Course: Postgraduate Certificate - Tertiary Level Teaching
Module: How Students Learn - A Review of Some of the Main Theories
Page: 3c - Humanistic Psychology

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Humanistic psychology

Humanistic psychology emerged during the 1950's and 1960's out of a reaction against the two schools that had dominated psychology up till then - psychoanalysis and behaviourism. Humanistic psychologists such as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers rejected the psychoanalytical approach as regarding human beings as being little better then animals, driven and controlled by a bundle of unconscious, instinctive forces. They similarly rejected the behaviourist approach as regarding people as nothing more than unthinking products of their environment, shaped and programmed by the patterns of rewards and punishments that they receive in the course of their lives. Humanistic psychologists rejected these two models of man in favour of one which emphasised the uniqueness and essential 'humanness' of every individual person, and concerned themselves mainly with concepts such as self-fulfilment and actualisation, the importance of subjective experience, and the development of human values. As an ex-Freudian, Rogers developed a new, 'client-centred therapy' in which he aimed to give his patients the self-knowledge and skills needed to find their own solutions to their problems rather than simply telling them what to do.

Humanistic psychology has had a considerable influence on progressive educational thinking since the early 1970's, when the early research findings of people like Rogers started to feed back into educational development. Just as the earlier work of Skinner led to the programmed learning movement, so the work of Rogers led to the modern student-centred learning approach. In this, the teacher is no longer seen as an expert who hands down knowledge and understanding to the student. Rather, the teacher facilitates learning, first providing the student with guidance on how to learn and then providing a variety of learning opportunities and experiences through which such learning can occur. One of the most important manifestations of the student-centred learning approach has been the dramatic increase in the use of group learning since the mid-1970's, and the more recent appearance of flexible learning and competence-based learning. This last attempts to link student-centred learning with behaviourist reinforcement.


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