideration is given to discussions in the past as well as more recent interpretations and critical angles.


Educational psychology Scientific movement Therapeutic turn Developmental psychology Cognitive constructionism Critiques of educational psychology 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social InquiryLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Melbourne Graduate School of EducationThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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