Humanistic introduction in efl teaching

A Nobel Peace Prize Winner, a German and French theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965) said, that he didn’t know what the destiny of ours would be, but one thing he knew: the only ones among us who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. It was clear from what had been said by Albert Schweitzer that an achievement of the perfect good is close to the seeking of happiness. It is generally accepted that all humanity is trying their fortunes in the different spheres of activity for well-being as human. It brings us to the consideration that the strong desire of the individual about getting happiness is a selfactualization and in this connection it should be noted that cogitative activities with many kinds of other actions are the best means to achieve the highest good of life. This humanistic light can be traced back to Aristotle’s philosophy which had placed great value upon education with believe, that the goal of education was "to cultivate the disposition that will lead people to be ready, able, and willing to engage in the excellent activities that constitute or which lead to happiness" (Patterson, 1973, 34). It is at this point that we can explain the primary idea of humanistic educators about fostering welfare of society by means of developing its personality. For Aristotle, the meaning of all human life is the achievement of happiness and educator is a light and cultivator of the well-being of humanity through developing a self-realized persons. Since the better society is, the happier members of its. This illustrates the importance of humanistic introduction in the higher education institutions.

Humanism itself is a broad philosophical point of view about freedom and dignity of human being. The roots of humanism draw from Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 BC) and Greek philosophers: Plato (c. 429– c. 347 BC), Aristotle (384–322 BC). The term itself can be traced back to the fifteenthcentury Italian humanist a meaning the teacher of the humanities. Humanistic adult education derives from some of the same sources as liberal adult education where the autonomy and dignity of the personality are in the highlight. Humanistic adult educator is anxious about the development of the student as a whole person with a special emphasis upon the relating to moods, feelings and attitudes of the individual. In terms of this particular position, humanistic adult educator is more closely related to some existentialism and phenomenological philosophy. Existentialism is a modern expression of humanistic thought that has had great influence on a number of scholars like Erickson, Roger, and Maslow, who stress the total meaning-structure of individual vision of life of theirs like their work choices, engagement, death and other aspects of life. In according to the Renaissance period of the essential principles of humanistic education have been enunciated by many thinkers since Aristotle. Wang (2005) alleged that if a person could not satisfy his basic needs physically and psychologically, he might fail to focus on his language learning whole-heartedly. For him, affect is not only the basic need of human body, but the condition and requisite of the other physical and psychological activities. The goal of humanistic education is not only about cognitive and intellectual education but mainly about the education of the whole person. It concerns personal growth and the growth of inspiration and to some extent the self-directed learning. The intention of humanistic educators related to psychotherapy’s purpose: making a fully functioning person. Relating to existence of life is ongoing, receptivity to experience, flexible and adaptive process and trust in the student’s mind as the basis for behavior are peculiarities of the person who is able to learn and to adapt to changes (Maples, 1979). Almost all these observers emphasize that humanistic approach is the most significant element in the field of higher education institutions. Patterson (1973) identifies two major principles inherited from earlier educators: "(1) the purpose of education is to develop the potentials-all the potentialsof humans as a whole; (2) the essential method for achieving this is providing a good human relationship between the teacher and the student" (44)Lei (2007) keeps in his existence the humanistic education which is characterized by learner-centeredness and has the aim that is not merely developing the cognitive and linguistic capabilities of the learners but also paying attention to the emotions and feelings of learners. Considering these points into account, it leaves no doubt that the humanistic education led to significant changes in the field of language education: the roles of educators and learners were defined differently, learners' needs were given priority and language pedagogy went through determinative changing.

The main focus of EFL teaching is cognitive development primary for acquiring communicative competence. The most effective way to achieve it is affective development of students. Affective education is based on the good relationships among learners themselves and between educator and learners, encouragement for learners, respecting learner as a singularity, accepting learners’ weaknesses and building their strengths. Such kinds of students’ development help them become more openly and less worried that in turns help awake and reinforce the positive attitude toward language learning. That brings to a consideration that EFL teachers must contribute to the self-actualizing process. In the selfactualizing process students are encouraged to tell about themselves about their attitude toward some of actions or things thus they are involved to extend target language over the whole course. As a conclusion from the previous statements are gathered the main underlying principles of humanistic education:

-A principal purpose of education is to provide learning and an environment that facilitate the achievement of the full potential of students.

  • Personal growth as well as cognitive growth is a responsibility of the school. Therefore education should deal with both dimensions of humans-the cognitive or intellectual and the affective or emotional.
  • For learning to be significant, feelings must be recognized and put to use.
  • Significant learning is discovered for oneself.
  • Human beings want to actualize their potential.
  • Having healthy relationships with other classmates is more conducive to learning.
  • Learning about oneself is a motivating factor in learning.
  • Increasing one’s self-esteem is a motivating factor in learning.

Moskovitz (1978, cited in Johnson & Johnson, 1998)

These principles of humanistic education moved the center from previous teacherfronted classrooms and guided the education towards the view of learners as the key in the EFL teaching process. As a result of the point on the learner-centered education some important changes has to be taken into the attention of educator and the main idea of them is a crucial role of language education in compliance with affective education, where main part of EFL teaching occupy relationship among people in the classroom. Accordingly humanistic educators communicate freely, showing that they feel very strongly about what they are saying to their students and induce them to do the same.

Earl Stevick said that in a language course, success depends less on materials, techniques and linguistic analyses, and more on what goes on inside and between the people in the classroom. In the field of language teaching methodology in higher education institutions humanistic approach is the most significant element in the teaching process. Humanistic education is student centered and starts with the idea that students are different, and it strives to help them become more like themselves and less like each other through encouraging the development of positive attitudes toward language learning, through raising motivation and reducing a feeling of worry, nervousness or confusion about feedback as well as trough supporting different learning styles to give students encouragement, hope and self-confidence for firmness in the difficult and confusing process of learning another language. Within humanistic approach classroom activities occupy an integral part of instructional practices where special care has to be taken in their construction by teachers.

For these activities Moskovitz (1978, Johnson & Johnson, 1998) enumerates a number of classroom settings like: Lowing risk it means students are always sure they are supported by teacher and in any case they can receive an encouragement, in other words non-personally threatening activities, should be used by teacher especially in the very low rating, so that students receive their passing mark (50) in subject.

-Intensifying the positive and avoid the negative focus. It is really bad idea to lay stress upon students’ failure or the gaps in education. It had better make up for a deficiency in a delicate and tactful way and offer a reward for some information about feedback.

-Giving students the opportunity to verbalize before others something they like about themselves, as customarily we are meant to keep this to ourselves. Jointly with giving them the linguistically opportunity to practice the language for expressing and the vocabulary by means of constructed in a special way activities.

Thus classroom activities encourage students to really look at their peers and focus on seeing the beauty of others and accept themselves. That means they are aware of their strengths and weakness. They know that they are not perfect, and yet they can perform at high level. Building on the strengths and accepting their weaknesses, they are ready to develop strengths and overcome the difficulties in confusing process of learning another language. Thus they become less likely to judge and more likely to encourage and help each other.

For this case teachers should be real facilitators of learning and concentrate more on how to learn than what to learn, it means, they should provide students with fishing gear rather than fish. Therefore if you as a teacher wish to be a real facilitator, you should pay attention to: 1) the way you listen; 2) the way you speak; 3) your use of power and authority;

  1. your attention to the processes in the group;
  2. noticing your own attitudes and beliefs; 6) redefining problems, seeing things differently;
  3. your own inner state. Consequently attention requires to be paid for the some issues in the educators’ capabilities, in reality humanistic educators acquaint with the psychological learning process and atmosphere besides knowing English as language itself and methods and strategies of teaching English.

In order to promote motivation and success in a language course you should help students identify their needs about what kind of skills do they need? And their purposes that awake have awaked them to start a language course. The first step forward identifying needs is to listen. For these teachers gather feedbacks in as many ways as possible from the students. They are listening, asking, watching and thinking what they teach and how, in terms of selection different kinds of materials and techniques and strategies in other words teacher conduct needs analysis. The main point of this is: teacher doesn’t begin with their own knowledge or expertise. They begin with the questions that will help identify needs, before they try to meet them: What do I really know about needs of my students? How do I ask, and how often? Am I open to hearing things even I don’t want to hear? Teacher will thrive because of listening and making sure that what syllabus offers is what students really need. If poor content of syllabus is chosen then excellent learning and teaching will result in a poor return for teaching and learning efforts. The other necessary requirement for success in a language course is students’ trusting the teacher. Educator knows that saying one thing and doing another can destroy trust. In opposite way being faithful to own word, even though it is not easy at all, can bridge the trust between educator and students. Humanistic educators don't joke about such a delicate subject as slow students as it can have an extending negative effect on students. On the contrary the word of an encouragement, a smile and a well-considered remark can have an extending positive effect.

Teachers in humanistic classrooms had better create a community learning. In these classes, teachers are not the controllers but the actual facilitators. As cited in Wang (2005), within humanistic classrooms, the students’ multiple perspectives are valued and their errors are admitted. Some of the cooperative activities, such as pair-work or group-work are good examples for this point, since in such activities, the students can best convey their ideas and the anxiety is much less. But, attention requires to be paid for the some issues in the group of students like:

  1. exchange the members in every group atmosphere where a sense of belonging pervades and, as was remarked earlier, this end is easily achievable via conducting learner-centered classes from time to time, for freshness is frequently a significant factor to awaken students’ interests in learning;
  2. the slowest student and the best one should be denied being in the same group, since the slowest student can benefit nothing from such group except that his self-esteem diminishes. Before an excellent partner, the only thing he can do is to keep silent.

As a result humanistic education seeks to emphasize that the affective aspects of language learning are as important as the cognitive aspects, and therefore the learner should be treated in some sense as a 'whole person', that is, every student in the classroom should first be looked at as a human, then a learner. As a matter of fact, actually humanistic approach is the teacher’s attitude towards students with love. Teaching requires love. It is less about controlling as compliance does not create passion it does not make the student wiser. Controlling does not lead to creativity and flexibility. It does not breed to freedom. Humanistic education is more about caring for students by teacher as a useful source of information and knowledge for them. It is about being the light for students, a standard setter and a builder of community, some place or conditions, in which students can do good study, can find meaning in the target language learning and can bring their spirits to the learning process. When you love students your positive attitude, good job, excellent curriculum are self-evident, since you can see EFL study through the eyes of your students for helping them make it results in a rich return for learning effort. Therefore the basic of all decision making become what is the loving thing to do? It is sure thing when you love you can help students and it goes without saying, you can know more about language teaching methodologies yourself by discovering them in your teaching process. Actually students become the main point of teaching and you as an educator have never lost the main start of EFL teaching a success and self-actualized person who speaks English as well as native language.



  1. Elias, J. L., & Merriam, S. B. (2005). Philosophical foundations of adult education (3rd ed.). Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishers
  2. Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Understanding language teaching: from method to post method. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  3. Nation, I. S. P. & Macalister, J. (2010). Language curriculum design. New York, NY: Routlege
  4. Kent M. Keith, The Case for Servant Leadership
  5. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Volume 4, Number 1, January 2013, ISSN 1798-4769. Humanistic Education: Concerns, Implications and Applications Mohammad Khatib, Saeid Najafi Sarem, and Hadi Hamidi
Year: 2014
City: Almaty
Category: Philology