Published 30th May 2018

teacher using Psychology in the classroom

Psychology is the study of the mind and behaviour. Psychology is a part of our everyday lives, most of the time without us realising it. Psychology affects our own behaviour as well as our relationships with other people. As you can imagine, then, psychology is an important factor in teaching. It can affect our classrooms, our learners and the effectiveness of our lessons.

Essentially, teachers do three things psychologically in the classroom: develop relationships, foster positivity, focus on their own well-being.

Developing relationships in the EFL Classroom

There are two relationships at play in the EFL classroom: teacher-student and student-student. The teacher has the power to affect both types. Good student-student relationships are needed to maintain a positive learning environment and a good energy in the classroom. Good teacher-student relationships have also been shown to be very important to learners. Without good teacher-student relationships students won’t feel comfortable enough or motivated to learn.

These relationships are especially important in the language learning classroom. Learning a language is a social matter. It involves communication and, in the classroom, collaboration and co-operation. Language learning classrooms are often multicultural and so socio-cultural communication is also important.

Fostering positivity in the EFL Classroom

In order for learning to be successful, classrooms need to be places which foster a growth mindset in learners. A growth mindset is one which believes a person’s attributes are malleable and changeable. This is in contrast to a fixed mindset which believes a person’s attributes are fixed and unable to be changed. The former gives power to the learner, while the latter does not.

In other words, we need to help our learners believe they have control over the learning process. If they are weaker in a particular area – reading, for example – they need to believe they can improve themselves. In this way our learners will learn to persevere even when they are struggling, and not give up easily.

Focusing on the teacher’s well-being in the EFL Classroom

There is no argument: teachers are at the core of education. A classroom cannot be a learning environment if the teacher is not on top of their game. In other words, a teacher needs to make sure they look after themselves physically and mentally in order to be an effective teacher.

This can take the form of many things. You should make sure you follow a healthy diet and exercise regime. You should make sure you have a good work-life balance to avoid burnout. You could focus on teacher development to upskill yourself.

How can teachers utilise psychology to their advantage in the EFL classroom?

  • Foster relationships based on mutual trust and equality
  • Make sure lines of communication are always open
  • Encourage a safe and comfortable learning environment
  • Identify individual strengths
  • Advise on action plans for weak areas
  • Praise the process and not only the product
  • Join a teacher’s association to keep up-to-date with research and developments in education
  • Don’t work too hard – but don’t play too hard either
  • Maintain good relations with your fellow teachers to create a happy working atmosphere

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