Friday, September 25, 2009

Learning Theories before the 20th Century (Pt. 3): Herbatian Method

     The last part of learning theories before the 20th century...
     The learning theory that I am about to study in this post was developed by Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841), who was a German educationist, psychologist and the founder of pedagogy as an academic discipline. He detailed his ideas of learning in his famous book entitled the Herbartian Method of Teaching. His theory was developed during about the same time when Rousseau's Emile came about, and suggests observation as a mental process that combines new ideas with the ideas that are already in a person's mind. Knowledge and learning, according to Herbart, are not something that comes naturally. It is an understanding developed by associating a new observation with previous knowledge or experiences. To facilitate observation, experiences must be organized systematically and orderly inside one's mind.

     The Herbatian Method has a great impact upon the modern education system in that it leads to the implementation of the following in the general education system:
  • the using of sensory organs for observation processes;
  • lesson materials are organized in a systematic order to facilitate the observation processes;
  • the emphases on the associating of previous knowledge or experiences. 
     Herbart agrees with Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814), a classic German philosopher, that as long as one's soul activities are functioning naturally, the learning activities would always be self-initiated and self-motivated. Learning in this way would not only ensure that knowledge is gained accurately and excessively, the retention would also be permanent. The knowledge gained is not rigid, but flexible and adaptable to daily lives.


  1. Johann Friedrich Herbart was German, not British. Just visited his grace in Göttingen (in the same cemetary as Gauss)last month. It is super interesting to find out about pre-20th century educational thought to see how it has effected our educational systems of today, is it not?

  2. Yes, you are right. Thanks for pointing out the mistake. Will make the corrections. :-)


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