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 emphasise 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.
The school is particularly associated with
- Carl Rogers, and
- Abraham Maslow (psychologists),
- John Holt (child education) and
- Malcolm Knowles (adult education and proponent of andragogy).
- Insofar as he emphasises experiential learning, one could also include Kolb among the humanists as well as the cognitive theorists.
My heart is with humanistic theory, but I sometimes find it hard to make connections with the reality of routine practice. Its most fertile ground is with intrinsically motivated adult learners. It is not as potent now as it was in the '70s, when it often seemed to be used as an excuse for the abrogation of the realistic authority of the teacher—or perhaps we have just become more mature in our use of it. As the politicised variants show, it poses considerable challenges not only to approaches to teaching, but also to the construction of the curriculum as a whole. As society has become more fragmented and "post-modern", these challenges have become even more problematic.
Figures in Humanistic models of Learning
(1902-1987) Principally known as the founder of person-centred psychotherapy and almost the inventor of counselling, also a leading figure in the development of humanistic approaches to education. See Rogers (1980)
In the field of adult learning, do not confuse with Alan Rogers, or Jennifer Rogers! [Back]
(1921-1997) Brazilian educationalist: pioneer of adult literacy programmes as a means of raising the consciousness (conscientization) of South American peasants and urban underclass. Critic of the "banking" model of education, in which the elite own and construct the knowledge, and the poor are excluded. Very influential in politicised adult education. Not easy to read. See Freire (1972) [Back]