The following paper will present, analyze, compare, and contrast two educational theories, behaviorism and humanism. It is vital in understanding the differences and similarities of the two theories as they present a fundamental perspective of current education and a more progressive approach that could change the process of learning in the coming years. The theories both present strengths that could benefit each other if applied in a model that allows for improved learning.
Behaviorism, or behavior learning theory, can be summarized as an approach that is restricted to observing stimulus-response events and behaviors. It analyzes cause and effect processes and makes evaluations on the effectiveness of certain programs, methods, or approaches based on observable systematic data collection (Fairbanks, 2021). The main method of behaviorism is the observation and experimental study of the organism’s reactions in response to environmental influences in order to identify correlations between these variables that are accessible to mathematical description. Within the application of education in the modern day it can be seen primarily in classes that prioritize drill-learning, memorization, and positive feedback from teaching staff. Behaviors that are seen as constructive among students are rewarded through positive reinforcement and are usually made observable to others. Behaviorism emphasizes the importance of observable actions and scientific research, and suggests that behavior is shaped by the environment. The roots of behaviorism are quite dated, and many see the theory as being inapplicable and insensitive to certain student needs. Despite this, it is widely implemented throughout global education.
Humanism, or humanist learning theory, promotes a completely different methodology and focuses on educational setting. Humanism is a psychological approach that emphasizes the study of the whole person and behavior related to the person’s inner feelings and self-image. This view is based on the idea that each person is unique and has the free will to change their life at any given time. The general concept of humanism dictates that because people are inherently good, it is essential to maintain their value through self-actualization (Fairbanks, 2021). This can be achieved through education which would focus on learner-centric approaches through the perspective of humanistic learning theory. Essentially, the environment which can include learning programs, is created to suit the needs of the learner with the primary goal being to achieve their personal self-actualization. The standards that are prioritized in behaviorism are largely irrelevant in a humanist approach.
The theories overlap in a few ways, primarily through the focus of continuous growth and self-development. Both the behaviorist and humanist approach minimize stagnation in both intellectual, professional, and personal development and encourage students to attain new knowledge and to develop their skills. However, the ways in which these ambitions are met vary between the two theories. Behaviorism provides standards that must be encountered in order to qualify as successful, and failure is made equally distinct. Humanism, on the opposing end, incorporates failure within the learning process and usually treats it as an element of the self-actualization process. Similarly, the theories have priorities and focuses that differ. Behaviorism attempts to elevate all students to universal norms in order to qualify them as successfully educated. Humanism illustrates that the goals of each learner are unique and therefore should not be compared amongst each other and do not have to adhere to any particular benchmark.
Overall, both theories provide a number of advantages and limitations. The behaviorist theory is narrow to allow for the success of all students in a variety of subjects. Essentially, it can ignore certain students that would flourish under alternative learning styles. However, it allows educational professionals to observe factual evidence and results of learning and use the data to further improve educational approaches. Humanism ensures that student needs are met and that they experience adequate freedom both as learners and as developing human beings. Nevertheless, the humanistic approach does not provide any evaluation tools that can ascertain whether students have sufficient knowledge to be successful in further studies or professional fields. In conclusion, the theories have prevalent issues when applied separately but can bridge these gaps if utilized in a blended educational model.
Fairbanks, B. (2021). 5 educational learning theories and how to apply them. University of Phoenix.