Course: Postgraduate Certificate - Tertiary Level Teaching
Module: How Students Learn - A Review of Some of the Main Theories
Page: 3a - Psychoanalysis

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Psychoanalysis was one of the first schools of psychological thought to develop, and is still what many people think of when the work 'psychology' is mentioned, largely due to the influence of its founder, Sigmund Freud. Freud worked in Vienna at the turn of the century, and developed the theory that the individual human being lives in a continuous state of internal conflict due to demands made by different parts of the personality, particularly at a subconscious level. He identified three basic components of personality, the ego, superego and id. Of these, the ego can be thought of as the rational, conscious part of the mind, whereas the superego and id are conflicting aspects of the subconscious mind. According to Freud, the superego is a primeval, instinctive force which represents a drive towards the individual's ideal self. The id is a similar primeval force which expresses itself either through the love instinct (eros) and the internal drive known as the libido, or through the destructive or death instinct (thanatos). According to Freud, the well-adjusted individual uses the ego to maintain a reasonable balance between the conflicting demands of the superego and id, only encountering problems when the two drives become seriously out of balance. Psychoanalysis involves trying to resolve such internal conflicts by looking for clues as to what is happening within the individual's subconscious mind.

The ideas of Freud were developed by a number of 'post-Freudians' such as Carl Jung, Erik Erikson and Alfred Adler, who modified and extended his ideas and founded their own 'schools' of psychoanalysis. Although many modern psychologists disagree profoundly with several of the ideas put forward by Freud and his successors, the psychoanalytic approach has had an enormous influence both on psychology and on society at large. It has not, however, had very much influence on mainstream educational thinking or the theory of learning, and is not an approach that teachers and tutors are advised to have anything to do with. Without proper training in psychoanalysis, any attempt to 'play the therapist' with one's students could be extremely dangerous, and could cause permanent psychological damage. In other words, psychoanalysis should be left to the experts. If a student does start to become introspective during a tutorial or counselling session, suggest a break or use the appropriate referral system.


Click here for Exercise 1

Once you have completed Exercise 1, proceed with the module.

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