Key Issues in the Psychology of Education

Map of an Educational Issue: School Violence

Among the variety of educational issues, school violence is chosen being “a broad category encompassing a variety of acts” (Hanks 2004, p. 1).

Signs to take into consideration

  • Types of school violence 
  • Causes of school violence 
  • Ideas to prevent violence 

Explanation of the map

In the United States of America, the issue of school violence is considered to be one of the most burning and important problems to deal with. “In a typical middle-sized city, 30 – 50 cases of school violence are reported daily, and in half of these cases guns are involved” (Shafii & Shafii 2005, p. xv). Not long time ago, almost each citizen believed that such notions like violence and children could never go together.

However, nowadays, everything is inside out: children are able to watch TV and play video games which promote violence; parents cannot control their children due to personal irresponsibility or lack of experience; and even tutors make use of their duties and possibilities to promote children develop violence to achieve success in education. All these conditions and problems have to be evaluated, analyzed, and solved in order to present proper education and encourage students to become more tolerant to each other.

Such types of school violence like brawls, fights, rape, harassment, bullying, mockery, and hazing are developed usually by students against other students. Children suffer because of personal inability to control their power and solve problems peacefully. This is why the vast majority of children believe that it is possible to use power and clear up everything by means of fights and brawls. However, these students cannot even comprehend that their personal desire and wrong attempts promote the development of violence against other children.

In general, it is very important to define what causes and what may prevent violence. And one of the possible attempts is connected to psychological perspectives and the effects of such psychological evaluation of the situation.

Portraits of Psychological Perspectives

Biological perspective. Each topic in the field of psychology may be evaluated in many different ways, this is why it is better to clear up one concrete perspective and then continue analysis. The chosen education issue, school violence, may be analysed from several perspectives (Woolfolk, Hughes, & Walkup 2008; Whitebread 2000; Jarvis & Chandler 2001), and the most evident is considered to be the biological perspective.

The biological perspective has a number of supporters who are always eager to prove its crucial importance for human lives and their perception of current affairs. Coon and Mitterer (2008) define this perspective as an opportunity to explain human behaviour “in terms of biological principles such as brain processes, evolution, and genetics” (p. 27). In other words, the main aspects of this perspective are based on physical and biological grounds of human behaviour. Because of such close connection to two different spheres, this perspective is also called biopsychology.

The last decade demonstrates unbelievable growth of this perspective due to the possibility to evaluate and to comprehend the peculiarities of human brain and all sides of nervous system. It is not enough to realize that the work of brain is crucial for humans; what is more important is to recognize the conditions under which the brain is able to work and how changes within conditions may influence human perception of the reality and his/her place in it.

The work of the brain has a certain impact on such aspects like “thinking, feeling, perception, abnormal behaviour” (Coon & Mitterer 2008, p. 27). This is why if something disturbs the work of the brain, the outcomes may be observed in many other fields. It is one of the most powerful reasons to evaluate what may influence brain conditions. Use of drugs, serious damage of brain because of accidents, or diseases which influence the brainwork may serve as those variables which may change the conditions of the biological perspective.

Some biopsychologists admit that a number of biological processes can interact with human emotions and cognition that makes this field relative to many other fields like evolutionary or comparative psychology, anatomy, and physiology. Due to the connection to such issues like nervous system and genes, it is also possible to add that the biological perspective promotes the dependence of such sciences like genetics and neurology.

The essence of the biological perspective lies into the fact that the work of the mind may be explained by means of the work of the body. The influence of hormones and genes turns out to be important for human behaviour, and if there are some changes or problems, it is crucially important to define the basics and improve the conditions.

There are two main basics of the perspective under analysis: first, human behaviour is characterized by the psychological roots which are usually determined by biology, and second, human behaviour depends considerably on genetics because each person is evolved into particular external environments for a long period of time. Nowadays these basics are proved and improved due to a variety of technical methods which are available for studies, and scientists have already gained the necessary access to those tools which help to evaluate human nervous system and analyse all those physical phenomena which may influence human psychology and students’ psychology in particular. Numerous attempts of biopsychologists aim at understanding the idea of how the relationships between the body and the mind may influence human health.

Another significant aspect of this perspective is the historical approach that also helps to comprehend the combination of physical and psychological factors. For example, till the 19th century, people regarded themselves as beings which are very distinct from animals: they had different principles, they were able to speak, and they could develop and achieve the purposes set. However, when Darwin introduced his theory that all humans were evolved from animals, human perception of the world and their role underwent considerable changes.

Now, it is necessary to re-evaluate behavioural and physiological characteristics and compare them to the ones of animals. Weiten (2008) says that “advocates of the biological perspective maintain that much of human and animal behaviour can be explained in terms of the bodily structures and biochemical processes that allow organisms to behave” (p. 14).

In general, the biological perspective in psychology has many strong points to be taken into account while analyzing human behaviour and a number of educational issues in order to admit the importance of such issues like genes, hormones, brainwork, and conditions of the nervous system.

Humanistic perspective. Another powerful perspective that has to be portrayed in this paper is the humanistic one. First, it is one of the perspectives which create a perfect contrast to the biological one, and second, this perspective is the only one that underlines the importance of motivation of human behaviour and thoughts and focuses on human needs and obtained experience (Jarvis & Russell 2002; Yeomans & Arnold 2006). One of the psychologists who developed this perspective was Carl Rogers.

The achievements of this person considerably influenced the development of humanistic perspective and a kind of alienation from other aspects and theories in order to introduce a fresh and modern look characterized by positive terms. Along with numerous behaviouristic and psychological terms, the representatives of humanistic psychology defined themselves as the third force that has power, meaning, and strengths (Avis 2009). Carl Rogers was one of the most successful and known psychologists who made use of the self-concept theory in order to introduce the characteristics according to which human values may be attached to attributes required.

He did not want to argue about the existence of some kind of biological drive that influence human psychological development and attitude to the world around; however, he admitted that the principle of self-actualization could not be neglected because the development of child self-concept promoted the development of “worth” conditions, and if this development was failed, other human values and cognition could be worsen.

The main feature of the humanistic perspective is the attention to human free will. People cannot be deprived of the opportunity to make free choice and rely on personal demands and wishes. Of course, this perspective does not neglect the idea that past experience and memories should affect people, however, there should be always a possibility for people to choose independently and be able to develop, create something new, and satisfy their personal lives.

Coon and Mitterer (2008) explain that from this particular perspective, there is always a burning need for such aspects like “love, self-esteem, belonging, self-expression, creativity, and spirituality. Such needs, they believe, are as important as our biological urges for food and water” (p.25).

Humanists support the idea to underline the importance of subjective experience but not the objective one. It is necessary to clear up the reasons of why people feel, comprehend, disagree with, and evaluate things around. It is impossible to take this step without paying attention to personal demands and interests and use past experience and memories only. This psychological perspective makes people realize how significant their role in this world may be and what actions may improve this life or vice versa break it into pieces. Human nature has both positive and negative sides, and to achieve success in the chosen activity, it is more important to focus on its positive sides just as it is suggested by the humanists.

These psychologists admit that truly believe that some kind of natural power may influence the current state of affairs, however, people have already achieved some stages according to which they can use their power, their ideas, and creations. People are conscious beings, however, they are still under control of unconscious needs that may lead to conflicts with other people, with nature, and self-conflicts. This is why it is urgent to realize the idea of free choice and make use of it as frequent as possible.

In brief, there are several significant aspects of the humanistic perspective which influence human nature and behaviour: first, it is the idea of self-actualization that depends on a hierarchy of needs; second, it is the concept of personal growth and fulfilment when the process of actualization is complete and seems to be satisfied; third, it is the process of self-evaluation.

In general, the humanistic perspective is characterized by a number of persuasive issues which have an impact on such spheres like education, management, and counselling. From this perspective, people become dependent indeed, however, this dependence is connected to their personal demands and needs.

The main point of this perspective is the hope that all people are able to be good, this is why such attention to human self-awareness, free will, and personal experience should promote the development of the best qualities and the improvement of conditions under which people live. Ideas and works introduced by Rogers turn out to be helpful for those who try to evaluate how humanistic perspective may influence human behaviour and communication. Human nature is complicated indeed, and the above-mentioned perspective is one of those which improve and change human cognition and understanding of the world and human place in it.

Critical Analysis of Relevance Between an Issue and Perspectives

As psychological approach is very important with regard to different problems encountered in the everyday life, it is necessary to analyse the most burning issues existing in the society. As a rule, the most emotionally bright and difficult period is faced at school when children and teenagers experience school violence. As demonstrated on the map of educational issue, there are numerous problems which should be solved in order to enable members of the school society live and acquire knowledge in calm and emotionally safe conditions. Some psychologists prefer the biological perspective while analysing the school violence, its reasons, aspects, and consequences, whereas scientists appeal to humanistic perspective as well.

As mockery is one of the issues of the school violence it is incorporated into the concept of reading, learning, and schooling in general. Those children that have a poor progress are always mocked at which is one of the demonstrations of school violence. Thus, the study by (Kutas, Hillyard, 1980) is aimed at developing the understanding of event-related brain potentials because the biological perspective presupposes physical aspect in the course of consideration. When the progress of certain member of a school society differs much from that of others, this person becomes an outcast that is constantly oppressed, discriminated and violated.

The humanistic psychology, also known as the third school of thought began its operation after the World War II (Hayes, 2000, p. 10). This perspective is known for its pacifistic nature and the efforts to solve the problems with the help of persuasion, negotiations, and actualization. The humanistic psychology is based on the principle that contradicts the commonly established and adopted idea that all people are evil and destructive (Rowan, 2005, p. 6). As the perspective does not adopt idea about the universal evil, it should be considered as idealistic one. The humanistic perspective analyses the role of motivation in terms of thinking, self-evaluation, and behavior.

As far as “The humanistic approach can be applied to the content of courses, the skills taught in courses, and the structure of the school or college itself” (Rowan, 2005, p. 44), it is important to incorporate the concept of the non-violence into the educational environment. In addition, numerous authors as one that should be dealt with through the negotiations (Jimerson & Furlong, 2006; Johnson & Johnson, 1995) address the school violence. As this issue is one of the most important ones, it is necessary to choose the most appropriate perspective for solving different problems.

As suggested by Rowan (2005), there are the key concepts to deal with while addressing the issue of school violence with the humanistic perspective: choice or control, felt concern, the whole person, self evaluation, and a teacher as facilitator (pp. 44-45). When these concepts can be successfully incorporated into the analysis of the current situation in the education, it is necessary to solve the problems through negotiations. Consciousness, moral beliefs and values are the key concepts regarded in the humanistic perspective (Kalat, 2007, 2008).

As the school violence has also been addressed as the issue with incorporated criminal elements because shooting became an integral part of the education all over the world (Cornell, 2006), it is necessary to analyse the criminal rate in education. Moreover, the issue of criminal operation in school has been discussed by Benbenishty & Asṭor (2005) with regard to the cases of shooting at school.

As Kalat (2008) integrates the biological perspective into the discussion of the school violence, the author addresses the concepts of the emotional behavior which is important for the individuals living in the society. It is also necessary to take into account the biology of learning and memory as the basic concepts on the way of understanding the differences between people at school and reason why some members of the school society oppress others. The assessment of the situation can be focused on with the help of emotional behavior, biology of learning and memory and other issues relevant to the educational process.

“Biological psychologist study the ‘animal roots’ of behavior, relating actions and experiences to genetics and psychology” (Kalat, 2008, p.1). With regard to Carl Rogers study of the humanistic psychology, Rowan (1976, pp. 74-87) argues about the essence of the humanistic approach to education which presupposes “moving away from the superior/inferior relationship between pupil and teacher, and towards a process in which everyone is learning something” (Rowan, 1976, p. 74). Moreover, this perspective creates a specific role for a teacher who is not supposed to simply teach any longer, whereas he/she is meant to facilitate the learning process and coordinate the recognition of children in terms of their self-evaluation.

It seems necessary to contrast the humanistic perspective of analyzing the school violence issues and the biological one. Thus, it is necessary to establish a strategy which would incorporate both perspectives with regard to the skills, preferences, and behavior of students. In this respect the humanistic perspective should be taken into consideration in case when the school society is ready to establish certain norms of behaviour and follow them accordingly.

When the school society is full of violence (Benbenishty & Asṭor, 2005), sexual harassment (pp. 56-70), and victimization by staff (pp. 70-92), the biological perspective may be introduced in order to analyse the situation and facilitate the learning process to make the cases of the school violence less frequent and to stop the finally. As a rule, sexual abuse is the result of the animal instincts, while the mockery can be analyzed with regard to both perspectives because the biological perspective is obvious, whereas the humanistic perspective can incorporate the improvement of the learning progress and result the disappearing of the cases of mockery as an expression of school violence.

When the school violence results some global violence, suchlike shooting at school or raping, this should be considered as the criminal issues which should be solved with the help of the corresponding organs. Thus, the legal knowledge suggested by Jimerson & Furlong (2006, pp. 31-51) can be considered a good practise with regard to the frequency of cases of school violence involving the cases of raping and shooting.

To conclude, it is necessary to differentiate between different perspectives of psychological analysis in terms of the school violence issue. When the sexual abuse is analyzed it should be addressed with the biological perspective because it is based on the animal instincts and the root of the behavior stem from the basic instinct of reproduction. When the mockery is introduced as a case of school violence, the humanistic perspective should be incorporated because it is aimed at reaching mutual understanding and facilitation of the learning progress in order to avoid cases of the school violence.

Reference List

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Coon, D & Mitterer, JO 2008 Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior. Wadsworth Cengage Learning, Belmont.

Cornell, D. G. 2006. School violence: fears versus facts. Mahwah, NJ: Routledge.

Hanks, JC 2004 School Violence: From Discipline to Due Process. American Bar Association, Chicago.

Hayes, N. 2000. Foundations of psychology. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning EMEARowan, J. A guide to humanistic psychology. 3rd ed. London: UK Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners.

Jarvis, M. & Chandler, E 2001 Angles on Child psychology. Cheltenham, Nelson Thornes.

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Jimerson, S. R. & Furlong, M. J. 2006. The handbook of school violence and school safety: from research to practice. Mahwah, NJ: Routledge.

Johnson, D. W. & Johnson, R. T. 1995. Reducing school violence through conflict resolution. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD.

Kalat, J. W. 2007. Introduction to psychology. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Kalat, J. W. 2008. Biological Psychology. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Kutas, M. & Hillyard, S. A. 1980. Event-related brain potentials to semantically inappropriate and surprisingly large words. Biological Psychology, 11, pp. 99-116.

Rowan, J. 1976. Ordinary ecstasy: humanistic psychology in action. Mahwah, NJ: Routledge.

Shafii, M & Shafii, SL 2001 School Violence: Assessment, Management, Prevention. American Psychiatric Publishing, Washington.

Weiten, W 2008 Psychology: Themes and Variations. Wadsworth Cengage Learning, Belmont.

Whitebread, D 2000 The Psychology of Teaching and Learning in the Primary School. London, Routledge Falmer.

Woolfolk, A. Hughes, M. & Walkup, V 2008 Psychology in Education. Harlow, Pearson.

Yeomans, J & Arnold, C 2006 Teaching, Learning and Psychology. David Fulton, London.

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