The Advantages of a Humanistic Approach in Adult Education Essay

2134 Words 9 Pages
Introduction
Behaviourism is the analysis of observable behaviour (Driscoll, 2005, p. 29). There is no doubt about the influence that behaviourism has had on education. It has been used in many situations that call for behaviour modification. These modification methods are taught to adults who will use them to change their own behaviour when they wish to lose weight, quit smoking, or alter another aspect of how they behave.
Behaviourism as a learning approach has many limitations. Proponents of this method would agree that the only evidence we have or require of a learner gaining knowledge is from observing their behaviour. To them, a learner has learned something if he or she can do the task after instruction that they could not do
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It will be apparent to them that their behaviourist belief has lost some of its steam because of an increased recognition about how adults develop or age, and therefore, learn. The idea that adults can be motivated to learn strictly through operant conditioning, reinforcements or punishments as Skinner’s rats did in his experiments, is somewhat outdated, and has been replaced with more complex descriptions and theories of how adult learning takes place.
From Behaviourism to Humanism
Both the behaviouristic and the humanistic approaches believe that learning should focus on practical problem solving. Humanism takes this idea one step further and requires that an individual must take responsibility for their learning, and that this can be applied to the instructional process. To a humanist, the process of learning, and learning how to learn, becomes more important than the outcome. Humanists would say that the assumption of responsibility for learning in and of itself is a learning experience. Behaviourists may reject the assumptions of self or responsibility, and think that the development of human nature must be more societal in nature. To counter this, Rogers (as cited by Smith, 1999) suggests that humanistic learning can alter the personality, attitude and even the behaviour of the individual, a desirable outcome for a behaviourist.
Behaviourists and humanists share the belief that the learner

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