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The Holistic And Humanistic Approach To Pedagogy: Raising The Standards Of Educator Training Curriculum
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The Holistic And Humanistic Approach To Pedagogy: Raising The Standards Of Educator Training Curriculum

Much like a pie, when students are prepared with attention to detail and care, they will have a positive impact on everyone they encounter. Photo by David Vespoli.

What do we mean when we say “the holistic and humanistic approach”? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term “holistic” as an entity in its entirety; the whole”.

According to The Free Dictionary (Medical Division), ‘holistic medicine’ is a term used to describe therapies that attempt to treat the patient as a whole person. That is, instead of treating an illness, as in orthodox allopathy, holistic medicine looks at an individual’s overall physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well being before recommending treatment.

A practitioner with a holistic approach treats the symptoms of illness as well as looking for the underlying cause of the illness. In the fourth century B.C., Socrates warned that treating one part of the body would have good results. The American Board of Holistic Medicine has established the core curriculum upon which board certification for holistic medicine will be based. It includes the following twelve categories:


  • Physical and environmental health
    • Nutritional medicine
    • Exercise medicine
    • Environmental medicine


  • Mental and emotional health
    • Behavioral medicine


  • Spiritual health
    • Spiritual attunement
    • Social health

The six specialized areas

  • Bio molecular diagnosis and therapy
  • Botanical medicine
  • Energy medicine
  • Ethno medicine
  • Homeopathy
  • Manual medicine

The National Council on the Accreditation of Teacher Education has, at present, no standard that match or define the use of holistic approaches to pedagogy.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has five standards that encompass teaching to the student but does not hit the mark. The Educational Testing Service also has principles which also come close, but no cigar. Now for the other term in this conversation; Humanism. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘humanism’ as a doctrine, attitude or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individuals dignity and worth and capacity for self realization through reason. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has established new standards which encompass a humanistic approach of doctor-patient relationship. It basically states that doctors must help the patient the best way they can to attain full health potential.

These are two powerful standards. And yet there is no specific standard in education practices. Why is that so? Let me elaborate on the need.

For the purposes of this explanation we will something as simple as a circle. Make believe that you’re hosting a party and the invited guests just brought you various delicacies from the grocery store. But one of the guests baked a pie from scratch. She prepared it with love and care making sure that it had the right ingredients proportionately, as well as the freshest. Everyone who is at this party devours it and gives it high praise.

Now let’s transpose what we just read into educational practice. A student is like the best pie. All the ingredients (understandings) are contained in that student through experiences (preparation). As the student progresses through the educational journey, the more that student is prepared for his/her life’s journey. The culmination of the cooking process (learning) causes the people at the party to partake of that pie made with love (student with motivating ideas). So let us go back to the circle. There is a mathematical symbol called “pi”. Since we are using educational terms we will mutate the spelling from “pi” to “pie”. We will call that the holistic approach meaning all encompassing.

Transmutating the concepts of humanism (to its greatest potential) we will use the word rigor (persistent challenge and motivation). The formula that best explains the need for these characteristics can be shown by the same formula that we use for the area of a circle to wit. A equals pi r squared.

In simple terms; Acknowledgement of understanding = the holistic approach x rigor

This was an alteration of a formula by Archimedes, a Greek mathematician of the third century B. C.

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