Humanistic Approach to Classroom Management

Humanistic psychologists propose a supportive environment for students to learn.

Managing a group of excitable learners is a challenge for any instructor. Jere Brophy, Professor of Educational Psychology, determined that “good classroom management” is fundamentally a teacher’s willingness to be responsible for classroom control. In the humanistic approach to classroom management, the teacher is identified as a facilitator who encourages students to manage their own learning environment.

1 Roots

The humanistic approach to classroom management is rooted in humanistic psychology, which emerged in the 1950s through the works of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. Challenging the “behaviorist notion of operant conditioning,” the humanistic model emphasizes individuality and self-determination. Behavior is understood from the perspective of the actor rather than the observer.

2 Self-Actualization

Central to humanistic psychology is self-concept, comprising three fundamentals: self-image (conceptualizing how we behave and perceive our actions); ideal-self (our idealized understanding of ourselves, including our goals and aspirations) and self-esteem or self-worth.

Humanistic psychologists highlight that self-actualization, or reaching one's full potential, is achieved through congruence between self-image and ideal-self: we feel a higher sense of self-worth when our behavior is consistent with our self-image as well as our ideal-self. According to Simply, "unconditional positive regard," particularly during childhood, increases a person's likelihood of self-actualization.

3 Classroom Management

From the humanistic perspective, classroom management is fostering a supportive, student-centered environment that facilitates free expression and develops potential. Choice, motivation and self-awareness are considered “conscious” vehicles through which behavior can be conditioned. Rather than depending on positive and negative reinforcement, teachers are encouraged to build relationships that embrace the uniqueness and wholeness of each student, in order to support them in fulfilling potential and self-determination. Methods draw on qualitative techniques such as problem-solving, goal-setting and diary accounts, which empower students in their own learning process.

4 Advantages and Disadvantages

An advantage of the humanistic classroom management approach is its long-term emphasis. Strategies encourage an understanding of thoughts and emotions, enabling an individual to consciously seek behavioral change. New behavioral patterns are self-directed, meaning that they are less likely to collapse in the absence of an authority figure. The approach also prioritizes expression and creativity in the classroom. However, humanistic psychology has been criticized for a lack of tangible theoretical concepts. It is accused of relying too heavily on subjective research methods, which undermine an objective theoretical model.

Based in London, Ann Duncan has been writing online since October 2009. Her monthly articles in entertainment, culture and politics are published on PonderBoxes, a social-commentary blog. She has a Bachelor of Science (with honors) in sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science.