Pedagogy for the galaxy


How different are the Behaviourists from the Humanists in psychology and the resultant educational approaches?

Their pyschological theories represent two ends on a contiunuum.  

Wolfgang and Glickman (1980) created a framework to help understand and classify different approaches on this continuum.  They described a continuum that went from the Interventionist (where teachers can and should actively intervene and modify student behaviour) to the Non-Interventionist (where the teacher facilitates learning, allowing the student to develop according to their own 'inner unfolding') at the other end of the continuum.  In between these philosophies is the Interactionalist approach (where teacher and students share the power.  Dreikurs model would be an example of this approach).


B.F. Skinner, the poster boy for behavioural psychology and behavioural modification theory in schools, posited that the use of reinforcements promotes learning.  His notion of "Operant Conditioning' was that a person's behaviour could be changed by using consequences that reinforce the likelihood of that behaviour, or reduce the likelihood of an opposite behaviour.  Over time, as the teacher reinforces the desired behaviour, the student would become more likely to repeat the desired behaviour to receive a reward, or avoid a negative consequence.  The teacher should control the conditons and the consequences of actions in the classrom so to create an environment where children can learn.  (Tauber, 2007).

"Teachers cannot, Skinner argues, abrogate their responsibility to control these consequences.  If teachers do not consciously control them, the environment - for example, peers, media and the real world - will.  Students freed from teachers' control simply come under the control of other environmental conditionals.  Whether in Scholarship or self-discipline, freedom is an illusion.  (Tauber, 2007, p. 48).

At the other end of the spectrum, Non-Intervenionist, Carl Rogers founded Humanistic psychology in education.  Abraham Maslow, another important figure in the development of humanistic psychology, provided a heirachy of needs and moved the focus of psychology away from behaviouralism and studies of the unconscious, and moved towards a more positive view of humanity and a focus on self-actualisation.  Rogers developed these ideas into a client-centred approach, which laid the foundation for his student-centred approach described in his seminal work, Freedom to Learn.  Rogers believed that "... students are driven inwardly to perfect themselves outwardly.  They possess an inner desire to become the best person they are capable of becoming - to 'self-actualize'." [sic]  (Tauber, 2007, p. 49).

Whereas Skinner proposed that teachers were obliged to control their students, Rogers stated that teachers had to give their students freedom if they were to develop and learn effectively.  Their role is to be facilitators of learning, providing an atmosphere where children can develop and unfold their inner potential and construct their own learning.  The aim is not to control the students and their learning, but to allow them to develop into the the person their inner desire is pushing towards.  Roger's philosophy supports discovery-based constructivism in which the teachers role is to present their 'real selves', to listen and to have great empathy for their students. Thomas Gordon's Teacher Effectiveness Training system is a classroom management model that is based on Rogerian ideas.  Montessori schools are a good example of a school system that is strongly Rogerian in philosophy.



Tauber, R. T. (2007). Classroom management : sound theory and effective practice (4th ed.). Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers.

Wolfgang, C. H., & Glickman, C. D. (1980). Solving discipline problems:  Strategies for classroom teachers. Boston:  Allyn and Bacon.


What is the credo that forms the basis for Gordon's Teacher Effectiveness Training model?

The following is taken from the Gordon Training website (address below).  Further information on the credo and the program is available on that website.


A Credo for My Relationships with Others

You and I are in a relationship which I value and want to keep.   We are also two separate persons with our own individual values and needs.

So that we will better know and understand what each of us values and needs, let us always be open and honest in our communication.

When you are experiencing a problem in your life, I will try to listen with genuine acceptance and understanding in order to help you find your own solutions rather than imposing mine.  And I want you to be a listener for me when I need to find solutions to my problems.

At those times when your behavior interferes with what I must do to get my own needs met, I will tell you openly and honestly how your behavior affects me, trusting that you respect my needs and feelings enough to try to change the behavior that is unacceptable to me.  Also, whenever some behavior of mine is unacceptable to you, I hope you will tell me openly and honestly so I can try to change my behavior.

And when we experience conflicts in our relationship, let us agree to resolve each conflict without either of us resorting to the use of power to win at the expense of the other's losing.  I respect your needs, but I also must respect my own.  So let us always strive to search for a solution that will be acceptable to both of us.  Your needs will be met, and so will mine--neither will lose, both will win.

In this way, you can continue to develop as a person through satisfying your needs, and so can I. Thus, ours can be a healthy relationship in which both of us can strive to become what we are capable of being. And we can continue to relate to each other with mutual respect, love and peace.

Dr. Thomas Gordon


Abraham Maslow is considered one of the fathers of humanistic theory. What are the central tenants of his theory and what is his Hierarchy of Needs?

Maslow, along with Carl Rogers are considered to be the founders of the ‘third force’ in psychology – humanism. This rejected the behaviourist ideas and the psychoanalysis approach popular at the time for a more positive view of the human experience; that we are inherently worthy and that we are compelled to improve ourselves.

“Maslow believed that we are aware of our motives and drives for the most part and that without the obstacles of life, we would all become psychologically healthy individuals with a deep understanding of ourselves and an acceptance of the world around us.  Where Freud saw much negativity, Maslow focused his efforts on understanding the positives of mankind.  It could be said that psychoanalytic thought is based on determinism, or aspects beyond our control, and humanistic thought is based on free will.” (“Chapter 10: Humanistic Theory”, n.d., para. 4).

Maslow postulated that we have a hierarchy of needs that must be met to allow us to progress to the next level of needs. Essentially, it stated that people are motivated by their needs, physical needs firstly, followed by more emotional/psychological needs.  This theory has been criticised as being simplistic and lacking evidence. However, despite this, the theory is often seen as the basis of humanistic theory. (“Chapter 10: Humanistic Theory”, n.d.).

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


Physiological Needs:  These are our basic needs for survival - Food, water, shelter & sleep. These take primacy if they are not being met.

Safety Needs: Being in a safe situation, protected from danger.

Social & Belonging Needs: This is a desire to be accepted, to feel like we belong.

Esteem Needs: Improving our self-esteem, respect for others and getting respect and recognition from others.

Self-Actualisation: To completely understand yourself. This level is rarely achieved.



Chapter 10: Humanistic Theory (Personality Synopsis). [n.d.]. Retrieved August 2009, from the AllPsych Online Website:

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