Mkandawire S. B. (2008) Sociology of Education and Educational Psychology. Essay form circulatory paper.
This essay attempts to distinguish between Sociology of Education and Educational Psychology. The paper will firstly highlight on the definitions of key terms with respect to the question, secondly, it will account for the differences between the two academic disciplines under discussion and finally give a conclusion.
“Sociology is the scientific study and classification of human societies” Musgrave (1965:1) “Sociology of Education is the study of education from a sociological perspective” (Durkheim 1956:3). “Psychology is a scientific study of the way the human mind works and how it influences behaviour, or the influence of a particular person’s character on their behaviour” ( Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary 2003:1019). Educational Psychology is the study of education from a psychological point of view.
Etymologically, Sociology come from the words ‘soci-‘ which refers to society and ‘-ology’ which means study. Sociology is a social science involving the study of the social lives of people, groups and societies sometimes defined as the study of social interactions. The term psychology came from the Greek words psyche, (mind) logos (study), the study of the nature and functions of the mind and of human behaviour.
The definitions above reflects that, while Educational Psychology is the study of education from psychological point of view from the mainstream psychology as an academic or applied discipline involving the scientific study of mental processes such as perception, cognition, emotion, personality, behavior, and interpersonal relationships, the “Sociology of education is a branch of sociology which tries to understand the problems of education from a sociological perspective” (Chakulimba, 2001:1 & Banks 1968).
The Sociology of Education is a product of Education and sociology while Educational psychology is a combination of education and psychology. They are distinct disciplines within sociology and psychology respectively. Educational Psychology contributes to a better understanding of the aims of education by defining them and making them clearer while sociology of education looks at how these aims are interrelated.
In terms of factors, Sociology of Education focus more on Socialization, Education, social functions, the teacher and stratification, school and the community, school organization and classroom interaction, education and development as well as roles in various organizations in the education system while Education Psychology pays much more consideration to the following factors: Education, Psychology, Schooling, learning, teaching and motivation.
The Sociology of Education attempts to look at the structure of human society, its institutions and how they relate to one another and to the whole society. For instance, it is interested in the behaviour of people and their relationships in the society. It examines how social institutions and interactions in them and their relations change time and again. On the other hand, Educational psychology attempts to understand the processes of teaching and learning that takes place within the formal environment. Therefore, looks at topics like learning theories, teaching methods, cognitive, emotional and moral development.
In terms of Contents, Sociology of Education has got its own theories to look at and teaches the contents in its own approach. Some of the theories are the internationalist theories like the labeling theory and the new sociology of education theory, Structural and Technical functionalist theory, the human capital theory and the conflict theory. On the other hand, Educational psychology has its own ways of learning it, such as the Neurological approach which looks at what goes on in the brain, Behavioral approach which deal with behaviour and biological factors, cognitive approach which deal with the mind and the body relationship, psychoanalytic approach developed by Sigmund Freud, and phenomenological or humanistic approach which deal with the interpretation of events. Education psychology has its own research methods like descriptive method which involves the general understanding of Pupils, experimental methods which pays much attention to the observation of events and activities, correlation method which tries to find out how clearly related schools or entities are, single subject method which use or take one sample from the group, examine it and understand the needs of the whole group, ethnographic method and micro genetic method which studies cognitive processes in the midst of change.
The sociology of education explores the internal operations of social institutions like the home, church, work place and the school. In the case of the school, it starts from the classroom situation; pupil to pupil interaction, pupil to teacher interaction, administrator to pupil interaction, teacher to teacher relationship and so fourth while Educational psychology attempts to examine why certain pupils behave in a certain way at the classroom level. The teacher is compiled to read the minds of all his pupils, and find out reasons why they behave in the way they do.
At external level, Sociology of Education looks at the relationship between the school and the community, structure and the process of the educational system. It also looks at the way schools, colleges and universities are related and how they are able to exist and operate normally while Educational Psychology accounts for how educational system correlates with the general behaviour of pupils, how it influences pupils personality and how the society look at the pupils and the education as they evaluate through the feedback.
In terms of authorship, the term sociology was coined by Auguste Comte. Sociology of Education was coined by Emile Durkheim and the two are considered to be the fathers of sociology and sociology of education respectively. However, there are so many scholars and authors who have contributed to the development of sociology of education like karl Mannheim , Herbert Spencer and karl Max. On the other hand, Psychology was coined by Wilhem Wundt. Educational Psychology have also been influenced by many different scholars and some of these are; Jean Piaget and levy Vygotsky in cognitive and social development theories, B. F. Skinner on behavioral psychology, Norm Chomsky and language development, Abraham Maslow and his motivation theories on the hierarchy of needs and others.
In trying to differentiate Educational Psychology from Sociology of education, Brown and Rogers alludes to babies’ experiment. They say when you give a baby something new, it will look at it until it gets bored. Psychologically, they get bored because their minds cannot go any further in processing or identifying the object. Sociologically, it looks at it in tying to relate it to something similar or familiar with it in every respect (Tronick 1983).
While Sociology studies and classifies human societies, It is an academic and applied discipline that studies society and human social interaction in general. Some scholars have noted that Sociological research ranges from the analysis of short contacts between anonymous individuals on the street to the study of global social processes. In trying to differentiate Educational psychology from sociology of education, Bornaxy in his paper says the following;
Sociology of education is also the study of the individuals, groups and institutions and their relations that make up human society. It is the science that attempts to understand social action and to explain its course and effect. Cultural artifact, interview, oral history, organizational records, statistical data, survey. On the other hand, Educational Psychology examines more of the workings of the human mind, why persons think and behave as they do. Sociology tends to examine groups of persons (societies), communities, and nations. They might examine and discuss such things as folkways, mores, changes in populations, effects of events on entire communities, etc… So one way to look at it is that psychology is more about the individual or small group, and sociology is more about communities and larger groups of persons.
Although there are many differences between the two terms, both Educational Psychology and Sociology of Education are meant to benefit individuals and individuals and communities within society which inevitably would benefit the society as a whole. Personal perception of the Difference between Psychology and Sociology is that
“Educational Psychology is optimistic (believing in a “cure”) in that the individual may be helped so that the individual may function independently in personal relationships and within the community appropriately. It seems as though Sociology of Education, much needed, intervenes and assists individuals and families through the hardships and crises they face through continuous support as needed or deemed necessary. Simply, Psychology may be perceived as a goal toward independence, while Sociology might be perceived as the support necessary to sustain families and society. This is not to say the Sociology does not provide programs of support toward independence. It does. One example being parenting classes. Etiology is of importance to both, Psychology and Sociology” http://www.educationalpapers.com.
In conclusion, it is clear that the sociology of education differ from educational psychology in a number of ways as shown in the paper. Sociology of Education is more pronounced in terms applicability than Educational Psychology because it sheds light on every aspect of the human life. Some of the differences are also based on their points of origins and authorship. They also belong to different academic disciplines which are addressing different issues in the society. Their contents and theories behind them are also different as it has been explained in the paper. Educational psychology focuses much on the mental processes, the mind and the human behaviour in academic circles while Sociology of Education looks at interaction or interrelationships at different levels in the social institutions. Educational psychology is more about the individual or small group while Sociology of Education is more about communities and larger groups of persons than individuals. To an understanding of the material of education, Educational psychology is the chief contributor as it looks at the level of the class and the right materials to be given to them. Educational Psychology contributes to knowledge of methods of teaching in many ways such as deducing the methods of teaching outright from the laws of human nature while the sociology of education does not account for deducing or what goes on in the mind.
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