Theorists interested in person-centered psychology (also known as humanism) might ponder these types of questions. This chapter focuses on humanistic ideologies that have shaped numerous domains in psychology, including learning. Humanism is far more philosophical than previous theories, so it will be important to think critically about the pros and cons of this approach.
humanism in the context of learning is an ideology that promotes the importance of the needs and motivations of the whole person, thus increasing an individual’s learning through the development of multiple areas. However, humanistic ideas did not just appear in the context of learning, nor are they solely based in educational values. (Remember the discussion about situated cognition and the different associations with the word humanism in section 5.3?) Humanism has a rich history, and its application to effective learning is relevant when considering the variety of factors associated with how individuals learn (Boutcher, 2006; Collini, 2008; Goulding, 2006; Guarino, 2008; Hankins, 2005).
There are many definitions of humanism, but in learning, humanism is derived from the word humanitas. During the Renaissance in Europe (the early 14th through 17th centuries), humanitas was an area of educational studies that focused on classical literature. Those who studied this area were literature scholars whose focus included grammar, poetry, rhetoric, history, and moral philosophy. Today, these fields are known as the humanities. The goal in these fields is to develop the whole person using philosophical means, through the discovery of self and the meaning of life. The humanities sought to inspire one to develop a higher level of existence, or self-actualization.
Carl Rogers (1902–1987) is considered the revitalizer of humanism because of his person-centered therapy approach (Rogers, 1953). Historically, his theory of the self (Pescitelli, 1996; Rogers, 1980) has been associated more with the psychology of personalities (Dagmar, 1996; Ryckman, 1993), but it is also applicable to learning psychology because the theory addresses psychological components that can affect learning effectiveness and accuracy. His person-centered approach was based primarily on how a person perceives oneself. The “self,” in this case, is a central construct of his theory, suggesting that a healthy individual understands the correspondence between one’s sense of who one is (self) and who one wants to be (ideal self) (Rogers, 1953). His theory has also been described as humanistic, existential, and phenomenological (Dagmar, 1996), which is important to note as you consider outside resources that discuss humanism.