Applications of Psychological Science to Teaching and Learning

About the APS-TL Taskforce

The public and policy makers recognize that teachers employ psychology every day when making instructional, assessment and classroom management decisions. Building on APA’s commitment to high quality instruction at the Pre-K-12 level, the Board of Educational Affairs sponsored a task force designed to explore the applications of psychological science to teaching and learning by tapping the expertise of psychologists from several sub-disciplines including: motivation, development, assessment, behavior management, social psychology, and learning and instruction, to work collaboratively on translating psychological literature associated with evidence based teaching strategies. The focus of the work is to integrate developmental and contextual concerns with research on instruction.


These 10 modules were created by the members of a Task Force on the Applications of Psychological Science to Teaching and Learning. Their goal was to use research from the psychological and educational sciences and show how it can be applied to practical instructional problems and needs.

They selected topics for these materials based on the Teacher Needs Survey that was conducted from 2004–2006 with over 2,400 teachers giving feedback about their greatest professional development requirements.

Based on those outcomes, these 10 teaching modules were created to reflect the array of challenges teachers may face in the classroom.

Practice for Knowledge Acquisition (Not Drill and Kill)

Practice for knowledge acquisition Researchers who have investigated expert and novice performance have uncovered important distinctions between deliberate practice and other activities, such as work, play and rote repetition

Practice Module  

Research in Brain Function and Learning

Research in brain function and learning It is important for teachers and parents to understand that maturation of the brain influences learning readiness, for teachers, this is especially important when designing lessons and selecting which strategies to use

Brain Function and Learning Module


Bullying Commonly labeled as peer victimization or peer harassment, school bullying is defined as repeated physical, verbal or psychological abuse of victims by perpetrators who intend to cause them harm

Bullying Module

Classroom Management

Classroom management Teachers concerned with classroom management typically need help with two issues: preventing discipline problems and dealing with current discipline problems, to address these concerns researchers have established several systems

Classroom Management Module

How Do my Students Think: Diagnosing Student Thinking

Diagnosing student thinkingBecause students' preconceptions can affect how well they learn, teachers need to know just what those preconceptions are before they begin instruction on a new topic

Diagnosing Student Thinking Module

How Do I Get my Students Over Their Alternative Conceptions (Misconceptions) for Learning?

Alternative conceptionsAlternative conceptions (misconceptions) are a normal part of the learning process, we quite naturally form ideas from our everyday experience, but obviously not all the ideas we develop are correct with respect to the most current evidence

Misconceptions Module

Developing Responsible and Autonomous Learners: A Key to Motivating Students

Developing responsible and autonomous learners Research has shown that motivation is related to whether or not students have opportunities to be autonomous and to make important academic choices

Autonomous Learners Module


Using Praise to Enhance Student Resilience and Learning Outcomes

Praise to enhanceResearch has clearly demonstrated that having the mindset that you are either smart or not smart has serious negative consequences for learning, fortunately, one powerful way that you can intervene as a teacher is by being careful about how you give students praise

Praise to Enhance Module

Improving Students' Relationships with Teachers to Provide Essential Supports for Learning

Improving student-teacher relationshipsIf a student feels a personal connection to a teacher and receives more guidance and praise than criticism from the teacher, then the student is likely to become more trustful of that teacher, show more engagement in the academic content presented and achieve at higher levels academically

Improving Student-Teacher Relationships Module

Using Classroom Data to Give Systematic Feedback to Students to Improve Learning

Classroom data Effective feedback is a great way for teachers to use collected data in order to improve student learning, unfortunately, feedback opportunities are scarce in most classrooms

Classroom Data Module