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What Role Does Psychology Play When Teaching Special Education?

Today’s educational philosophies are based heavily in educational psychology. Educational psychologists study human development to understand how people learn. There are many different learning styles that impact a person’s ability to learn new information, focus on tasks and retain knowledge. The continued study of educational psychology is critical for creating teaching methods that support a diverse population of learners. Teachers can benefit from a foundation in educational psychology, as it enables them to understand “why” and “how” their students respond to the classroom environment the way they do. Such a foundation also prepares teachers with enhanced knowledge of specific teaching methods and educational material.

Candidates pursuing an online Master of Arts Degree in Special Education learn how educational psychology influences the theories and practices underpinning our education system as well as how this knowledge supports successful special education.

Each Student Is Unique and Responds to Different Teaching Methods

Educational psychology is rooted in the fact that all learners are unique and that students have different abilities and educational needs. To maximize each student’s academic potential, schools must present classroom material in a number of different ways to create each student’s optimal learning environment. This is especially true in special education classrooms, where students may struggle with physical or cognitive disabilities. Teachers who understand psychology can present students with a variety of learning tools to minimize gaps created by disabilities.

Special Needs Children Respond Differently to Learning Environments

When special education teachers understand educational psychology, they know how to create a learning environment that feels safe to each student. Because noise, light or other children can easily overstimulate special needs children, the learning environment becomes an important part of their learning experience. When teachers understand the cognitive and physical characteristics of their students’ abilities and disabilities, they are better able to reduce distractions and triggers in the classroom.

Connecting Special Needs Students to Resources That Support a Whole Healthy Child

Teaching special education is an opportunity to support a child’s health and success in school and beyond. It is important for special needs students to learn how to function socially, emotionally and behaviorally. Special education teachers with foundations in educational psychology become strong advocates for their students, and they commonly refer students to and connect students with resources that support their growth. For example, some special needs students may benefit from specific interventions, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, counseling, art therapy or physical therapy.

Development of Technologies That Support Special Needs Students

The study of educational psychology has been critical in the development of assistive technologies for special needs students. These technologies support a diverse population of learners at home and in school. Through the use of computers, various tools can compensate for specific cognitive or physical disabilities. For example, children with dyslexia benefit from programs that read text out loud or that record audio for them to listen to repeatedly. The emergence of such technology has had measurable benefits for the special needs community and those working in schools to support them.

Candidates who earn an online master’s in special education graduate with advanced knowledge about the intersection of educational psychology and special education — as well as the “how” and “why” of human development and learning. In order to support the academic and personal lives of special needs students, as well as their future careers, it is essential that teachers find the right teaching tools, create the right learning environment, and connect special needs students with the right support.

Learn more about the UTPB online MA in Special Education program.


American Psychology Association: Educational Psychology Promotes Teaching and Learning

The Washington Post: What Psychology Tells Us About Student Achievement — and How It Is Ignored

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