Humanism, Cognitivism and Behaviourism

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In this assignment I shall be exploring three theories of teaching and learning. They are Humanism, Cognitivism and Behaviourism. I shall be explaining the main factors of the three theories and then explaining how they can support effective teaching and learning in general and for myself personally in my teaching role. The first theory I shall explore is Humanism.

‘Humanism stresses [a learner’s] interests, individuality and creativity – in short the [learner’s] freedom to develop naturally and from teacher domination’ (Lunenburg p.467).

When teaching a lesson a teacher is more of a facilitator when planning and delivering a lesson. An effective humanistic approach is not one of teacher control (behaviourism) nor does it necessarily draw on past experiences (cognitivism) but draws a learner’s skills out and allow them to reach a point which Maslow calls ‘self-actualisation’.

Self actualisation is the ‘discovery of a biological yearning to develop one’s natural talents to the fullest’ (mythosandlogos.com). A teacher has to become a facilitator to allow the learner time to grow, even when it seems they are struggling to achieve a set goal. This can be effective when teaching learners life skills as the teacher (or facilitator, in this instance) will give the learner a task which allows them space to be creative and draw upon those ‘biological yearnings’ to become better at that task and to draw other hidden skills that the learner may not know that they had in order to solve a problem or reach a goal. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs state that there are 5 levels which climax in self actualisation. They are physiological, safety, belongingness, esteem, and then one can reach self-actualisation. Gleitman and Reisburg (2004) argue that two more phases need to be passed through before one can achieve self actualisation.

Those two needs are the ‘cognitive’ phase where a learner has a deep desire for knowledge and understanding of the environment in which they function. This will allow the learner to discover how they can function best in different circumstances and situations. The next phase will be to satisfy one’s ‘aesthetic’ needs which include a need for symmetry, order and beauty in their lives. When a learner is happy with the order in which they need to perform a task and understand the reason for doing the task that they have been given, then they can reach that peak of self actualisation. A humanistic approach to teaching is important but needs to be balanced with set boundaries and tutor input to guide the learner in the right direction. A humanistic approach can sometimes tie in with the next theory, cognitivism.

‘Any kind of teaching which is concerned with the communication of information, or with getting students to think and reason for themselves, is likely to be underpinned by assumptions of a cognitivist kind.’ (Gray et al. p.29)

As you can see, this somewhat ties in with a humanist approach to teaching but does not concentrate on allowing the students to reach self actualisation but rather allows them to refer to previous learning and build on that. A cognitive approach allows a learner to reflect on their own judgements, opinions and methods of working and apply them to a given task. It also allows space to change a student’s way of thinking or at least understand something from a different viewpoint.

Gould (2009, p. 64) states that there are two sequences of learning. They are ‘inductive’ learning and ‘deductive’ learning. Inductive learning is favoured by the theorist Bruner, in which learners discover facts for themselves with help from the tutor who will aid them to discover a concept or principle for themselves, allowing them the space to explain the reasoning behind their understanding. Bruner believes that some learners are over-reliant on tutor input and not allowed enough space to discover the answer for themselves (Gould p.48, 49).

An inductive approach can...
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