Psychological and Social Factors of Learning

The way that we as humans develop and construct knowledge is very complex, but luckily some very smart psychologists have configured different theories to help explain it. Some of these psychologists include: Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, Lev Vygotsky, and many more. Their theories of brain development and learning are the basis of a lot of teaching practices used in and outside the classroom. The developmental theories that we discussed during Module 2 directly apply to teaching because in order to effectively teach a student, there are some things you must know about them prior to the learning taking place. The main factor of how learning differs from person to person is their age. One child who just started 1st grade is going to learn a whole lot differently than a child who is going into 6th grade. The reason for this is the different stages of Psychological development.


There are several different theories on what the stages of psychological development are. There’s Erikson’s stages of Psychosocial Development, Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, and many others. One problem with these theories is that they are general and don’t necessarily apply to everyone. Someone might be a young adult age, but are still stuck in the Identity vs. Role confusion stage, or there could be an 8 year old who hasn’t yet completed the pre-operational stage. These types of things should be kept in mind when applying these theories to your classroom teaching, not all students are at the same level.


Aside from the psychological factors of learning in a classroom, social factors also play a huge role in learning. Parents, friends, classmates, media, family, financial situation, class, race, all have an impact on a student’s ability to learn. According to another psychologist, Abraham Maslow, every human has a hierarchy of needs. This is shown in the figure below where you start at the bottom and you cannot move up until the needs below have been met. So how this applies to teaching is that, how can we expect a student to come to class ready to learn and do school work if they haven’t even met their three basic needs? For example, a student who comes from a poor family who can’t always afford to put food on the table goes to school hungry, their basic physiological need to eat has not been met, therefore they are unable to move up the ladder. Or say, a student who gets bullied at school and is constantly on edge does not have their need for safety met, therefore no quality learning can take place. These social factors should be taken into consideration just as much as the psychological ones when getting to know your students.

MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svgIn my own teaching career, I definitely plan to take these theories into consideration. Depending on the grade level I end up teaching I will consider my students’ cognitive development level along with their lives outside of school. If a student of mine is struggling or seems to be disconnected I will try to find out why before jumping to conclusions that they are unintelligent or lazy, because there is probably something else going on in their life or possibly some of their needs are not being met. Overall, many aspects go into giving and receiving a quality education and all should be carefully considered by the teacher in order to maximize the¬†students’ learning.

Sources Cited:

6. (2014, October 08). Zone of Proximal Development. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

Erikson’s Theory and Career Development – IResearchNet. (2016, November 26). Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

J. (2007, February 10). Conservation task. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

K. (2013, December 20). Piaget’s stages of cognitive development | Processing the Environment | MCAT | Khan Academy. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

M. (2011, March 25). A typical child on Piaget’s conservation tasks. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (2017, February 18). Retrieved February 22, 2017, from’s_hierarchy_of_needs

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