7 Psychological Principles To Enhance Learning Capability

Updated on January 20, 2020

Every person who studies psychology at a university or takes a psychology course online knows, that for a while researchers have been trying to find the answer on how to improve the student’s learning capability. While some of the suggestions were quite helpful, some of them had no scientific support. 

However, recently CPSE also known as The Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education, came up with a list of principles regarding this matter. The group who came up with them consisted of psychologists focused on school, education, cognitive, media and more. 

Below, you will find seven of those principles. So without further ado, let’s get to it. 

Principle #1

What students already know affects their learning

Prior knowledge has an influence on both conceptual growth and conceptual change. With conceptual growth, students are adding new information to what they already know, and with the conceptual change, they are correcting the mistakes they had in their existing knowledge. To make both of them possible, students need to obtain at least a baseline level of knowledge using a formative assessment. 

So before starting a new unit, a teacher should make a shortlist of five to ten true or false statements, and provoke a discussion between students. This way, the teachers can adjust the exercises and assignments to make either conceptual change or conceptual growth easier for the students. Prior knowledge can be useful in making students absorb background knowledge and draw connections between the units. 

Principle #2

Learning is based on context, so generalizing learning to new contexts is not spontaneous, but rather needs to be facilitated.

Learning happens in a specific context, such as a classroom, a textbook or a lab, and the transfer or generalization of learning will not happen by itself. When teachers help their students in transferring learning from one context to another, both their growth and deeper learning are developed. 

If the teachers focused on deeper learning, the ability to generalize learning to new contexts by students would increase. Teachers need to make students use their understanding of a particular unit to create connections to real-life. They need to develop their understanding of deep, underlying concepts that can be applied in new contexts. 

Principle #3

Acquiring long-term knowledge and skill is largely dependent on practice.

Every day students experience thousands, if not millions of stimuli in the environment. However, only part of them is transferred into short-term memory. To make them permanent in their brain, the information needs to be moved to long-term memory, which can be accomplished mainly by practice. 

However, what teachers need to keep in mind is that making the students repeat everything until they learn it, even if they don’t want to, is not a solution. Furthermore, it might kill their motivation to learn, making them forget things. Successfully keeping the essential items in the long-term memory is done by deliberate practice, which involves things like attention or rehearsal. 

Principle #4

Clear, explanatory and timely feedback to students is important for learning.

The first step in this principle is establishing clear learning goals – it makes giving feedback easier for the teachers, as they can tie the comments directly to the goals. Regular feedback is one of the ways in which teachers can make students stay on track in their learning. By saying what they did wrong or right, they can guide them to what they should do without actually saying it. 

However, it is essential to remember that superficial or occasional feedback, such as ‘good job’ or ‘great work’, will not increase their understanding nor will it motivate students to work harder. 

Principle #5

Student creativity can be fostered.

Creativity is a very beneficial skill in the 21-century. However, there seems to be a wrong belief that creativity is something that you either have or don’t have. Nothing could be further from the truth. Creativity can be developed in students. 

That’s why teachers should allow students to solve problems or complete tasks unconventionally, and show them that thinking outside of the box is not a bad thing. Creativity is a significant outcome of the teaching process for both the teachers and the students. 

Principle #6

Teachers’ expectations about their students affect students’ opportunities to learn, their motivation and their learning outcomes.

It is not uncommon for teachers to have expectations regarding either the whole class or just an individual student. In most cases, they are based on the student’s academic past. They are also the basis of how the information is passed to students, what outcomes the teachers anticipate, and what methods of evaluation they use. 

In most cases, these expectations are an accurate representation of reality. However, sometimes those expectations may be wrong. The problem is that if the faulty expectations were communicated to the student either verbally or non verbally, he or she might start acting on them and behave in a way that confirms the teacher’s original expectations. 

Principle #7

Emotional well-being influences educational performance, learning, and development.

Some of the elements of emotional well-being include the ability to cope healthily with everyday stress, and general feelings such as contentment and happiness. 

Emotional well-being is a crucial element of successful functioning in the classroom. It can also influence learning and academic performance. 


The skills listed above are just a peek of an iceberg. There are many more, thanks to which students can develop skills which makes learning easier, and teachers can be more successful in their teaching. 

If you want to learn more about them, all it takes is a little research. Good Luck. 

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