Implications for Education Using Frueds Theory sample essay

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Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 in Moravia, a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire known until recently as Czechoslovakia. His home was Vienna where he studied and practiced medicine until 1938 when Austria was annexed by the Nazis. With the Nazi annexation of Austria he went into exile in England and died in London in 1939. Freud made a great contribution to psychology and learning theory with his discovery of the emotional nature of unconscious motivations. His personality theory – though not entirely correct in all its aspects – brought to our awareness the unconscious level of the human ‘mind’. As a result we are aware of some previously unknown aspects of human development. We now know that the mental conflicts of the neurotic are not fundamental conflicts of human nature.

Instead they are based on the motivating forces and social conflicts of the social environment within which the individual personality develops and functions. The concept of ‘normality’ makes sense only within the context of nature of the social environment in which the individual is functioning. Freud’s scientific discovery of the unconscious has contributed to the understanding of the role of the unconscious in the motivation aspect of learning …the basis of the valuing process intrinsic to the human organism… (‘intrinsic motivation’) and the importance of the emotional nature of motivation as a determinant for effective learning. This is of great significance to learning theory and consequently to educational theory. The emotional nature of motivation for learning is a key aspect of educational theory of the so-called paradigm of education for development of the person as a whole i.e. ‘holistic education’.

In 1923 Freud described his constructs of the id, ego and the superego. The id is the most primitive part of our personality. It operates according to the pleasure principle and it simply seeks immediate gratification. Freud believed that every human had a life and death instinct. The life instinct is called eros while the death instinct is called thanatos. Both are integral parts of the id. And the energy for this mechanism is libido, a flowing, dynamic force. The ego is different from the id as it is extremely objective. It operates according to the “reality principle” and deals with the demands of the environment. It regulates the flow of libido and keeps the id in check, thus acting as a “control center” of the personality. It is the superego which represents the values and standards of an individual’s personality. It acts as an internal judge, it punishes the ego with feelings of guilt or it rewards, which lead to feelings of pride and heightened self-esteem.

The superego is a characteristic of the personality which strives for perfection. According to Freud, the disparity and development of the id, ego and the superego, determines an individual’s behavior in a given situation, which in turn results in the development of the personality. Freud placed great importance on the early years of a child as he believed that what we are as adults is determined by childhood experiences. Freud called these early years of development the psychosexual years of development. These early years proceed through a number of stages. Each child undergoes the different stages. These stages are the oral stage (first year of life), the anal stage ( second year), phallic stage (third through fifth year), a period of latency (from 6 to 12), and the genital stage (after puberty). Freud believed that as every child passes through these stages there might be a likely possibility that a child may spend more time in a particular stage then they aught to. This condition can lead to a fixation or an incomplete development of the personality.

A critical event during the first five years of life is the experience of Oedipus and Electra conflicts. Freud believed that both sexes encounter and must deal with these turmoils, which result from boys developing sexual attraction toward their mothers, and girls developing sexual attraction towards their fathers. A boy may have feelings of jealousy towards his father as he is an obstacle between him and his mother. And, they fear retaliation by their fathers if they are caught (fear of castration). Since the boy loves his father, these feelings are repressed and he begins to identify with the father, adopting his values. Similarly girls develop hostility towards their mothers, unconsciously blaming their mothers for not being equal with boys. They assume that something is missing and feels inadequate (penis envy). Another major aspect of psychoanalysis is the development of defense mechanisms.

According to the theory defense mechanisms are used by the ego to protect the person from anxiety. Repression is when information is pushed down into the unconscious. This information is either unpleasant or undesirable and may cause anxiety. Very often this information is pushed so deep down into the unconscious that is hard to retrieve. Reaction formation is when due to anxiety feelings are replaced by the extreme opposite. For instance a person feeling hate will be replaced by love. Undoing is when the ego completely changes actions which lead to feelings of anxiety. In this mechanism the truth may be drastically distorted. Projection is when an individual tends to assign one’s own shortcomings on to someone else. Rationalization is when an irrational act is made to appear rational. Denial occurs in cases where the ego is threatened and a person refuses to acknowledge the reality or seriousness of the situation.

Identification involves empathizing with the qualities or characteristics of another favorable person. Fixation and Regression are related mechanisms which occur during psychosexual development. Psychoanalysis is also a therapy. It is based on the observation that individuals are often unaware of many of the factors that determine their emotions and behavior. Psychoanalytic treatment demonstrates how these unconscious factors affect current relationships and patterns of behavior, traces them back to their historical origins, shows how they have changed, and helps individuals to deal better with the realities of adult life. Though primarily of historical interest, an understanding of Freudian theory may give classroom teachers insight into the importance of unconscious feelings and drives that motivate some student behavior

Implications for teaching

When applying psychoanalysis to children or young students, a teacher must take a broad view by exploring the considerable range of psychoanalytic literature available.When applying psychoanalytic theories to children in the classroom, activities are typically categorized into either behaviorism or cognitivism. Behaviorism focuses on tangible behaviors, such as a child who will share her toys versus a child of the same age who refuses to share. Behaviorism also looks at conditioning and social learning to understand where a child picks up his personality traits and habits. Cognitivism looks at mental processes and events rather than tangible behaviors.

Cognitive structure, or the structure and function of the brain, is of particular concern here. In cognitive science, psychologists are concerned with whether behaviors can be justified chemically or structurally in biological differences between people. When behaviorism and cognitivism are understood, teachers, parents and psychologists can attempt to answer behavioral disorders from a social conditioning and chemical perspective. A behavioral problem may be rooted in either or both areas of psychoanalysis.

An example of a classic activity used for psychoanalysis in the classroom is role playing. During a role play, the teacher exercises control over the basic setup of the scenario. Students then act within those boundaries to produce original decisions and actions. In each scenario, a student knows there are things she should or should not do. For example, if the scenario involves seeing another child break a rule, the actor in the role play must decide what to do. Should he tell the teacher, attempt to punish or correct the child himself or let the child get away with it? Classroom activities around psychoanalytic theory can be public or anonymous.

An example of an anonymous psychoanalytic activity is the question and answer game.

Students write anonymous questions about social situations on a piece of paper and submit them to the teacher. The teacher will pass the questions back out to students, making sure each student gets a question he did not write. Students take the questions home and answer them overnight, and resubmit them anonymously. The teacher then reads them aloud for class discussion.

1. Learning is a process of active construction.

Learning is the interaction between what students know, the new information they encounter, and the activities they engage in as they learn. Students construct their own understanding through experience, interactions with content and others, and reflection. Teaching Implication

Provide opportunities for students to connect with your content in a variety of meaningful ways by using cooperative learning, interactive lectures, engaging assignments, hands-on lab/field experiences, and other active learning strategies. 2. Students’ prior knowledge is an important determinant of what they will learn. Students do not come to your class as a blank slate. They use what they already know about a topic to interpret new information. When students cannot relate new material to what they already know, they tend to memorize—learning for the test—rather than developing any real understanding of the content.

Teaching Implication

Learn about your students’ experiences, preconceptions, or misconceptions by using pre-tests, background knowledge probes, and written or oral activities designed to reveal students’ thinking about the topic. 3. Organizing information into a conceptual framework helps students remember and use knowledge. Students must learn factual information, understand these facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application in order to develop competence in a new topic.

Teaching Implication

Support students by using concept maps, flowcharts, outlines, comparison tables, etc., to make the structure of the knowledge clear. 4. Learning is a social phenomenon. Students learn with greater understanding when they share ideas through conversation, debate, and negotiation. Explaining a concept to one’s peers puts knowledge to a public test where it can be examined, reshaped, and clarified.

Teaching Implication

Use Cooperative learning strategies, long-term group projects, class discussions, and group activities to support the social side of learning.
5. Learning is context-specific.
It is often difficult for students to use what they learn in class in new contexts (i.e., other classes, the workplace, or their personal lives).
Teaching Implication
Use problem-based learning, simulations or cases, and service learning to create learning environments similar to the real world.

6. Students’ metacognitive skills (thinking about thinking) are important to their learning. Many students utilize few learning strategies and have a
limited awareness of their thinking processes.

Teaching Implication

Help students become more metacognitively aware by modeling your thinking as you solve a problem, develop an argument, or analyze written work in front of the class. Teach metacognitive strategies, such as setting goals, making predictions, and checking for consistency. Focus attention on metacognition by having students write in a learning journal or develop explanations of their problem-solving processes.


Psychoanalytic (or psychosexual) theory deals primarily with personality and postulates that human “behavior is motivated by inner, unconscious forces, memories, and conflicts” (Feldman, 1998, p. 26) that often stem from early life experiences. According to this theory, there are three basic structures of the personality: the id (which consists of the irrational libidinal drives that motivate the person to seek pleasure and sexual gratification), the ego (the rational part of the mind), and the superego (essentially the conscience which counterbalances the impulses of the id).

Development occurs through a sequence of five psychosexual stages (oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital) which focus on a body part (or erogenous zone) that becomes the center of pleasure or gratification (Rice, 1997). Defense mechanisms such as denial, repression, rationalization, and displacement, which serve the important purpose of temporarily distorting reality to relieve anxiety or reduce conflict, are also important components of Psychoanalytic theory. Though primarily of historical interest, an understanding of Freudian theory may give classroom teachers insight into the importance of unconscious feelings and drives that motivate some student behavior.