Educational theory

A class size experiment in the United States found that attending small classes for 3 or more years in the early grades increased high school graduation rates of students from low incomefamilies.

Purpose of schools

Individual purposes for pursuing education can vary. Understanding the goals and means of educational socialization processes may also differ according to the sociological paradigm used.

The early years of schooling generally focus around developing basic interpersonal communication and literacy skills. This lays a foundation for more complex skills and subjects. Later, education usually turns toward gaining the knowledge and skills needed to create value and establish a livelihood.

People also pursue education for its own sake to satisfy innate curiosity, out of interest in a specific subject or skill, or for overall personal development.

Education is often understood as a means of overcoming handicaps, achieving greater equality, and acquiring wealth and status for all (Sargent 1994). Education is also often perceived as a place where children can develop according to their unique needs and potentials, with the purpose of developing every individual to their full potential.

Educational psychology

Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools asorganizations. Although the terms "educational psychology" and "school psychology" are often used interchangeably, researchers and theorists are likely to be identified as educational psychologists, whereas practitioners in schools or school-related settings are identified as school psychologists. Educational psychology is concerned with the processes of educational attainment in the general population and in sub-populations such as gifted children and those with specific disabilities.

Knowledge Day in Donetsk,Ukraine, 2013

Educational psychology can in part be understood through its relationship with other disciplines. It is informed primarily by psychology, bearing a relationship to that discipline analogous to the relationship between medicine and biology. Educational psychology in turn informs a wide range of specialties within educational studies, including instructional designeducational technology, curriculum development,organizational learningspecial education and classroom management. Educational psychology both draws from and contributes to cognitive science and the learning sciences. In universities, departments of educational psychology are usually housed within faculties of education, possibly accounting for the lack of representation of educational psychology content in introductory psychology textbooks (Lucas, Blazek, & Raley, 2006).

The intelligence–education relationship

Intelligence is an important factor in how the individual responds to education. Those who have a genetic advantage of being more intelligent than others tend to perform better at school and go on to higher levels of education. This effect is also observable in the opposite direction, in that education increases measurable intelligence. Studies have shown that while educational attainment is important in predicting intelligence in later life, intelligence at 8 years old is more predictive of intelligence at 53, than measures of educational attainment. Furthermore, it is likely that this trend arises due to genetic factors. As twin studies have shown, inherited traits are more important in predicting educational attainment than any environmental measures. Also, educational attainment and intelligence share more than one half of their genetic influences, suggesting the two are highly related.

Learning modalities

There has been much interest in learning modalities and styles over the last two decades. The most commonly employed learning modalities are:

Other commonly employed modalities include musicalinterpersonalverballogical, and intrapersonal.

Dunn and Dunnfocused on identifying relevant stimuli that may influence learning and manipulating the school environment, at about the same time as Joseph Renzulli recommended varying teaching strategies. Howard Gardner identified a wide range of modalities in his Multiple Intelligences theories. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Keirsey Temperament Sorter, based on the works of Jung,focus on understanding how people's personality affects the way they interact personally, and how this affects the way individuals respond to each other within the learning environment. The work of David Kolb and Anthony Gregorc's Type Delineator follows a similar but more simplified approach.

Some theories propose that all individuals benefit from a variety of learning modalities, while others suggest that individuals may have preferred learning styles, learning more easily through visual or kinesthetic experiences. A consequence of the latter theory is that effective teaching should present a variety of teaching methods which cover all three learning modalities so that different students have equal opportunities to learn in a way that is effective for them. Guy Claxton has questioned the extent that learning styles such as Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic(VAK) are helpful, particularly as they can have a tendency to label children and therefore restrict learning. Recent research has argued "there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning styles assessments into general educational practice."


John Locke's work Some Thoughts Concerning Educationwas written in 1693 and still reflects traditional education priorities in the Western world.

As an academic field, philosophy of education is "the philosophical study of education and its problems (...) its central subject matter is education, and its methods are those of philosophy". "The philosophy of education may be either the philosophy of the process of education or the philosophy of the discipline of education. That is, it may be part of the discipline in the sense of being concerned with the aims, forms, methods, or results of the process of educating or being educated; or it may be metadisciplinary in the sense of being concerned with the concepts, aims, and methods of the discipline." As such, it is both part of the field of education and a field of applied philosophy, drawing from fields of metaphysicsepistemologyaxiology and the philosophical approaches (speculative, prescriptive, and/oranalytic) to address questions in and about pedagogyeducation policy, and curriculum, as well as the process of learning, to name a few. For example, it might study what constitutes upbringing and education, the values and norms revealed through upbringing and educational practices, the limits and legitimization of education as an academic discipline, and the relation between education theory and practice.


Main articles: CurriculumCurriculum theory and List of academic disciplines

In formal education, a curriculum is the set of courses and their content offered at a school or university. As an idea, curriculum stems from the Latin word for race course, referring to the course of deedsand experiences through which children grow to become mature adults. A curriculum is prescriptive, and is based on a more general syllabus which merely specifies what topics must be understood and to what level to achieve a particular grade or standard.

An academic discipline is a branch of knowledge which is formally taught, either at the university–or via some other such method. Each discipline usually has several sub-disciplines or branches, and distinguishing lines are often both arbitrary and ambiguous. Examples of broad areas of academic disciplines include the natural sciencesmathematicscomputer sciencesocial scienceshumanities andapplied sciences.

Educational institutions may incorporate fine arts as part of K-12 grade curricula or within majors at colleges and universities as electives. The various types of fine arts are music, dance, and theater.


Instruction is the facilitation of another's learning. Instructors in primary and secondary institutions are often called teachers, and they direct the education of students and might draw on many subjects likereadingwritingmathematicsscience and history. Instructors in post-secondary institutions might be called teachers, instructors, or professors, depending on the type of institution; and they primarily teach only their specific discipline. Studies from the United States suggest that the quality of teachers is the single most important factor affecting student performance, and that countries which score highly on international tests have multiple policies in place to ensure that the teachers they employ are as effective as possible. With the passing of NCLB in the United States (No Child Left Behind), teachers must be highly qualified. A popular way to gauge teaching performance is to use student evaluations of teachers (SETS), but these evaluations have been criticized for being counterproductive to learning and inaccurate due to student bias.