The classroom is the core unit of our educational system, and it illustrates many common social-psychological concepts and phenomena. Whenever people come together for the purpose of learning, social-psychological principles may be applied to further educational goals. Applying these principles to the classroom may help increase students’ commitment to learning, make their attitudes towards school more positive, reduce their feeling of failure and related negative effects or emotions, and improve their level of aspiration as well as their grades. Clearly, education is – at least in part – applied social psychology. Indeed, in the past three decades, a new scientific area has emerged, the so-called ‘social psychology of education’, ‘educational social psychology’, or sometimes even ‘social educational psychology’. According to Feldman (1986), this area represents an amalgamation of social psychology and education, and has produced a broad range of theories, research, and data that speak to the interests of both educators and psychologists.
Our purpose here is not to describe all the current themes of interest that characterize this interface, but rather to focus on a limited set of social-psychological concepts and phenomena in relation to major processes in the classroom. First, we focus on the role of comparisons that students are constantly making with each other. Today, there is ample evidence that social comparisons contribute to students’ academic achievements, and we examine here the meaning and consequences of such comparisons in the classroom. Second, we focus on students’ ‘theories’ of intelligence. Over time, students come to believe that their performance in a wide range of tasks is or is not narrowly constrained by innate attributes, and that they can or cannot change their level of intelligence. We describe how such beliefs may affect students’ academic achievement. Third, we focus on students’ academic self-concept. Over time, students develop positive or negative views about their abilities in such-and-such an academic domain (e.g., math), which become an integral part of their ‘academic self-concept’. Does this self-concept also make a difference, and how? Fourth, we focus on social stereotypes. Students belong to social groups and may sometimes suffer from the negative stereotypes associated with these groups. Are these negative stereotypes a real problem for students, and why? Finally, we focus on the ‘classroom climate’.