Category Archives: Notes and Resources

Humanism and Open Education

As described by Gage and Berliner (1991) 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 affective systems);
  3. develop creativity (divergent thinking aspect of cognition);
  4. curiosity (exploratory behavior, a function of imbalance or dissonance in any of the systems); and
  5. an interest in the arts (primarily to develop the affective/emotional system).

The SCANS report (Whetzel, 1992) as well as Naisbitt (1982), Toffler (1970, 1981, 1990) and other authors (see Huitt, 1997) point to the importance of these objectives for success in the information age. It is important to realize that no other model or view of education places as much emphasis on these desired outcomes as does the humanistic approach.

According to Gage and Berliner (1991) some basic principles of the humanistic approach that were used to develop the objectives are:

  1. Students will learn best what they want and need to know. That is, when they have developed the skills of analyzing what is important to them and why as well as the skills of directing their behavior towards those wants and needs, they will learn more easily and quickly. Most educators and learning theorists would agree with this statement, although they might disagree on exactly what contributes to student motivation.
  2. Knowing how to learn is more important than acquiring a lot of knowledge. 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 is the only meaningful evaluation of a student’s work. The emphasis here is on internal development and self-regulation. While most educators would likely agree that this is important, they would also advocate a need to develop a student’s ability to meet external expectations. This meeting of external expectations runs counter to most humanistic theories.
  4. Feelings are as important as facts. Much work from the humanistic view seems to validate this point and is one area where humanistically-oriented educators are making significant contributions to our knowledge base.
  5. Students learn best in a non-threatening environment. This is one area where humanistic educators have had an impact on current educational practice. The orientation espoused today is that the environment should by psychologically and emotionally, as well as physically, non-threatening. However, there is some research that suggests that a neutral or even slightly cool environment is best for older, highly motivated students.

Open Education

There are a variety of ways teachers can implement the humanist view towards education. Some of these include:

  1. Allow the student to have a choice in the selection of tasks and activities whenever possible.
  2. Help students learn to set realistic goals.
  3. Have students participate in group work, especially cooperative learning, in order to develop social and affective skills.
  4. Act as a facilitator for group discussions when appropriate.
  5. Be a role model for the attitudes, beliefs and habits you wish to foster. Constantly work on becoming a better person and then share yourself with your students.

A meta-analysis completed by Giaconia and Hedges (1982) of approximately 150 studies of open education suggest that this approach is associated with

  1. improved cooperativeness, creativity, and independence (moderate);
  2. increased positive attitudes toward teacher and school, creativity, adjustment, and general mental ability (slight);
  3. lower language achievement (negligible) and achievement motivation (moderate);
  4. no consistent effect on math, reading, or other types of academic achievement; and
  5. no consistent effect on anxiety, locus of control or self-concept.

It would seem, then, that open education, broadly defined in the terms used by Giaconia and Hedges, has not met the objectives and principles normally used to define humanistic education. While it has not been detrimental to basic skills achievement, per se, it has not had the impact on self-concept and locus of control as expected by its originators. In addition, the decline in achievement motivation is especially troublesome in light of the SCANS report (Whetzel, 1992) that highlighted the importance of striving for excellence in order to be successful in a world economy.

Carl Roger’s View (Facilitative Teaching)

One of the models included in the overall review of open education was facilitative teaching developed by Carl Rogers. Aspy and Roebuck (1975) studied teachers in terms of their ability to offer facilitative conditions (including empathy, congruence, and positive regard) as defined by Rogers (1969) and Rogers and Freiberg (1994). Teachers who were more highly facilitative tended to provide more:

  1. response to student feeling;
  2. use of student ideas in ongoing instructional interactions;
  3. discussion with students (dialogue);
  4. praise of students;
  5. congruent teacher talk (less ritualistic);
  6. tailoring of contents to the individual student’s frame of reference (explanations created to fit the immediate needs of the learners); and
  7. smiling with students.

Notice that all of these actions are congruent with a direct instruction model of teaching.

In a subsequent study involving 600 teachers from kindergarten though 12th grade, Aspy and Roebuck (1977) found that students in classrooms of high facilitative teachers:

  1. missed four fewer days of school (5 as compared to 9 for low facilitative teachers);
  2. increased scores on self-concept measures;
  3. greater gains on academic achievement measures, including both math and reading scores;
  4. presented fewer disciplinary problems and commited fewer acts of vandalism to school property; and
  5. were more spontaneous and used higher levels of thinking (knowledge versus comprehension through evaluation).


In summary, the purpose of humanistic education is to provide a foundation for personal growth and development so that learning will continue throughout life in a self-directed manner (DeCarvalho, 1991). A lack of cohesiveness with respect to defining the critical components of the humanistic approach has hampered its development. However, the results of Aspy and Roebuck’s (1977) study of facilitative teaching in comparison with the Giaconia and Hedges (1982) meta-analysis of open education suggest that Rogers’ (1969; Rogers & Freiberg, 1994) approach may be more descriptive of the critical conditions for achieving academic success as well as important affective and volitional outcomes. This is especially important in terms of the multiple dimensions of the components for success as described by the SCANS report (Whetzel, 1992) and Huitt’s (1997) summary of the requirements for success in the information age. In many ways, the positive psychology movement has its roots in humanistic psychology (Robbins, 2008), adding a more empirical, quantitative approach to humanism’s more philosophical, qualitative methodology (Seligman, 2002.



Educator’s Pledge

imageEducator’s Pledge

By Barbara H. Wagner

I accept not only the responsibility to instruct my students, but the responsibility to take advantage of the opportunity to stimulate and excite young people educationally.

I accept the responsibility to encourage my students to believe in themselves, and I will do this by helping them to develop specific awareness of the power that each one of them possesses to determine their own destiny.

I will challenge my students to reach just beyond that point where they are comfortable, so they will discover that their own perceptions of their potential are not their true limits.

As I set challenging tasks and goals before my students, I will guide them through the specific steps that will enable each one to reach these goals. This setting of high standards and giving the proper guidance to achievement will enable my students to become aware of their true potential, which is, through step-by-step disciplines and hard work, to go beyond what they ever thought possible.

I will take advantage of the opportunity to guide my students to a concrete understanding of their own abilities:
to question, rather than to just accept what they are told,
to seek answers, when there are no simple solutions,
to seek to understand, when true understanding requires grappling and wrestling with difficult concepts and ideas,
to reason, using their own minds as sources of original thought,
and to become contributors to, rather than just partakers of, the well-being of the world in which they live.

My educational goal is the empowerment of my students.

Module 1- Functions of Teaching

What is Huitt’s view about the function of teaching?  Do you agree that “teaching is not giving knowledge or skills to students”? How does his view differ from your own?  How will teachers who share his view that “teaching is the process of providing guided opportunities for students“ do things differently from those who believe that teaching is “giving knowledge or skills to students”?  

According to William G. Huitt, the aim of education or teaching is to develop the capacities and potential of the individual (by transmitting values, beliefs, knowledge, and symbolic expressions) so as to prepare that individual to be successful in a specific society or culture. Teaching, then, can be thought of as the purposeful direction and management of the learning process.  

I agree with Huitt that teaching is not giving knowledge or skills to students, but rather giving guided opportunities for students to explore on their own, and providing helpful hints or corrective feedback only if needed. Teachers, I believe, could give the basic principles of a concept, then encourage students to relate this with prior knowledge and either write or verbally express their own thoughts on the subject. Teachers may also form groups where students can research affirming or contrasting ideas on the lesson at hand then collaborate these with their own interpretations. Active participation always enhances students’ confidence or morale. Positive emotions help students to think critically, perform a learning task, and process new knowledge. (How People Learn: Introduction to Learning Theories- Hammond, Austin, Orcutt, and Rosso. p.12)  

For teachers who believe in giving knowledge or skills to students, it would be be enough that they supply the necessary facts and concepts, require students  to memorize them and expect them to do well in exams. Although learning may occur in this manner, it is not optimized, and attitudes and skills are not developed.  

Personal anecdote- I once attended a training where we were asked to decipher how a certain “Martian math” is solved. After the exercise, the trainer asked how we felt when we finally decipher the operation. Everyone agreed feeling good about themselves and this is true for whatever number of attempts tried. The trainer further explained that this is the same feeling experienced by children if they get to solve problems on their own. This boosts their confidence and they will be eager to tackle more challenges on their own. And the process is never-ending. We call this self-learning and is the principle of our Math and Reading Programs.

Module 1- Maturation and Learning

What events constitute learning and what events do not? As a learner yourself, what are your ideas about learning?
 Look up the difference between maturation and learning and the role of maturation in learning.  Why should teachers be aware about the realtionship between maturation and learning?  Cite personal experiences or observations where the learning processes are impaired when the teacher/s fail to value this relationship.
Events that constitute learning:
1. Imitation/Modeling- learning is acquired thru observation or impregnation, also called vicarious learning since the learner observes what happens to others or what are the consequences of their actions. This can happen without the use of communication code or language.
2. Reception/ Transmission- learning is acquired thru reception of information (oral or written) transmitted in an encoded communication.
3. Exercising/ Guidance – learning by practice and exercises (e.g. drills, exercise booklets, etc.)
4. Exploration/ Documentation – learner-initiated action of searching answers to a personal query.
5. Experimentation/ Reactivity – learners can manipulate the environment – and, when necessary, can modify it.
6. Creation / Confortation – creating something new and producing concrete works.
7.  Self-reflexion / Co-reflexion –  judgements, analysis and regulations operated by a person on his/her own cognitive processes or products.
8. Debate / animation – learning takes place during social interactions between learners or between trainees and trainers provided there are conflicts of views or challenging discussions forcing the opponents to justify their position…or to modify it.
There are a multitude of definitions of learning available online, but the one that mostly resembles my personal idea of learning is this.
There are three components to the definition of Learning:
-“Learning is a process, not a product.”
Exam scores and term papers are measures of learning, but they are not the process of learning itself.
-“Learning is a change in knowledge, beliefs, behaviors or attitudes.”
This change requires time, particularly when one is dealing with changes to core beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes.
-“Learning is not something done to students, but something that students themselves do.”
If you have ever carefully planned a lesson, only to find that your students just didn’t “get it,” consider that your lesson should be designed not just to impart knowledge but also to lead students through the process of their own learning (Ambrose 2010:3).
Maturation –  is the process of learning to cope and react in an emotionally appropriate way. It does not necessarily happen along with aging or physical growth, but is a part of growth and development. A situation a person must deal with at a young age prepares them for the next and so on into adulthood. Maturation does not stop when physical growth ends – it continues through adulthood. An adult who loses a parent, for instance, learns to cope with a new emotional situation that will affect the way he or she deals with situations that follow.
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From this definition of maturation, it is evident that for learning to be most effective, the learner must be mature enough to handle the knowledge presented to him at a particular stage. A good teacher must know this relationship so as not to prejudge students who may find difficulties in grasping the concepts of a lesson. In our learning center, where we have a diversity of students from preschoolers to collegiate ones, from fast learners to not-so-fast learners, from advance students to behind-school level ones, it is so easy to compare one with the others. Doing this may impede the teacher’s pedagogical approach to students. Thus, it is our policy to employ individualized learning instructions for each student.