The humanist approach to education stems from psychologist Abraham Maslow's research on human needs. The humanist educator is focused on how the student develops instead of what the student learns. Being so, the humanist teacher is mostly concerned with the students' self-esteem and self-concept, and places less emphasis on the material taught. Though there are advantages to this teaching style, there are clear disadvantages as well.
The role of the teacher in the humanist classroom is to facilitate students' open expressions of feelings. In traditional teacher preparation courses, this idea is not emphasized. Instead, new teachers learn techniques such as classroom control, lesson preparation and student discipline, all of which play little importance in the humanist classroom. The capability of a teacher plays an important role in whether the humanist approach is successful. Thus, finding teachers suitable for the humanist classroom proves to be a challenge.
The humanist approach claims that each student has a "best" learning style and that a humanist teacher should employ the appropriate learning style for each student. However, these learning styles and their evaluations tend to be very unorganized and unwieldy.
While the humanist approach in the classroom puts emphasis on the individual, students spend much of the time in class working in groups. This tends to lead students to discussing matters unimportant to the topic at hand. In addition, it leads to extroverted students monopolizing the discussion, giving a large disadvantage to more introverted students. Also, students of low achievement often feel embarrassment or shame in a group, as they fear lowering the group's overall performance.
Lack of Competitiveness
Because the focus of the humanist approach is on individual development, the idea of competition is de-emphasized. The result is that students learning from a humanist approach are less competitive compared to students learning in traditional schools. This places students from humanist schools at a disadvantage upon graduation when they enter into the workplace or university. Overall, humanist teaching does not lead to better performance.
- "Review of EducationalResearch"; Achievement effects of the nongraded elementary school: a best evidence synthesis; Gutierrez & Slavin; 1992