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5 Major Psychology Approaches in a Learning Matrix

Who as a student does not want a more clear and logical representation of learning material?

Effective notetaking is a fundamental skill for you as a student of psychology. As an online tertiary tutor of 15 years, I’ve seen (and experienced) the advantages of using a learning matrix (tabular notetaking). It is a powerful learning strategy to organise your class and reading notes, which aids deep learning of complex material…like grasping the 5 major approaches in psychology.

Decrease your information overload

integrate concepts from the major psychological schools of thought  approaches paradigms chart table

The psychodynamic, behavioural, cognitive, humanistic, and evolutionary paradigms in psychology overlap and differentiate, sometimes subtlety, sometimes massive ways. Keeping them ‘in order’ can be a challenge for the newbie. But once you’ve wrapped your mind around their basic principles and methods, you will find that your understanding of research articles and clinical interventions, can expand immensely. The tabular notetaking as a method is over 100 years old! (c.f. Klopper et al., 2007) provides you with a structured framework to collect ‘chunks’ of relevant notes, which streamlines your learning. Also, the structure enhances organisation of your bite-sized notes, enhancing comparison of perspectives at a glance. As Klopper et al. (2007) candidly state, the learning matrix lessens the chance of “… unilateral cherry picking of references that supports one's point of view, while ignoring references that present contrary points of view” (p. 262). I find value in du Boulay's (1999) posit that there are several advantages to the student who uses a notetaking table: 1. You will likely find you can stay on-task much longer 2. Identification of relevant information to compare and contrast can be improved 3. The risk of plagiarism is lessened when space constraints require ‘the gist’ of information

4. Enhances skills in concise, clear, summarising of material

5. Provides a mnemonic spatial visualisation of the inter-relationships between concepts

What I also like about the learning matrix, is that I can include images (doodles, even photos or screenshots), that further compress information in a rich and intuitive way (i.e., my personal symbolic language). Enhance your critical arguments

psychodynamic approach_cognitive approach_behavioural approach_humanistic approach_evolutionary approach_psychology

So~ long story short, the process of using columns and rows enhances your ability to be systematic in your notetaking and learning of the main psychology approaches. In turn, this benefits your ability to categorise class and readings information, as well as to now have cognitive ‘hooks’ on which to hang future information across your learning journey. Theories, constructs, methods of data collection…start to ‘make more sense’; you begin to see the patterns and broaden your understanding of the science, and the applied practices in-the-real-world. Hone your academic voice To aid your development of critical thinking and writing skills in psychology, I’ve created a learning matrix for the 5 major approaches in psychology. I hope this notetaking resources helps you to develop a more nuanced appreciation for the scope of psychology as a whole.

Feedback welcomed … Light & Life~ Charmayne


du Boulay, D. (1999). Argument in reading: What does it involve and how can students become better critical readers? Teaching in Higher Education, 4(2), 147-162,

doi: 10.1080/1356251990040201

Klopper, R., Lubbe, S., & Rugbeer, H. (2007). The matrix method of literature review. Alternation, 14(1), 262-276.


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