Agent Psychology


Agent Psychology is a theory of learning developed by Latter-day Saint psychologists, philosophers, and educators. It is centered on the principles of the gospel such as free agency, the divine nature of man, and inspiration and revelation. The emphasis of this theory is that each child can choose for herself whether or not she wants to learn and whether or not she will respond to certain techniques and strategies. As teachers, we must recognize that each child is a divine son or daughter of God and should be treated as such - with respect and love and concern.

So the question is, how should this perspective affect the way we teach? Walter Gong, one of the leading proponents of this theory, suggested the following.

The Three Person Model

Gong suggested that the ideal learning situation involves three people: a teacher, a learner, and someone whom the learner can teach. In that way, everyone in the model becomes a learner-teacher.

The CETE Model

Gong believed that there are four parts to the ideal learning situation. They are:

Capture: (Learn it) Actively learn the message from the point of view of the teacher

Expand: (Live it) Actively make a message grow for your own purposes and values

Teach: (Share it) Edit what you know and pass along that which is helpful

Evaluate: (Repent) How well did you do?

This model has definite implications for our teaching strategies. "Teaching" as we know it typically involves the capture part, though this model emphasizes that the learners have to be actively engaged. That doesn't mean that everything should be hands-on, but the students must make the choice to participate. How can we encourage students to expand on their understanding? Some ideas include projects, research, practice, and presentations. Then, we must make time in our schedules for the students to teach one another and for them to evaluate themselves.

What to Capture?

Agent Psychology also gives us some insight into what we should encourage our students to capture. Gong proposed four areas:

Purpose: Why?

Central Message: What?

Validations/Applications: How?

Values: So What?

President Boyd K. Packer said this:

"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.“

This is very applicable to agent psychology in that it demonstrates that no one learning theory will always work for all people, but that the gospel can.



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