Freedom to Learn Section III: For the Teacher (part one) – The Interpersonal Relationship in the Facilitation of Learning

This section – For the Teacher - is “intended to be of help to the teacher who wishes to take risks in innovation, who like to move toward being a facilitator of responsible freedom.”

This first chapter probes Rogers' relationship to the learning process and the attitudinal climate that promotes this climate. It begins with a statement:
Teaching, in my estimation, is a vastly over-rated function.
He makes the point that "teaching and the imparting of knowledge make sense in an unchanging environment ... but if there is one truth about modern man, it is that he lives in an environment that is continually changing.

Thus, the facilitatation of change and learning becomes the goal of education - changingness - a reliance on process rather than upon static knowledge. The facilitation of learning becomes the new goal of education and this rests upon - not teaching skills, not scholarly knowledge, not curricular planning, not use of visual aids, programme learning, books (although each of these might well be used) - "certain attitudinal qualities that exist in the personal relationship between the facilitator and the learner.

1.   Qualities that facilitate learning

Rogers describes and illustrates the qualities, the attitudes that facilitate learning.

1.1. Realness in the facilitation of learning

Realness or genuineness is the most basic of the essential attitudes. "When the facilitator is a real person, being what she is, entering into a relationship with the learner without presenting a front or a facade, she is much more likely to be effective." The feelings she is experiencing are available to her awareness, she can live them, be them, communicate them, if appropriate. She is "being herself, not denying herself" The teacher can be enthusiastic, bored, interested, angry, sensitive... "because she accepts these feelings as her own, she has no need to impose them on the students" This is in sharp contrast to most teachers who present themselves as a role.
" be real is not always easy, nor is it achieved all at once, but it is basic to the person who wants to become that revolutionary individual, a facilitator of learning."

1.2. Prizing, acceptance, trust

Several terms are used for this attitude: "...prizing the learner, prizing her feelings, her opinions, her person. It is a caring for the person, but a non-possessive caring. It is an acceptance of this other individual as a separate person, having worth in her own right. It is a basic trust - a belief that this other person is fundamentally trust-worthy."
A facilitator with this attitude can fully accept the student's fear, hesitation, satisfaction in achievement, occasional apathy, rivalry with a sibling, hatred of authority, concern about personal adequacy. "What we are describing is a prizing of the learner as an imperfect human being with many feelings, many potentialities ... an expression of confidence and trust in the capacity of the human organism."

1.3. Empathic Understanding

"When the teacher has the ability to understand the student's reactions from the inside, has a sensitive awareness of the way the process of education and learning seems to the student, then again the likelihood of significant learning is increased."
This kind of understanding, "of standing in the other's shoes, of viewing the world through the student's eyes", is almost unheard of in the classroom and is "sharply different from the usual evaluative understanding" (I understanf what is wrong with you). Students feel deeply appreciative "when they are simply understood - not evaluated, not judged, simply understood from their own point of view not the teacher's.

2.   What are the bases of facilitative attitudes?

2.1 A Puzzlement - the 'puzzlement' here are questions that some teachers raise: 'But what if i'm not feeling empathic, do not, at this moment, prize or accept or like my students? What then?' The response is that realness is the most important of the attitudes (hence it was described first) - "... it is more constructive to be real than to be pseudoempathic or to put on a facade of caring." This is not easy, in fact is most difficult, "only slowly can we learn to be truly real."

2.2 A trust in the human organism - holding the thtree attitudes and commitment to being a facilitator of learning is only possible with a "profound trust in the human organism and its potentialities." "The teacher is attempting to develop a quality of climate in the classroom and a quality of personal relationship with students that will permit [the human tendency toward fulfilment] to come to fruition"

2.3 Living the uncertainty of discovery - this confident view of the human being and the attitudes toward students come about - not miraculously - but through taking risks, acting on hypotheses, experimenting. The teacher discovers what is effective for themselves. "When a facilitator creates, even to a modest degree, a classroom climate characterised by all that she can achieve of realness, prizing and empathy; when she trusts the constructive tendency of the individual and the group; then she discovers that she has inaugerated an educational revolution. Learning of a different quality, proceeding at a different pace, with a greater degree of pervasiveness, occurs. Feelings - positive, negative, confused - become a part of the classroom experience. Learning becomes life and a very vital life at that. "

2.4 The evidence - is convincing, even irrefutible. Main research studies are: Barrett-Lennard, Emmerling, Schmuck, Aspy and Roebuck.

2.5 Evidence from students - this is clear by persistent positive student reactions to person-centred classrooms, with personal significant learnings, such as independence, self-initiated and responsible learning, release of creativity and a tendency to become more of a person.

3.   The effect upon the instructor

The faculty member also changes in such a climate.

4.   Too idealistic?

This is a widespread view - however, this is not satisfactory, not good enough. "I can only be passionate in my statement that people count, that interpersonal relationships are important, that we know something about releasing human potential, that we could learn much more, and that unless we give strong positive attention to the human interpersonal side of our educational dilemma, our civilization is on its way down the drain."


  1. This is all TOO MUCH to make one small comment. I think I will have to respond by e-mail, para by para if you would not find it all way too annoying? I can't read this without wanting to say something. Share my thoughts as I go along providing I don't fall back down a hole!

  2. I would LOVE a paragraph by paragraph exegesis - and by all means do it here for all to benefit! :-)


Post a Comment