Humanistic Theories of Learning:
Humanism, a paradigm that emerged in the 1960s, focuses on the human freedom, dignity, and potential. A central assumption of humanism is that people act with intentionality and values. Humanism would concentrate upon the development of the child's self-concept. If the child feels good about him or herself then that is a positive start. Feeling good about oneself would involve an understanding of ones' strengths and weaknesses, and a belief in one's ability to improve. Learning is not an end in itself; It is the means to progress towards the pinnacle of selfdevelopment. A child learns because he or she is inwardly driven, and derives his or her reward from the sense of achievement that having learned something affords. A primary purpose of humanism could be described as the development of self-actualized, autonomous people. In humanism, learning is student centered and personalized, and the educator’s role is that of a facilitator. Affective and cognitive needs are keys, and the goal is to develop self-actualized people in a cooperative, supportive environment.
Humanistic Orientations to Learning
Humanistic theory as applied to learning is largely constructivist and emphasizes cognitive and affective processes. Humanistic theories emphasize people’s capabilities and potentialities as they make choices and seek control over their lives. They do not explain behaviour in terms of reinforcing responses to environmental stimuli. In other words, humanistic theories are in contrast to the behaviourist notion of operant conditioning, which argues that all behaviour is the result of the application of consequences. That is, they differ from the behaviourist view that expects extrinsic rewards to be more effective. Extrinsic rewards are rewards from the outside world, e.g. praise, money, gold stars, etc. Intrinsic rewards are rewards from within oneself, rather like a satisfaction of a need. Humanistic theories make certain assumptions. One assumption is that the study of persons is holistic: To understand people, we must study their behaviours, thoughts, and feelings. Humanists disagree with behaviourists who study individual responses to discrete stimuli. Humanists emphasize individuals’ self-awareness. A second assumption is that human choices, creativity, and self-actualization are important areas to study. To understand people, humanists also believe that it is necessary to study the person as a whole, especially as an individual grows and
develops over the lifespan. It follows that the study of the self, motivation, and goals are areas of particular interest.
The humanistic theory of learning involves the concept of learning through watching the behavior of others and what results from that behavior. However, learning does not have to involve a behaviour change. Learning comes about as a result of observation.
Humanistic "theories" of learning tend to be highly value-driven and hence more like prescriptions (about what ought to happen) rather than descriptions (of what does happen).
They emphasize the "natural desire" of everyone to learn. Whether this natural desire is to learn whatever it is you are teaching, however, is not clear.
It follows from this, they maintain, that learners need to be empowered and to have control over the learning process.
So the teacher relinquishes a great deal of authority and becomes a facilitator.
Simply put, the basic concern in this orientation is for the human potential for growth.
Application of Humanistic Teaching
A ‘Humanistic’ approach to education involves a move away from traditional behaviorist theories and practices towards a perspective that recognizes the uniqueness of each individual’s perception, experiences and approaches to learning. Numerous humanistic principles can be applied in the classroom. Some important principles that can be built into instructional goals...
References: University of Phoenix, AC Associated Content (Dec. 8, 2006)
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