Holistic Learning Theory

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INTRODUCTION
To say the difference in intelligence is the result of a single skill would be naive at best and a gross misrepresentation at worst. Most researchers believe genius is comprised of numerous abilities from creative problem solving to athletic or musical skill. But in our observations of how we learn and how other people, far more intelligent than us, learn there was one factor that really stuck out. People who learned concepts easily didn’t learn the same way other people did. It wasn’t that they were using the same strategy more effectively. These people were operating from a completely different approach that a casual glance could easily miss. We call this approach, holistic learning. Holistic learning is basically the opposite of rote memorization. Instead of trying to pound information into your brain with the hopes it will simply fall out when you need it, holistic learning is the process of weaving the knowledge you are learning into everything you already understand. The concept of holism refers to the idea that all the properties of a given system in any field of study cannot be determined or explained by the sum of its component parts. Instead, the system as a whole determines how its parts behave. A holistic way of thinking tries to encompass and integrate multiple layers of meaning and experience rather than defining human possibilities narrowly. One important holistic learning principle is the idea that you cannot separate the teaching and learning experience from the human experience. We are human beings first, who happen to be teaching and learning. We are not teachers and learners who happen to be human. This very aptly reinforces the definition of social studies used in this text as the study of humans. And what is it that makes us human? Among other things, it is our capacity to think reflectively, imagine, dream, create, intuit, emote, and create. It makes sense then that these dimensions be included in education in general, and in social studies education in particular.

HISTORY
It is difficult to map the history of holistic education because many feel that the core ideas of holism are not new but “timeless and found in the sense of wholeness in humanity’s religious impetus” (Forbes, 1996). On the other hand, the roots of holistic education can be traced back to several major contributors. Originating theorists include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, Johann Pestalozzi, Friedrich Fröbel, and Francisco Ferrer. More recent theorists are Rudolf Steiner, Maria Montessori, Francis Parker, John Dewey, John Caldwell Holt, George Dennison Kieran Egan, Howard Gardner, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Paul Goodman, Ivan Illich, and Paulo Freire. With the ideas of these pioneers in mind, many feel that the core ideas of holistic education did not truly take form until the cultural paradigm shift that began in the 1960s. After this, the holism movement in psychology emerged in the 1970s where, during this time, “an emerging body of literature in science, philosophy and cultural history provided an overarching concept to describe this way of understanding education – a perspective known as holism.” Significant forward motion was accomplished by the first National Holistic Education Conference that was conducted with The University of California, San Diego in July 1979 that included 31 workshops. The Conference was presented by The Mandala Society and The National Center for the Exploration of Human Potential. The title was Mind: Evolution or Revolution? The Emergence of Holistic Education. For six years after that the Holistic Education Conference was combined with the Mandala Holistic Health Conferences at the University of California, San Diego, with about three thousand professionals participating each year. Out of this came the Journal of Holistic Education and the observation that educators think they are teaching the basic...
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