A later draft of this chapter appears in C. R. Dills & A. J. Romiszowski (Eds.), Instructional development paradigms. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications, 1997

Ralph G. Brockett

Associate Professor

University of Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee


Effective instructional design begins with an understanding of the basic assumptions that underlie the design and development process. This is, essentially, the philosophy that an educator brings to the instructional situation. One's educational philosophy can be articulated by responding to such questions as: (a) What do I believe about human nature? (b) What is the basic purpose of learning and instruction? (c) What do I believe about the abilities and potential of the learners with whom I work?

Humanism provides a way of looking at the instructional design process that emphasizes the strengths the learner brings to the instructional setting. It is an optimistic perspective that celebrates the potential of learners to successfully engage in the instructional process. Although humanism is sometimes subject to criticism regarding its basic tenets, and is perceived by some as an irrelevant way to deal with the instructional needs of the present and future, most of these criticisms are based on misunderstandings of beliefs underlying the paradigm and how these beliefs are played out in practice. Ultimately, humanism can and should have an important role to play in the future of instructional development.

The purpose of this chapter is to offer an examination of humanism and its potential within the state of the art of instructional design theory and practice. The chapter will begin with a look at the philosophical and psychological underpinnings of humanism. Emphasis will then shift to an examination of how principles of humanism can be applied to the instructional development process. Next, some potential limitations of the paradigm will be mentioned. Finally, several conclusions will be gleaned from the discussion relative to the value of humanism as an instructional design model.


Humanism has variously been described as a philosophy, a theory of psychology, and an approach to educational practice. Each of these is accurate. Philosophy and psychology provide a foundation for the understanding of humanism, while education serves a "playing field" upon which these principles are implemented in practice. This section will examine the philosophical and psychological backgrounds while the following section focuses upon the application of these principles to instructional practice.

Humanism as a Philosophy

Humanism is a paradigm that emphasizes the freedom, dignity, and potential of humans. According to Lamont (1965), humanism can be defined as "a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity in this natural world and advocating the methods of reason, science, and democracy" (p. 12). Elias and Merriam (1980) state that humanism is "as old as human civilization and as modern as the twentieth century" (p. 109). Early threads of humanist thought can be found in the works of Confucius, Greek philosophers such as Progagoras and Aristotle, Renaissance philosophers Erasmus and Montaigne, Spinoza in the 17th century and Rousseau in the 18th century. In the 20th century, Bertrand Russell, George Santayana, Albert Schweitzer, and Reinhold Niebuhr have all made contributions to contemporary humanism. Similarly, Nietzche, Tillich, Buber, and Sartre have contributed to the development of existentialism, a contemporary form of humanism (Elias & Merriam, 1980; Lamont, 1965).

Rooted in the idea that "human beings are capable of making significant personal choices within the constraints imposed by heredity, personal history, and environment" (Elias & Merriam, 1980, p. 118), principles of humanist philosophy stress the importance of the individual and specific human needs. Lamont (1965) has outlined 10 central propositions of humanist philosophy. These can be summarized as follows:

1. Humanism is based on a naturalistic metaphysics that views all forms of the supernatural as myth;

2. Humanism believes that humans are an evolutionary product of nature and, since body and personality are inseparably united, one "can have no conscious survival after death (p. 13);

3. Humanism holds that "human beings possess the power or potentiality of solving their own problems, through reliance primarily upon reason and scientific method applied with courage and vision" (p. 13);

4. Humanism holds that because individuals "possess freedom of creative choice and action," they are within limits, "masters of their own destiny"; in this way, humanism is in contrast with views of universal determinism, as well as fatalism and predestination (p. 13);

5. Humanism stresses a view of ethics or morality based in present-life experiences and relationships and emphasizes "this-worldly happiness, freedom, and progress" of all humans (p. 13);

6. Humanism believes that individuals attain the good life by combining personal growth and satisfaction with commitment to the welfare of the entire community;

7. Humanism places great value in aesthetics, and thus, emphasizes the value of art and the awareness of beauty;

8. Humanism values actions that will promote the establishment of "democracy, peace, and a high standard of living" throughout the world (p. 14);

9. Humanism advocates the use of reason and scientific method and, as such, supports democratic procedures such as freedom of expression and civil liberties in all realms of life;

10. Humanism supports "the unending questioning of basic assumptions and convictions, including its own" (p. 14).

In summarizing the essence of these points, Lamont (1965) offers the following observation:

Humanism is the viewpoint that men [sic] have but one life to lead and should make the most of it in terms of creative work and happiness; that human happiness is its own justification and requires no sanction or support from supernatural sources; that in any case the supernatural, usually conceived of in the form of heavenly gods or immortal heavens, does not exist; and that human beings, using their own intelligence and cooperating liberally with one another, can build an enduring citadel of peace and beauty upon this earth. (p. 14)

In a discussion of humanistic philosophy directed toward its application to the field of adult education, Elias and Merriam (1980) summarize the major beliefs of humanism as: (a) human nature is inherently good; (b) individuals are essentially free and autonomous within the constraints of heredity, personal history, and environment; (c) each person is unique with unlimited potential for growth; (d) self-concept plays a key role in influencing development; (e) individuals possess an urge toward self-actualization; (f) reality is a personally defined construct; and (g) individuals are responsible to themselves and to others. While it is clear that the ideas presented by Elias and Merriam are compatible with those of Lamont, by emphasizing notions such as self-concept and self-actualization, the Elias and Merriam description serves as a natural link between humanism as a philosophy and as a theory of psychology.

Humanistic Psychology

For the first half of the 20th century, psychology was primarily influenced by two schools of thought. One of these was psychoanalytic theory, perhaps best represented by Freudian psychoanalysis. The other was behaviorism, reflected in the research and theories of Watson, Hull, and Skinner. However, throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s psychologists such as Gordon Allport, Henry Murray, Gardner Murphy, and George Kelly began to present views "which rejected both the mechanistic premises of behaviorism and the biological reductionism of classical psychoanalysis" (Smith, 1990, p. 8). Thus, it was out of response to both the determinism inherent in psychoanalysis and the limited importance placed on affect, dignity, and freedom found in behaviorism that gave rise to what is sometimes called the "third force" of psychology: humanism.

In describing the development of humanistic psychology, Smith (1990) has noted that the approach began to be recognized as a "movement" during the mid- 1960s. It is important to note, however, that there is no single conception of humanistic psychology; rather, many individuals contributed different elements to the movement. For instance, Charlotte Buhler emphasized the notion of life-span development. Rollo May emphasized European existentialism and phenomenology. The encounter group movement was a vital aspect of humanistic psychology in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly through the work of J.L. Moreno and his development of psychodrama, Kurt Lewin and field theory, and Fritz Perls and his work with Gestalt therapy. And Viktor Frankl, in part through his personal experiences during the holocaust, developed logotherapy as "an account of the human predicament that emphasizes the human need to place death and suffering in a context of human meaning that can be lived with" (Smith, 1990, p. 14).

Probably the two individuals who have had the greatest influence on humanistic psychology, however, were Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. Rogers' approach to therapy was originally described as "nondirective counseling" (1942), but was later recast as "client-centered therapy" (1951, 1961). The essence of Rogers' thinking was that human beings have a tendency toward self- actualization; however, the way in which individuals are socialized often blocks that urge. According to Rogers, a therapeutic relationship based on the values of unconditional positive regard, accurate empathic understanding, and honesty and integrity can help individuals fulfill their greatest potential (Smith, 1990). Through this process, Rogers demonstrated his belief in the potential of his clients and his trust in their ability to take responsibility for their lives.

A major goal of Rogerian therapy is to help individuals foster a greater level of self-direction. According to Rogers, self-direction "means that one chooses - and then learns from the consequences" (Rogers, 1961, p. 171). Self- direction is where a person can see a situation clearly and takes responsibility for that situation (Rogers, 1983). This notion of self-direction has important implications for educational practice which will be discussed later in this chapter as well as in subsequent chapters in this volume by Sisco and Hiemstra.

Maslow developed a theory of human motivation originally presented in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality, which was revised in 1970. This theory holds that needs are arranged in ascending order: physiological needs, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Maslow described the first four levels as "deficiency" needs, in that one must be able to meet needs at a lower level prior to working toward the needs at the next level.

As with Rogers, Maslow designated "self-actualization" as an ideal to work toward achieving. Self-actualization, according to Maslow, is the highest level of human growth, where one's potential has been most fully realized. Maslow held that self-actualizers tend to "possess a more efficient view of reality and a corresponding tolerance of ambiguity; be accepting of themselves and others; demonstrate spontaneous behavior that is in tune with their own values and not necessarily tied to the common beliefs and practices of the culture; focus on problems that lie outside of themselves, thus demonstrating a highly ethical concern; maintain a few extremely close interpersonal relationships rather than seek out a large number of less intense friendships; and possess high levels of creativity" (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 126).

An important element of Maslow's theory is the notion of the "mystic or peak experience" (Maslow, 1970). These are highly intense periods during which person is transformed through new insights. Maslow made the following observation about individuals who reported having had a peak experience:

There were the same feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of great ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placing in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject is to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his [sic] daily life by such experiences. (p. 164)

A more recent exploration of this notion can be found in the work of Csikszentmihalyi (1990) and his concept of "flow".

Maslow's theory has been widely embraced in many areas, such as business and education. Unfortunately, however, it is often treated in an oversimplified manner. This misuse may lead some to dismiss the theory. While an extensive debate over the merits of Maslow's theory is beyond the scope of this chapter, it is important to note that the importance of the theory to this discussion is the value Maslow placed on the potential of human beings to strive for and achieve greater levels of growth.


Humanistic education is a natural outgrowth of principles derived from humanistic philosophy and psychology. Patterson (1973) has stated that "the purpose of education is to develop self-actualizing persons" (p. 22). He goes on to suggest that there are two aspects of humanistic education: facilitating instruction in a "more humane way" (p. x) and developing affective aspects of the learner, which is designed to lead to greater understanding of self and others. Valett (1977) suggests that humanistic education is a lifelong process designed "to develop individuals who will be able to live joyous, humane, and meaningful lives" and that the priorities of this approach should be "the development of emotive abilities, the shaping of affective desires, the fullest expression of aesthetic qualities, and the enhancement of powers of self-direction and control" (p.12). Similarly, Simpson (1976) has offered the following comment:

Affect and cognition, feelings and intellect, emotions and behavior blend in an affirmative framework of values derived from the humanities and from positive conceptions of mental health. These are the hallmarks of humanistic education. (p.16)

The influence of humanism can be seen at all levels of educational practice.

Elements of Humanistic Instructional Development

How do the goals and principles of the humanist paradigm translate into instructional development practice? Elias and Merriam (1980) have provided a synthesis of humanist instructional principles. While their discussion is directed specifically to adult educators, the authors note that these basic elements are relevant to a humanistic approach to education in general. First, they argue, humanistic education is student-centered. This means that the learner is a unique individual who brings a unique set of experiences and needs to the instructional situation. Second, the role of the teacher is "that of facilitator, helper, and partner in the learning process" (p. 125). The effective facilitator is one who is able to set a climate that values and emphasizes the unique experiences and needs of each learner. Third, the act of learning is highly personal. The most valuable learning takes place when what is learned is perceived to be "necessary, important, or meaningful" to the person (p. 126). This is analogous to the idea of "experiential" learning and is based on such elements as self-concept, self-evaluation, intrinsic motivation, perception, and discovery. Fourth, since the goal of humanistic education is to help learners become self-actualizing persons, curriculum (or content) is not an end, but rather, a means of promoting the goals of humanistic education. Fifth, since individual growth and development do not take place in isolation, growth is "best fostered in a cooperative, supportive environment" (p. 129). Competition is typically viewed as detrimental to the process of humanistic instruction.

Shapiro (1986) surveyed 40 well-known writers in the field of humanistic education to determine what these individuals perceived to be the "basic principles" of humanistic education. He later conducted a similar follow- up study with 49 additional authors (Shapiro, 1987). From these 89 experts, Shapiro derived the following 16 instructional principles associated with humanistic education:

1. Emphasis on the process of learning;

2. Self-determination, as reflected in learner autonomy, self- direction, and self-evaluation;

3. Mutual caring and understanding among teachers, learners, and others (connectedness);

4. Relevance of material, including readiness of the student to learn;

5. Integration of affect and cognition in the teaching-learning process;

6. An "awareness of the environment, culture, history, and the political and economic conditions in which learning takes place" (Shapiro, 1987, p. 160);

7. Preference for affective and experiential learning approaches;

8. An approach to social change that is anti-authoritarian with the intent to "serve society by improving its education institutions" (p. 160);

9. Equity, consensus, and collaboration through democratic participation in the learning process;

10. A personal growth orientation that stresses self-actualization via self-awareness;

11. A people orientation based on trust and a positive view of humanity, such as is reflected in McGregor's (1960) "Theory Y";

12. Emphasis on individualism;

13. A concrete, pragmatic view of reality;

14. Self-evaluation that emphasizes formative over summative evaluation;

15. Variety and creativity, as reflected in spontaneity, originality, and diversity in learning;

16. A transpersonal orientation that stresses holistic development of the person, including potential for spirituality.

It can be seen that the principles identified through Shapiro's research correspond closely with the elements identified by Elias and Merriam (1980).

Humanistic Instruction in School Settings: Two Examples

A powerful illustration of this approach can be found in the book 36 Children (Kohl, 1967). In this book, Herbert Kohl describes his first year as a teacher, in a sixth grade class at an inner city school in New York City. Kohl found that most of these young students had already given up on school. He goes on to describe in detail the strategies he used to reach the "36 children" and to help them discover their previously untapped potential as learners. By the end of the year, the vast majority of the group were actively engaged in learning with an enthusiasm that they had never experienced. Unfortunately, as the students moved on to next grade and back into a more traditional classroom setting, most of the group reverted to their previous approach to school and learning. Yet, Kohl's account served as a valuable testimony to the potential of humanistic instruction as a way to address the needs of learners who have typically been disenfranchised.

Another illustration of humanistic instruction with children is the work of Gibbons and Phillips (1979, 1982, 1984), who have described their efforts to help elementary and secondary students move from an authority-directed approach toward greater self-direction in learning. They describe a four-stage program that includes the following elements: at the preschool level, parents model self-directed learning and provide an environment conducive to self- direction; students in the elementary grades are encouraged to undertake individual and group projects of personal interest; secondary students are challenged to engage in a process of developing learning contracts and negotiating learning outcomes; finally, as students make the transition to adulthood, they are given information and skills that will allow them to engage in continuous learning beyond the classroom.

Educational Technology and the Humanist Paradigm

Melton (1990) argues that the field of educational technology was very much dominated during the 1950s and 1960s by a behaviorist-oriented "mechanistic" approach to the design and development of instruction. Citing authors such as Tyler (1949), Skinner (1957), Mager (1962), and Gagne (1965), Melton states that this view stresses objectivity and "the development of techniques to reduce - or even eliminate - the vagaries of human judgment" (p. 27). Over the next two decades, Melton notes a change in orientation, as reflected in the following observation:

By the 1980s the complexity of the situations to which educational technologists needed to respond was emerging much more clearly, and it was generally recognized that learning was likely to be affected by a variety of complex interactions between the personal characteristics of student and teacher, the style of learning and teaching preferred by each, the demands of the subject being studied and the learning-teaching style adopted for this purpose. (Melton, 1990, p. 27)

To illustrate this emphasis on a more humanistic orientation to educational technology, Melton describes three examples from the British Open University. The first example focuses on the development of instructional materials: In this example, course team members have not communicated adequately with one another prior to engaging in materials development. In the example, this resulted in the development of "inappropriate" materials, which in turn lead to criticism and conflict among team members. From this, Melton suggests that the success of a course development team can be hampered by negative judgments stemming from inadequate communication. He argues that such concerns can often be avoided if group members pay attention to the nature of interpersonal relationships.

In the second example, difficulties in conventional approaches to the evaluation of teaching and teaching systems was discussed. Melton pointed out that such "evaluator-centered" approaches, in which the evaluator is expected to pass judgment, can be quite threatening, and can lead to rejection of the findings and recommendations. An alternative approach to evaluation is a "non-judgmental" approach in which the role of the educational technologist is "to help others to gather information and to think about the issues in a supportive, non-threatening environment" (p. 29).

Is it appropriate to foster qualities such as creativity and self- motivation among staff members, when such activities may not be directly linked to meeting specific goals of the institution? This is the theme of Melton's third example. He suggests that when the institutional environment is supportive and non-judgmental, with individuals exchanging views and concerns with each other, then it is possible for both the individual and the institution to benefit from such efforts.

The basic conclusion offered by Melton is "that interpersonal skills are an important part of the human dimension within the field of educational technology, and that they should be developed as an important part of the repertoire of every educational technologist" (p. 30). This conclusion clearly links to several of the basic principles of humanistic instructional design addressed earlier in this chapter.

Humanistic Practices in Adult Education and Training

Humanism has long been a major influence on the fields of adult education and training. As early as 1926, Eduard Lindeman, an adult educator and social philosopher who was greatly influenced by Deweyian progressivism, discussed the compatibility of individual growth and social change as desirable goals by making the following observation: "Adult education will become an agency of progress if its short-time goal of self-improvement can be made compatible with a long-time, experimental but resolute policy of changing the social order" (Lindeman, 1926, p. 103).

Perhaps the most enduring contribution to the humanist influence on adult education and training is found in the work of Malcolm Knowles. In the 1950s, Knowles played an important role in the movement to promote group dynamics, sensitivity training, and experiential learning with adults. His writings over four decades show the evolution of an approach that, even in its earliest versions, placed great trust in adult learners and their potential for growth. Knowles popularized the term "andragogy" in North America and presented it as a model for understanding and facilitating adult learning. Initially, andragogy was viewed as an approach to adult learning, diametrically opposed to pedagogy, the teacher-directed approach most often used with children (Knowles, 1968). After various writers challenged Knowles to rethink his position (Davenport & Davenport, 1985), Knowles (1980) concluded that pedagogy and andragogy should be viewed along a continuum, where andragogy plays an increasingly important role as the learner matures.

The principles of andragogy have been applied successfully in a wide range of settings, including business, government, colleges and universities, continuing professional education, religious education, adult basic education, and elementary/secondary settings. Knowles (1989) provides a personal account of andragogy's development and current status and Brockett and Hiemstra (1991) offer an annotated bibliography of sources related to andragogy.

A second application of the humanist approach in the context of adult education and training can be found in the area of self-direction in adult learning. As was mentioned above, the importance of self-direction was central to Knowles' idea of andragogy. Since the early 1970s, self-direction has emerged as one of the most prominent areas of theory, research, and practice in adult learning. While there are many definitions of self-direction, most emphasize one or both of two dimensions: (a) learner control of the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the learning process and (b) an internal desire or preference for taking responsibility for one's learning. In the present discussion, "self direction in learning refers to both the characteristics of an instructional process and the internal characteristics of the learner, where the individual assumes primary responsibility for a learning experience" (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 24).

Self-direction in learning is an often misunderstood idea. Some of the myths associated with self-direction that have particular relevance to instructional development include the following:

1. Self-direction is an all-or-nothing, either/or concept;

2. Self-direction takes place in isolation;

3. Self-direction is little more than a current educational fad;

4. The time and energy required to implement self-directed learning far outweighs the benefits of the approach;

5. Self-direction is only relevant in learning situations emphasizing reading and writing skills;

6. Facilitating self-direction is an easy way out for educators who may be unprepared or uninterested. (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991)

Research on the phenomenon of self-direction in adult learning has mushroomed since 1970 and has included descriptive surveys of participation in self-directed learning, quantitative studies involving the measurement of self-direction in relation to a host of personological variables, and qualitative investigations designed to provide rich descriptions and/or theoretical foundations relative to self-direction. Together, these investigations have contributed to an understanding of self-direction from several theoretical and methodological perspectives.

The humanist influence on current work in self-direction might be understood more fully through the concept of "personal responsibility." Personal responsibility, according to Brockett and Hiemstra, means that individuals assume ownership for their thoughts and actions. It does not necessarily mean that individuals always have control over their environment or personal circumstances; however, it does mean that such persons have control over how they respond to these elements. It is similar to Rogers' conception of self-direction; he states that one is free to make choices, but then is responsible for the consequences of these choices. The Personal Responsibility Orientation (PRO) model was developed as a way to link the internal and external elements in self-direction to a common thread. That thread is personal responsibility (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991).

Not all adult educators have embraced the humanistic orientation to self-direction. For instance, Flannery (1993) has argued that this humanistic view affords inadequate attention to elements of sociology, such as "the socialization process to roles and one's place in the social strata" (p. 110). Candy (1991) has proposed a different model of self-direction, which is derived from principles of constructivist sociology. The points to be emphasized here are, first, that humanism offers only one lens with which to view the concept of self-direction and, second, that humanism does not necessarily emphasize the individual at the expense of ignoring social context. This latter point was addressed earlier in the quote by Lindeman (1988) and is discussed more fully in the following section.

In terms of application to instructional design, the humanist foundation of self-direction is perhaps best reflected in the "Individualizing Instruction" model, developed by Hiemstra and Sisco (1990) and addressed later in this volume in chapters by Sisco and Hiemstra. This model emphasizes the "teaching-learning" dimension of self-direction. As for the "internal" elements, these can be found in ideas derived from writings in humanistic psychology, such as those mentioned earlier in this chapter. Three applications of approaches designed to foster learner self-direction include facilitating critical reflection (Mezirow, 1985; Brookfield, 1987), promoting self-direction (Ellis & Harper, 1975), and use of "helping skills" in the teaching-learning process (Egan, 1986).


Humanism is a celebration of human goodness and the virtually unlimited boundaries of human potential. As such, it serves as a foundation for an approach to instruction that builds on the natural strengths of learners. Yet, as with any instructional paradigm, the approach is likely to raise a number of questions from those who may challenge humanism's basic tenets and/or the way these tenets are translated to practice. Three such challenges are addressed below.

Views on the Supernatural and Immortality

One of the most immediate criticisms of humanism is the underlying view of the supernatural and immortality. Essentially, humanism stresses the view that because human nature is basically good, the notions of supreme being and afterlife are rejected. As Lamont states: "Humanism is the view-point that men [sic] have but one life to lead and should make the most of it in terms of creative work and happiness" and that "the supernatural, usually conceived of in the form of heavenly gods or immortal heavens, does not exist" (Lamont, 1965, p. 14). For this view, humanism is frequently the target of attack, especially from fundamentalists on the religious right.

To be sure, it is not hard to understand how individuals with a strong religious conviction could have difficulty accepting humanism in its most basic form. Yet, it is important to remember that humanism need not be construed as an "all or nothing" viewpoint. Elias and Merriam (1980), for example, have pointed out that not all humanists see incompatibility between the affirmation of autonomy and the existence of a god. In addressing this issue in the context of educational practice, Hiemstra and Brockett (1994) offer the following comment:

While this assumption may dissuade some individuals from fully embracing humanism, we believe that teachers, trainers, or administrators do not have to abandon traditional theologies in order to celebrate the good of humanity and to engage in practices designed to facilitate self-direction.

The position advocated here is not that one should feel free to "pick and choose" the elements of a paradigm that one wishes to espouse while uncritically dismissing those parts that are difficult or impossible to embrace. Rather, it is suggested that, just as a non-Christian can share in many of the basic values of Christianity, one need not abandon one's personal theology in order to apply the basic practices of the humanist paradigm.

Emphasis on Individual Vs. Societal Concerns

A second criticism of humanism is that it is sometimes erroneously viewed as a self-centered or selfish approach. As was noted earlier, the humanist paradigm seems to have blossomed during the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. Smith (1990) has discussed how the development of humanistic psychology coincided with the counterculture of the 1960s. Several features of the counterculture seemed to share common ground with humanistic psychology, such as individualism, human perfectibility, self-disclosure, emphasis on the "here and now", hedonism, and irrationalism (e.g., dispute with the scientific method).

Here, a related concern is the view held by many of those who believe that the primary purpose of education should be social change. The argument is made that humanism stresses development of the individual to the exclusion of concern about the larger society. Actually, however, such is not the case. Most humanist writers stress the centrality of serving the common good. For instance, Lamont (1965) has noted that the highest good can be achieved by "working for the good of all" (p. 15). In addition, one of the characteristics of Maslow's (1970) self-actualizers is the tendency for individuals to focus upon concerns that lie outside of themselves.

One of the clearest illustrations of how humanism and social change can go hand in hand is presented by O'Hara (1989), who offered a comparison of the ideas of Carl Rogers and the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. While the contexts in which Rogers and Freire have made their contributions are vastly different, O'Hara provides evidence that the basic values held by these two men are very much in concert. She points out that both Rogers and Freire "unabashedly celebrate human existence and our evolutionary potential" and that neither man "gives up on people" (p. 13). Indeed, while most of Rogers' career was spent focusing on the development of individuals, some of his later writings emphasized how the basic principles of the client-centered approach can be used to address broader social issues (e.g., Rogers, 1977).

Conflicts With Behaviorist Thought

A third set of challenges to humanism emanate from those who adhere to a strong behaviorist or competency-based approach to instruction. Indeed, it is quite likely that the strong systems orientation which has characterized instructional development, with its emphasis on measuring observable performance outcomes, has minimized the impact of the humanist paradigm within the field to date. While there are clearly some fundamental differences between behaviorism and humanism, particularly with regard to views about human nature and different emphases on outcomes and process, there is also much common ground between the two views. Hiemstra and Brockett (1994) have identified the following shared elements between the two paradigms:

1. Learning should focus on practical problem solving;

2. Learners enter a teaching-learning setting with a wide range of skills, abilities, and attitudes, and these need to be considered in the instructional planning process;

3. The learning environment should allow each learner to proceed at a pace best suited to the individual;

4. It is important to help learners continuously assess their progress and make feedback a part of the learning process;

5. The learner's previous experience is an invaluable resource for future learning and thus enhancing the value of advanced organizers or making clear the role for mastery of necessary prerequisites.

Other examples that lend support to the idea that humanism and behaviorism can share common ground include a discussion by Miller and Hotes (1982) on ways to humanize the systems approach to individual instruction. While these authors advocated the use of measurable behavioral objectives, practice, and task analysis, they made the point that it is possible to make the system responsive to the needs of individual students through such activities as modeling, learning by doing, and providing positive reinforcement. Still another more recent example can be found in Stoneall's (1992) discussion of how flexible objectives are more valuable than performance-based ones in situations involving learning for personal growth, development of leaders, and providing information.

The point here is that despite some key differences, it is possible to blend elements of both paradigms in a way that will truly strengthen the instructional development process. Again, it important to warn against uncritical "picking and choosing"; however, this is very different from a thoughtful comparison of common ground shared by different paradigms.


Humanism has had an important influence on education, including instructional development, over the past three decades. This influence has produced a clear contribution to educational practice on several fronts. As a way of bringing closure to this chapter, let us examine several major contributions of the humanist paradigm to instructional development.

First, by emphasizing the importance of human potential, the humanist paradigm provides an alternative to deterministic theories. In instructional development, this means that it is important to create a climate of equity within which all learners are treated with respect and dignity, since each learner is viewed as having the potential to succeed.

Second, by stressing the importance of affect, the humanist paradigm contributes to a holistic view of the instructional process. While the basic tenets of humanism may differ sharply from behaviorist and cognitive approaches to instruction, the practice of humanistic instructional design can compliment other paradigms and, thus, contribute to a comprehensive theory of instruction.

Third, as can be seen from illustrations throughout this chapter, humanism emphasizes the development of the person across the entire lifespan. The clear implication for instructional development is that learning is a lifelong process and it is crucial to understand the needs of learners at different points of the lifespan.

In closing, humanism holds much promise for the future of instructional design. While its basic assumptions differ somewhat from the systems view that has been so influential in this field, humanism addresses some areas that have sometimes been less fully explored by other paradigms of instructional development. When looking to the possibility of a "comprehensive" theory of instructional development, the inclusion of the humanist paradigm puts the individual at the center of the picture.


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June 1, 1998

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