Humanism Learning Theory and Implementation in the Classroom


  • The five basic principles of humanistic education can be summarized as follows:
  • Students’ learning should be self-directed.
  • Schools should produce students who want and know how to learn.
  • The only form of meaningful evaluation is self-evaluation.
  • Feelings, as well as knowledge, are important in the learning process.
  • Students learn best in a nonthreatening environment.

Definition of Humanism Theory

Abraham Maslow, along with Carl Rogers, Malcolm Knowles, and many others propounded the humanism learning theory which focuses on the development of learners. He is considered as the father of Humanistic Psychology. The theory believes in encouraging learners to develop an interest for learning. Maslow believes that experience play a key role in influencing the learning and behaviour of humans. This theory is highly centered on learners. In this theory, teachers serve as role models. They motivate the learners who are required to be observant and keen to explore.

Scholar Definition: The Humanist Teaching and Learning Theory is an educational theory that believes in the teaching of the child “as a whole”. The humanistic approach will pay special attention to students’ emotional well and will always consider children “essentially” good children.

Humanist theory:

Humanism stresses the importance of human values and dignity. It proposes that people can resolve problems through science and reason. Rather than looking to religious traditions, humanism focuses on helping people live well, achieve personal growth, and make the world a better place.Examples of humanistic behavior are everywhere. Everything from being kind to a stranger to scuba diving could be humanistic behavior if the motivation is a desire to live a good, authentic, and meaningful life.

Today, people call Petrarch the “father of humanism” and even the “first modern scholar.” Petrarch’s humanism appears in his many poems, letters, essays, and biographies that looked back to ancient pagan Roman times

Basic Principles of Humanistic Education

Students should be able to choose what they want to learn. Humanistic teachers believe that students will be motivated to learn a subject if it’s something they need and want to know.

The goal of education should be to foster students’ desire to learn and teach them how to learn. Students should be self-motivated in their studies and desire to learn on their own.

Humanistic educators believe that grades are irrelevant and that only self evaluation is meaningful. Grading encourages students to work for a grade and not for personal satisfaction. In addition, humanistic educators are opposed to objective tests because they test a student’s ability to memorize and do not provide sufficient educational feedback to the teacher and student.

Humanistic educators believe that both feelings and knowledge are important to the leaming process. Unlike traditional educators, humanistic teachers do not separate the cognitive and affective domains.

Humanistic educators insist that schools need to provide students with a nonthreatening environment so that they will feel secure to learn. Once students feel secure, learning becomes easier and more meaningful.

Implementation in the Classroom and Educational Implications

Humanism theory of learning plays an important role in enhancing the knowledge of the learners by fulfilling the ultimate goal of teaching.

Implications of instruction:

  • Instruction should be intrinsic rather than extrinsic; instructional design should be student centered.
  • Students should learn about their cultural heritage as part of self-discovery and self-esteem.
  • Curriculum should promote experimentation and discovery; open-ended activities. .
  • Curriculum should be designed to solicit students’ personal knowledge and experience. This shows they are valuable contributors to a nonthreatening and participatory educational environment.
  • Learned knowledge should be applicable and appropriate to the student’s immediate needs, goals, and values.
  • Students should be part of the evaluation process in determining learning’s worth to their self-actualization.
  • Instructional design should facilitate learning by discovery.
  • Objectives should be designed so students have to assign value to learned ideals, mores, and concepts.
  • Take into account individual learning styles, needs and interests by designing many optional learning/discovery experiences.
  • Students should have the freedom to select appropriate learning from many available options in the curriculum.
  • Allow students input in instructional objectives.
  • Instruction should facilitate personal growth.
  • The implementation of humanistic theory in the classroom should take place in the following manner:

Curriculum Must Be Learner-centered

The curriculum should be based on the interest of the learners and should focus on their overall development. Their personal experiences and knowledge must be taken into account.

Knowledge Should Be Applicable

The knowledge being imparted to learners must be applicable in real life situations. They should be able to relate the lessons being taught with real life situations.

Emphasize Learner Development

Teachers must focus on all the round development of learners. Instructional methods should be such that it is comprehensible to learners and fosters their growth and development.

Learning Must Be Student-centered

The teaching learning method should be student-centered and they should also be included in the evaluation process for self actualization.

Experiments and Discovery Must Be Used

Since the humanistic approach to learning focuses on learning by discovery, experiments should be implemented in the curriculum to facilitate the same.

Learning Must Happen Through Discovery

The instructional method being used by the teacher in the classroom must facilitate learning through discovery.

Teaching Should be Intrinsic

Instead of adopting extrinsic teaching methods, teachers should adopt intrinsic teaching methods so that the teaching learning method can be student centered.


  • The student must take responsibility in initiating learning; the student must value learning.
  • Learners actively choose experiences for learning.
  • Through critical self-reflection, discover the gap between one’s real and ideal self.
  • Be truthful about one’s own values, attitudes and emotions, and accept their value and worth.
  • Improve one’s interpersonal communication skill.
  • Become empathetic for the values, concerns and needs of others.
  • Value the opinions of other members of the group, even when they are oppositional.
  • Discover how to fit one’s values and beliefs into a societal role.
  • Be open to differing viewpoints.


  • Be a facilitator and a participating member of the group.
  • Accept and value students as viable members of society.
  • Accept their values and beliefs.
  • Make learning student centered.
  • Guide the student in discovering the gap between the real and the ideal self, facilitate the student in bridging this gap.
  • Maximize individualized instruction.
  • To facilitate independent learning, give students the opportunity to learn on their own ~ promote open-ended leaming and discovery.
  • Promote creativity, insight and initiative.


The humanistic approach mainly focuses on the development of learners due to which factors must be remembered while implementing this approach in the classroom.

Humanism Theory
Educational Implementation of Humanism Learning Theory in the Classroom

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