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Humanistic Education

Humanistic Education

19 July, 2016

Humanistic Education is an approach to education established on the work of humanistic psychologists, most notably Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, and Rudolf Steiner.

The method seeks to involve the whole person because the intellect, feeling life, social capacities, artistic and practical skills are all significant focuses for growth and development.


Enhancing children’s self-esteem

Developing the ability to set and achieve appropriate goals,

Growth toward full autonomy.

The objectives were to be accomplished through the study of the studia humanitatis, known today as the humanities and include grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry and moral philosophy.


The environment in a school that emphasizes their practice on humanistic education tends to have a very different setting than a traditional school. It consists of both indoor and outdoor environments with most of time being spent outdoors. The indoor setting may contain a few tables and chairs, bean bags for quiet reading and relaxation, book shelves, hideouts, kitchens, lots of color and art posted on the walls. The outdoor environment is very engaging for students that there might be tree houses, outdoor kitchens, sand boxes, play sets, natural materials, sporting activities and so on. The various activities are provided for students allowing for free choices of interest.


Choice or Control
The humanistic approach puts a great deal on student choice and control over the course of their education. Students are motivated to make choices that range from day-to-day activities to periodically setting future life goals. This makes students to focus on a specific subject of interest for any amount of time they choose, within reason. Humanistic teachers believe it is important for students to be motivated and involved in the material they are learning, and this happens when the topic is something the students need and want to know.

Felt Concern
Humanistic education tends to focus on the felt concerns and interests of the students linking with the intellect. It is believed that the overall mood and feeling of the students can either hinder or foster the process of learning.

The Whole Person
Humanistic educators believe that both feelings and knowledge are vital to the learning process. Unlike traditional educators, humanistic teachers do not detach the cognitive and affective domains. This aspect also relates to the curriculum in the sense that lessons and activities gave focus on various aspects of the student and not just rote memorization through note taking and lecturing.

Humanistic educators believe that grades are immaterial and that only self-evaluation is meaningful. Grading encourages students to work for a grade and not for intrinsic satisfaction. Humanistic educators differ with routine testing because they teach students rote memorization as opposed to meaningful learning. They also believe testing doesn’t provide enough educational feedback to the teacher.

Teacher as a Facilitator
“The tutor or lecturer tends to be more supportive than critical, more understanding than judgmental, more genuine than playing a role.” Their job is to nurture an engaging environment for the students and ask inquiry-based questions that promote meaningful learning.

Related Movements

Various contemporary school movements integrate humanistic perspectives within a larger, holistic context and these include the Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Neohumanist schools. However, these school movements do not incorporate spiritual perspectives from the traditional humanistic approach.