The ancient experts were quite alive to the close relation between psychology and education. To Plato education is to impress the most desirable character on young men and women. He believed that this could not be done unless the teacher knew human nature fully well.
The knowledge of human nature was one of the essentials for a well equipped teacher. The ‘Republic’, in which Plato discusses education, gives comprehensive details of “the main elements of that human nature for which, as he conceived, it was the function of education to provide nurture.”
“He believed that neither a state nor an individual can undertake to educate in a systematic way, unless they start with some idea not only of what they wish to teach, but also of the living being to whom the matter to be taught is relative, and upon which the given character is to be impressed.”
Rousseau felt the absence of application of psychological principles of education in his days. “I wish”, says Rousseau, “that some discreet person would give us a treatise on the art of observing children an art which would be of immense value to us, but of which the fathers and school masters have not as yet learnt the very first rudiments.”
According to Pestalozzi the aim of education is harmonious, natural, and progressive development of the pupil. To fulfill this aim the teacher must have an insight into the working of the child’s mind. He must know his needs, desires and capacities. He must know how children behave in particular circumstances and what is natural for them to do.
Herbart believed that the system of instruction prevalent in his days was defective because it was not based on a sound psychology. He rightly realized that a correct theory of education depended on a correct psychology and so he directed his efforts to teaching what he considered to be correct psychology, i.e., a correct knowledge of the working of a human mind.
Froebel realized that a teacher must acquire the knowledge of the innate human tendencies, of the natural impulses and inclinations of children. He thought that the pupil can be made easily interested in his lessons by stimulating his spontaneous acting, and by appealing to his inner tendencies.
Froebel insisted that each period of life must be regarded not only as a means to something beyond, but also as an end in itself, that “the boy has not become a boy nor has the youth become a youth, reaching a certain age but only by having lived through childhood, and, further on through boyhood.
True to the requirements of his mind, his feelings and his body,” and that “similarly, adult man has not become an adult man by reaching a certain age, but only by faithfully satisfying the requirements of his childhood, boyhood, and youth”
By the days of Montessori, psychology had grown into an independent branch of science in laboratories. According to her, knowledge of experimental psychology is essential for a teacher in the successful performance of his duties.
The Montessori Method of teaching cannot be practiced without a thorough knowledge of psychology. With a deep psychological insight the teacher would easily understand when he is to interfere in the pupil’s behaviour in order to make the response satisfying.