The Humanistic Approach

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HUMANISM is a school of thought that believes human beings are different from other species and possess capacities not found in animals. Humanists give primacy to the study of human needs and interests. They also believe that it is necessary to study the person as a whole, especially as an individual grows and develops over the lifespan. The study of the self, motivation and goal settings are also areas of special interest.

The origin of humanistic psychology can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages. The basic belief of this philosophy is that every person has worth and the right to achieve self-realization through reason and rational thought.

The early humanism movement began in 15th century Europe as a protest against the closed-minded religious dogma of the church’s scholars and philosophers. Modern humanistic psychology emerged in about the mid 1950s as a reaction by clinical psychologists, social workers, and counsellors against behaviourism and psychoanalysis.

Although behaviourism and psychoanalysis contributed to the understanding of human behaviour, it did not include a holistic view of the individual. Humanistic psychology emerged in the mid 1950s and complemented behaviourism and psychoanalysis with its focus on the individual as a whole person. Unlike behaviourism and psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology studies humans as organized wholes who are best understood within the context of their environment. Humanistic psychology developed into a vital field of psychology during the second half of the 20th century.

There are FIVE BASIC PRINCIPLES of humanistic education:

1. SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING. Students should be able to choose what they want to learn. Humanistic teachers believe that students will be motivated to learn a subject if it is something they need and want to know. i.e. when they have developed the skills of analysing what is important to them and why as well as the skills of directing their behaviour towards those wants and needs, they will learn more easily and quickly. 2. STUDENTS WANT AND KNOW HOW TO LEARN. The goal of education should be to foster students’ desire to learn and teach them how to learn. In our present society where knowledge is changing rapidly this view is shared by many educators, especially those from a cognitive perspective. 3. SELF-EVALUATION. Humanistic educators believe that grades are irrelevant and that only self-evaluation is meaningful. The emphasis here is on internal development and self-regulation. Humanistic educators are opposed to objective tests because they test a student’s ability to memorize and do not provide sufficient educational feedback to the teacher and student. 4. FEELINGS ARE AS IMPORTANT AS KNOWLEDGE to the learning process. 5. NON-THREATENING ENVIRONMENT. This is one area where humanistic educators have had an impact on current educational practice. Humanistic educators insist that schools need to provide students with a non-threatening environment so that they will feel secure to learn. Once students feel secure, learning becomes easier and more meaningful.

Human psychologists study the mechanisms of human thought. They focus on the structure and organization of what a person knows and how his thoughts, beliefs, expectations and interpretations affect behaviour. Humanistic psychologists believe the concept of the “self” is related to their emotional state, well-being and judgement. The self can be viewed as a schema or organized body of propositions and descriptions of the self that guides the selection and interpretation of new information. Self-schemas act upon information and construct and transform it to be meaningful to the self.

There are FIVE BASIC OBJECTIVES of the humanistic view of education:

1. promote positive self-direction and independence (development of the regulatory system); 2. develop the ability to take responsibility for what is learned (regulatory and...
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