Psychological issues and concepts


The capability to know, do and understand. Once thought of as being a general capability largely deriving from genetic inheritance, modern thinking suggests the existence of multiple forms of intelligence and of significant social influences on its development.


The verbal expression of thought and feeling for communication. A medium which plays a central role in the development of cognition and social interaction from birth.


A body of shared meanings and language use constructed through conversations, texts and other forms of communication. The concept is associated with the work of Foucault who emphasised the ways that language-use, within a particular social group, brings about shared assumptions and is in turn created by shared assumptions


Engagement with people, materials, events and the environment which is formative in shaping the perception and responses of learners.


The disposition of learners to learn, often variable in respect of particular topics.

Learned Helplessness

Learned helplessness is a maladaptive motivational style and prevents pupils from making the most of whatever talents they possess. It arises when pupils attribute a lack of success to a lack of ability and see the lack of ability as being beyond personal control. When work becomes difficult the learned helpless pupil abandons rather than increase their efforts (See Galloway et al. in Further Readings)


A framework of existing thinking and interconnected concepts held by a learner, into which successive learning may be assimilated.


The process by which an individual reflects on the process of his or her thinking, which can have a powerful effect in improving the quality of that thinking.

The zone of proximal development (ZPD)

The area which is just beyond a learner's existing level of knowledge, skill or understanding and which they could successfully learn about if appropriately supported by a knowledgeable other.


The value or opinion which an individual ascribes to himself or herself, thus powerfully influencing self-confidence in tackling new learning challenges.


The element of originality, innovation or divergence which a learner is able to apply to a learning challenge.


The psycho-biological process of thinking and processing information which is involved in all learning by individuals.


Feelings held by individuals, for instance, in the experience of learning and social interaction.


An activity, particularly common among young children, in which ideas, roles, behaviour and the imagination can be explored with minimal risk.


A constraint on behaviour, imposed by self or others, which is essential in a school environment because it enables teachers and pupils to concentrate on learning.