Learning Theory – Humanism


  • This learning theory that emerged in the 1960s.1https://www.learning-theories.com/humanism.html#contributors Retrieved on 5/16/2020.
  • Definition #1: Theory believes that learning is a personal act on one’s path to fulfill their potential.2https://www.learning-theories.com/humanism.html#contributors Retrieved on 5/16/2020.
  • Definition #2: Humanism believes that a learner is free-willed, fundamentally good, and capable of achieving their best when the ideal learning environment is produced. The ideal learning environment should cater to the social, emotional and cognitive needs of the learner.3https://helpfulprofessor.com/humanist-theory-in-education/ Retrieved on 5/16/20.
  • Definition #3: Humanism helps people bring out the best in themselves.4https://helpfulprofessor.com/humanist-theory-in-education/ Retrieved on 5/16/20.
  • Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow are two of the key proponents of this learning theory. Humanism stems from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.5https://www.learning-theories.com/humanism.html#contributors Retrieved on 5/16/2020.
  • Humanism emerged as a reaction to behaviorism and psychoanalysis which could be perceived as trying to fix a person.6https://helpfulprofessor.com/humanist-theory-in-education/ Retrieved on 5/16/20.

Major Principles

  • The theory focuses on individual freedom, dignity and potential. Humanism’s goal is to develop self-actualized, autonomous persons.7https://www.learning-theories.com/humanism.html#contributors Retrieved on 5/16/2020.
  • A central tenet to this learning theory is that people act with intentionality and values.8Huitt, W. (2001). Humanism and open education. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved September 11, 2007, from the URL: http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/affsys/humed.html.
  • This theory believes that it is essential to study the entirety of a person.9https://www.learning-theories.com/humanism.html#contributors Retrieved on 5/16/2020.
  • Learning in a humanist setting is student centered and personalized; the instructor is a facilitator, not an all-knowing being.10https://www.learning-theories.com/humanism.html#contributors Retrieved on 5/16/2020.
  • Humanism rejects that idea that humans are easily controlled by rewards and punishments. Instead, humans are in large part driven by their emotions. If a person is sad, mad,  or anxious, they will probably not be in a good frame of mind to learn.11 Retrieved on 5/16/20.https://helpfulprofessor.com/humanist-theory-in-education/
  • Punishing when something is done incorrectly is not helpful. Instead, you need to understand the various factors that caused the person to make the choice.12https://helpfulprofessor.com/humanist-theory-in-education/ Retrieved on 5/16/20.[/mfn
  • Sees all people as fundamentally good.]12https://helpfulprofessor.com/humanist-theory-in-education/ Retrieved on 5/16/20.
  • Students learn the best in a non-threatening atmosphere.13https://facultyweb.cortland.edu/andersmd/HUMAN/PRINC.HTML Retrieved on 5/16/20.
  • The only meaningful form of evaluation is self-evaluation.14https://facultyweb.cortland.edu/andersmd/HUMAN/PRINC.HTML Retrieved on 5/16/20.

Benefits of Learning Theory

  • Looks at the person as a whole.  
  • Tries to get at the root cause of a behavior.
  • Looks at poor behavior and/or decisions as acting out on needs that are not being met.
  • Humanists find the good in everybody.
  • Acknowledges emotional states and how they have an impact on learning. 
  • Focuses on learner choice; students do not need to do all of the same activities, in the same order.15https://flowpsychology.com/10-humanistic-approach-strengths-and-weaknesses/ Retrieved on 5/16/20.

Challenges of Learning Theory

  • It is virtually impossible to ensure that all learners are feeling positive during any given day or academic hour.
  • Doesn’t follow a set curriculum, which is how most K-12 schools operate. 
  • Doesn’t account for skills that learners might not want to engage with but need to for future activities (math, for example).
  • Some people thrive on structure and humanism focuses on choice. 
  • Teacher training programs do not teach how to facilitate conversations with open expression of feeling.16https://classroom.synonym.com/disadvantages-humanist-approach-classroom-7691322.html Retrieved on 5/16/20.
  • Many adults do not know how to, or don’t feel comfortable openly expressing their feelings.
  • Sometimes students will not accurately evaluate their work.17https://classroom.synonym.com/disadvantages-humanist-approach-classroom-7691322.html Retrieved on 5/16/20.
  • Group work can lead to off topic conversations. With limited time, this can be an issue in a K-12 classroom.18https://classroom.synonym.com/disadvantages-humanist-approach-classroom-7691322.html Retrieved on 5/16/20.