Person-Centered Online Education: What Carl Rogers Has to Say to Teachers in Computer-Mediated Environment

Person-Centered Online Education: What Carl Rogers Has to Say to Teachers in Computer-Mediated Environment

Daniel J. Henry (Auburn University, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-068-2.ch003
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The great psychologist Carl Rogers not only made major strides in psychotherapy by developing client-centered therapy, but also applied these humanistic principles to teaching and learning. As designers and teachers in the built environment of online learning and teaching seek to design educational experiences exemplifying practices in teaching and learning, an examination of Rogers’s person-centered learning can give instructional designers another lens through which to view student engagement and learning.
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Carl Rogers and his person-centered psychological approach provided therapists, teachers, social workers, and instructional designers with an important set of tools to think about how human beings learn, and what the relationship is between the teacher and the student. His humanistic approach to education (1969, 1983), which focused not only on the subject being learned, but also the potential of the human being to achieve lifelong benefit and move towards actualizing his or her full potential, represents an important way of reframing the teaching and learning process, and suggests a useful and valid approach to thinking about new ways of delivering education.

As more teaching and learning move from traditional brick and mortar settings to other modes of content delivery, synchronous and asynchronous, podcasts, the use of social media in instruction, and other technologies yet to be developed, it is important to remember that all teaching, irrespective of the method of delivery, encompasses as a primary component the relationship of the instructor (teacher, professor, trainer) and the student (client, trainee, mentor, intern). As educators move towards models of instruction that are increasingly taking place in non face-to-face settings, it is important to remember that an approach that intentionally emphasizes that relationship becomes more crucial the less time that teachers and students spend in the same physical space.

This chapter serves four primary purposes: The first is as a review of Rogers’s basic humanistic approach towards how humans grow and change. The second section of this chapter examines Rogers’s specific ideas about education, his Freedom to Learn (1969, 1983) series, and other writing and theoretical ideas. The third section of this chapter gives a brief outline of some of the most recommended practices in online learning, specifically in regard to the relationships between instructors and students, students and the classroom community as a whole, and students and the material being studied. Finally, these best practices are compared and contrasted with the views of Rogers and recommendations for practice in online education will be presented.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Unconditional Positive Regard: A state in which one human (often a teacher or therapist) holds another human (often a student or client) in a positive light and without judgement.

Person-Centered Education: Education that has as its central premise the importance of starting with the person and giving that person control over his or her learning. Person-centered education is based on Rogers’s concept of client- and person-centered growth.

Humanistic Education: A movement in education based on the work of Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and others which seeks to educate and involve the whole person in learning. Humanistic education is often contrasted with behavioral or cognitive education.

Computer-Mediated Learning: Learning that takes place through the utilization of online, multi-media, web-based, and other forms of instruction provided by computers.

Empathetic Understanding: This is a state of a teacher or facilitator of learning listening to and feeling the emotions of a student in a person-centered educational experience.

Congruence: This term refers to a facilitator of learning having access to and being aware of his or her own feelings continuously as they experience interactions with students or others.

Locus of Control: In psychology, this term, used by a wide variety of theorists in explaining topics ranging from behavior, to motivation in learning examines the extent to which the subject (student, client, etc.) believes that events occurring in his or her life are under their personal control. Strong internal loci of control have been strongly linked to success in careers and education.

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