Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi: Theory & Impact on Education

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  • 0:01 Meet Johann Heinrich…
  • 2:25 Pestalozzi's Method…
  • 4:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adam Jordan

Adam is a special educator with a Ph.D. in Education

A Swiss education reformer, Pestalozzi encouraged an approach to education that focused on the whole child. In this video, we will take a look at how his contributions and philosophy have had lasting effects.

Meet Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi

In today's educational landscape, it is quite common to hear a discussion of the concept of inclusion, or the idea that all students deserve equal opportunity regardless of any perceived difference. There are a number of talented and dedicated individuals who have fought to make that conversation possible, but perhaps one of the most dedicated was Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi.

Pestalozzi, often referred to as 'the Father of Modern Education', was born in Zurich, Switzerland, and lived from 1746 until 1827. Like so many other people who eventually find their niche, Pestalozzi's path to becoming an educational reformer was a bumpy one. He bumbled as a clergyman, a politician, and a farmer before combining his experiences and his passions to focus on educational reform. Actually, modern education should probably be thankful for Pestalozzi's early failures and struggle. These struggles and experiences are what shaped his views on educational reform.

Pestalozzi's grandfather was a clergyman, and Pestalozzi pursued this path as well. In this role, Pestalozzi was able to witness intense poverty. Particularly, he was struck by the poor conditions of peasant children working in factories. In the 1700s, helping these people would become Pestalozzi's focus.

His first attempt at reforming education would be the creation of a school for poor peasant children known as Neuhof. This first attempt at reform focused on the production of goods as a means of obtaining financial stability. At Neuhof, children would receive an education funded through their own work. Pestalozzi believed that this education, focused on teaching these children to produce and sell their own textile products, would allow them to escape the clutches of poverty. Neuhof, however, failed financially, causing Pestalozzi to reconsider much of his approach.

As this school failed, Pestalozzi was able to reflect on his philosophy. Through this reflection and a continued effort to reform schooling for the poor, Pestalozzi eventually developed his approach to schooling now known as the Pestalozzi method. The Pestalozzi method is a whole-child approach that emphasizes the development of all aspects of a person, including the head, heart, and hands. When studying Pestalozzi, this is the most important concept to grasp, so let's take a more in-depth look at his philosophical standpoint and his method of schooling.

Pestalozzi's Method and Philosophy

Pestalozzi was heavily influenced by the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Now, Rousseau is quite a complex character, and we don't have time to unpack all of his ideals in this video. Let's just say that when it comes to education, at least, Rousseau believed that human beings were good by nature, and that education should serve to empower people to cooperate in society. If you really want to study Rousseau, his most famous work on education is entitled Emile. Check it out.

Pestalozzi felt the same way as Rousseau about the role of education and the nature of human beings. He believed that all children deserved an appropriate education regardless of background. Of course, given his experiences, he was particularly focused on the inclusion of poor children. In order to achieve the type of educational system he desired, he focused on what has been summarized as the Pestalozzi method.

Let's unpack that a bit. When it comes to the head, Pestalozzi believed that there were some basic things that a child needed to learn. Most importantly, a child needed to learn objectivity. A child needed to be able to observe the world around them and hone their natural ability to make informed decisions. This was obtained through experiences guided by the teacher and rooted in an emotionally safe education environment.

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