Holistic Learning Theory Essay
INTRODUCTION To say the difference in intelligence is the result of a single skill would be naive at best and a gross misrepresentation at worst. Most researchers believe genius is comprised of numerous abilities from creative problem solving to athletic or musical skill. But in our observations of how we learn and how other people, far more intelligent than us, learn there was one factor that really stuck out. People who learned concepts easily didn’t learn the same way other people did.
It wasn’t that they were using the same strategy more effectively.
These people were operating from a completely different approach that a casual glance could easily miss. We call this approach, holistic learning. Holistic learning is basically the opposite of rote memorization. Instead of trying to pound information into your brain with the hopes it will simply fall out when you need it, holistic learning is the process of weaving the knowledge you are learning into everything you already understand.
The concept of holism refers to the idea that all the properties of a given system in any field of study cannot be determined or explained by the sum of its component parts.
Instead, the system as a whole determines how its parts behave. A holistic way of thinking tries to encompass and integrate multiple layers of meaning and experience rather than defining human possibilities narrowly. One important holistic learning principle is the idea that you cannot separate the teaching and learning experience from the human experience. We are human beings first, who happen to be teaching and learning. We are not teachers and learners who happen to be human. This very aptly reinforces the definition of social studies used in this text as the study of humans.
And what is it that makes us human? Among other things, it is our capacity to think reflectively, imagine, dream, create, intuit, emote, and create. It makes sense then that these dimensions be included in education in general, and in social studies education in particular. HISTORY It is difficult to map the history of holistic education because many feel that the core ideas of holism are not new but “timeless and found in the sense of wholeness in humanity’s religious impetus” (Forbes, 1996). On the other hand, the roots of holistic education can be traced back to several major contributors.
Originating theorists include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, Johann Pestalozzi, Friedrich Frobel, and Francisco Ferrer. More recent theorists are Rudolf Steiner, Maria Montessori, Francis Parker, John Dewey, John Caldwell Holt, George Dennison Kieran Egan, Howard Gardner, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Paul Goodman, Ivan Illich, and Paulo Freire. With the ideas of these pioneers in mind, many feel that the core ideas of holistic education did not truly take form until the cultural paradigm shift that began in the 1960s.
After this, the holism movement in psychology emerged in the 1970s where, during this time, “an emerging body of literature in science, philosophy and cultural history provided an overarching concept to describe this way of understanding education – a perspective known as holism. ” Significant forward motion was accomplished by the first National Holistic Education Conference that was conducted with The University of California, San Diego in July 1979 that included 31 workshops. The Conference was presented by The Mandala Society and The National Center for the Exploration of Human Potential. The title was Mind: Evolution or Revolution?
The Emergence of Holistic Education. For six years after that the Holistic Education Conference was combined with the Mandala Holistic Health Conferences at the University of California, San Diego, with about three thousand professionals participating each year. Out of this came the Journal of Holistic Education and the observation that educators think they are teaching the basic three R’s: Reading Writing and Arithmetic. With Holistic Education the basic three R’s are Education for: Relationships, Responsibility and Reverence for all life. HOLISTIC LEARNING THEORY Definition: “Holistic Learning … involves exploring and making connections.
It attempts to move away from fragmentation to connectedness … The focus of holistic education is on relationships: The relationship between linear thinking and intuition, the relationship between mind and body, the relationship among the various domains of knowledge, the relationship between the individual and community, the relationship to the earth, and the relationship between self and Self” (Miller, 1996, p 8). Holistic learning, also known as global learning, is a learning style based on the principle that students will learn more effectively when all aspects of a person–mind, body and spirit–are involved in the experience.
While there are various ways to approach a holistic education, all differ greatly from traditional educational methods FEATURES Holistic education is mainly characterized by its focus on fostering learning by relating to subjects on a personal level and by its emphasis on interrelating subjects and concepts. * The holistic method strives to mimic the way the brain learns information naturally; that is, with related bits of all subjects–history, science, literature–connected together. * Subjects are not learned separately, but rather in relation to one another and in relation to what the student already know. Concepts are studied from many different perspectives and rote memorization is strongly de-emphasized * By contrast, traditional educational methods keep subjects strictly separate, with subjects and concepts compartmentalized and few connections made between them. * Concepts are generally presented from one perspective and learning depends heavily on repetition and memorization. TYPES Most holistic learning methods generally incorporate two main approaches: “Whole brain learning and multiple intelligences. ” WHOLE BRAIN LEARNING
In whole brain learning, the subject to be learned is approached from multiple perspectives, especially those that involve as many senses as possible. The goal is to let the student experience the subject matter on a sensory, emotional and intellectual level so that they can build up a neural network related to the subject. MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES Multiple intelligence learning is based on identifying the student’s particular intellectual strength or learning style (for instance, auditory, kinesthetic or musical) and gearing the student’s learning of a subject to include that strength.
STEPS OF HOLISTIC LEARNING Most educational experts consider the following three steps to be essential for holistic learning: 1. When approaching a new subject, draw out or visualize as many aspects of the information as possible. 2. Relate what you are trying to learn to something you already know. By thinking about new information from the perspective of something that it is similar to, you are creating a neural connection between the old and new information. 3. Learn as much as possible about the subject from every possible angle. ROTE MEMORIZATION AND HOLISTIC LEARNING
Rote memorization focuses on learning through individual boxes of information. Like a computer filing system, everything is neat, organized and separate from each other. You have a box labeled science, one for history, one for the movie you watched last week and another for your job. These boxes are split into more boxes. Your science box has a separate one for biology and physics. Physics has unique boxes for different formulas and concepts. The problem is that your brain isn’t a computer filing system. It’s a network of interconnected neurons.
When you need information you are just hoping that you stumble upon the thread that leads to the box you want. Otherwise you’re screwed. Holistic learning is messy. It doesn’t put things into boxes neatly. Instead it tightly interweaves concepts together. Science concepts remind you of history which remind you of the movie you saw last week and the project at your job tomorrow. Within each general subject area, your web is even more tightly interwoven. Every concept in physics is linked with almost every other. A tight web means that when one pathway is b. ocked, there are hundreds of others that lead to the same point of information. Tight webs may seem like an abstract concept, but you know the feeling when you have one. A tight web results in the feeling of “getting” it. You understand the subject or concept so thoroughly that aspects of it seem obvious and trivial. Comparing Rote Memorization to Holistic Learning Rote Memorization ? Organizes Ideas into Boxes ? Keeps Subjects and Concepts Distinct ? Few Neural Paths to the Same Idea ? Views Concepts through One Perspective ? Aims to Learn Through Repetition Holistic Learning ? Organized Ideas into Webs Interrelates Subjects and Concepts ? Many Neural Paths to the Same Idea ? Views Concepts through Many Unique Perspectives and Senses ? Aims to Learn by Relating CRITICISMS TO HOLISTIC LEARNING When holistic learning was publicly made known it got a lot of support but some interesting counter arguments. Although we’ve tried to integrate and fix our understanding of holistic learning as a result of those criticisms, holistic learning is not a perfect remedy for genius. It is only one way of looking at the process of learning and there are areas where it doesn’t apply. ARBITRARY INFORMATION
Holistic learning works best when there is an underlying system to be understood. It assumes that a proper construct exists, just that there is difficulty creating it. This applies to most subjects. Science and math tend to be the best but relationships, culture, computers, life, health, emotions, and philosophy all work well. But where holistic learning breaks down is where no construct really exists. Law is a great example. Although there are some weak constructs that can be applied to laws, they are weak and arbitrary. One cannot assume a law exists based on the linking of similar laws.
Rule based systems that are highly arbitrary require other skills that holistic learning doesn’t cover. History works a bit better with holistic learning, but there are many cases where information and data don’t fit into an underlying system and are just a series of facts. Spelling, vocabulary and languages often have similarly weak potential for forming constructs. SUBCONSCIOUS LEARNING Holistic learning focuses on concepts. But there are areas of life that don’t rely on conceptual understand at all. Tiger Woods doesn’t have to be a great holistic learner to win the PGA.
Skills are learned subconsciously and don’t benefit much from holistic learning. Every form of learning is somewhere along the scale from highly conceptual to highly skillbased. Holistic learning emphasizes the highly conceptual end. These are usually the type of learning done in schools and many professions. But just as excessive memorization is a poor way to learn concepts, interlinking is a poor way to learn skills. CONCLUSION Although we have many ideas, if there is one takeaway idea it is that you should be creating vast webs of interlinked ideas rather than pounding information into your skull.
Not only is this a more effective form of learning it is more enjoyable. Instead of learning a dry subject and trying to force your brain to store it, you are using your mind the way it was intended. REFERENCES 1. http://www. hent. org/ Holistic Education Network 2. Forbes, Scott H. Values in Holistic Education. Paper presented at the Third Annual Conference on Education, Spirituality and the Whole Child (Roehampton Institute, London, June 28, 1996). 9 pages. 3. http://www. scotthyoung. com/blog/2007/03/29/studying-and-holistic-learning/ 4. www. ehow. com Amini Nsibi Clifford