This is useful for texts which compare different entities (countries, authors,
theories, etc.) across a range of qualities or characteristics. In experimental terms, we
can compare independent variables across a number of dependent variables.
In the following diagram, there is a kind of logical sequence to the parameters
(dependent variables) being discussed: examples, applications, then implications.
|Another way of looking at the difference is in
||the logical sequence of dependent variables,
||the distinct and independent variables
Abstracting the Matrix Outline of a Psychology text
This passage on Approaches to Learning [from J. Biggs & R. Telfer (1987) The
Process of Learning Australia: Prentice Hall. pp17-20] has a coherent conceptual
It provides comparative information in a way that makes it easy to
||Read through the text and then sketch out a structural matrix for
THEORY IN EDUCATION
|Three broad schools of psychological thought are currently
relevant to education: behaviourist, cognitive and humanist
Behaviourism is a very
influential school of thought which dominated psychology until very recently. It explains
human behaviour in terms of how people react to their environment. If the environment is
rewarding (i.e. if a certain course of action has a satisfying result) people will tend to
persist with that behaviour - and vice versa. Thus the emphasis is on what people
do, not on what they think or feel; behaviourists study observable behaviour and its
relationship to observable stimuli in the environment, rather than unobservable contents
of the mind. This objective focus was derived from experiments, with both animals and
humans performing simple tasks in highly structured and controlled situations. What goes
on inside an individual is seen in terms of a telephone switchboard: an incoming call
originating from one instrument (the stimulus) is linked via the switchboard
(conditioning) to another receiving instrument (response).
Many educators - whether or
not they know much about behaviourist psychology - have a philosophy which is very
compatible with this model of reaction and firmly believe in high-structure
educational environments. They will accordingly find much in the behaviourists' procedures
and recommendations that give form and coherence to their own thinking and practice.
The cognitive model assumes
that people try to make sense out of their environment rather than react unthinkingly to
it. They attend to certain aspects of the environment that are in some way important to
them and neglect others. They think about those aspects and extract their meaning. They
solve problems and make decisions. Whereas behaviourists talk about the environment in
terms of stimuli, cognitivists talk about the environment as conveying information, which
is then processed. The 1960's boom in computer technology provided
cognitivists with a much better metaphor and terminology than the telephone switchboard
underlying much behaviourist thinking. Cognitivists thus emphasise internal processes
rather than external responses and are correspondingly more willing to admit the
importance of innate factors. A critically important aspect is the study of the
development of intellectual functioning.
Many educators find this
model, based on the notion that we primarily try to make sense out of experience, very
compatible with their own views about the role of schools. If, to put it bluntly, the
human organism is a computer that programs itself to handle increasingly complex problems,
then school should provide carefully selected experiences that allow the child sufficient
freedom to learn how to cope with them, and thus grow in information processing range and
power. Educators using this model would be more interested in how a problem is handled
(process learning) than whether the correct answer is obtained (content learning).
Humanist psychology finds
its roots in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's noble savage. If behaviourism's metaphor
is the telephone switchboard and cognitivism's the computer, that of humanism is a native
bush garden. The best potentials in people will be realised if, like the seeds of a native
plant, they are allowed freedom to grow in their own way, with minimal clipping, pruning
and artificial fertiliser.
This model was given a
sharp boost in the 1960's. As the counter-culture rejected the straight,
logical and materialist ways of thinking of the establishment, which seemed scientifically
and politically to be pushing the human race into self-created disaster, people
increasingly emphasised feelings and interpersonal interaction based upon mutual respect
and co-operation. Educationally, humanists would provide low-structure environments, and
encourage children to develop their own potential in their own way and to respect that of
others. In this model, cognitive learnings, both content and process, are given a low
These three models of what
people are like are clearly very different, but each has something to offer the educator;
school has a function to perform in each of the areas of reacting, thinking and feeling.
Click here to see suggested version of
Click here to see a 2nd matrix which
includes an expansion to show language structures which can help articulate these
functions in an expository text.