Herbartianism (Her-bart-ti-an-ism) is an educational philosophy, movement, and method loosely based on the educational and pedagogical thought of German educator Johann Friedrich Herbart, and influential on American school pedagogy of the late 19th century as the field worked towards a science of education. Herbart advocated for instruction that introduced new ideas in discrete steps. About a quarter-century after his death, Herbart's ideas were expanded in two German schools of thought that were later embodied in the method used at a practice school in Jena, which attracted educationists from the United States. Herbartianism was later replaced by new pedagogies, such as those of John Dewey.


Herbartianism was used most often in adolescent instruction and was greatly influential on American school pedagogy in the 19th century.[1] Herbart believed in maintaining the integrity of a student's individuality for as long as possible during the education process as well as an emphasis on moral training.[2] The goal of herbartiainsim was to aid students in their learning process, beginning from no knowledge to complete knowledge.[3]

Herbart's pedagogical method was divided into discrete steps: preparation, presentation, association, generalization, and application.[1] In preparation, teachers introduce new material in relation to the students' existing knowledge or interests, so as to instill an interest in the new material. In presentation, the new material is shown in a concrete or material fashion. In association, the new material is compared with the students' previous knowledge for similarities and differences, so as to note the new material's distinction. In generalization, the new material is extrapolated beyond concrete and material traits. In application, if the students have internalized the new material, they apply it towards every facet of their lives rather than in a utilitarian manner.[1] Through this process, students will be able to achieve complete knowledge on the curriculum being taught. Herbartianism provided terminology for didactic theory and helped improve teachers professionalism.[4]

Rise and influence

While the term Herbartianism derives transparently from Herbart's name, the movement was only loosely connected to his own ideas and was not an organized practice until 25 years after his death in 1841. Herbartianism was developed from Herbart's philosophy,[5] and divided into two schools of thought. In the first, Tuiskon Ziller of Leipzig expanded on Herbart's philosophy of "unification of studies", especially around a single discipline (called "correlation" and "concentration", respectively).[6] In the second, Karl Stoy of Jena opened a practice school in the style of Herbart's Königsberg school. A student of Ziller and Stoy, Wilhelm Rein, later led the Jena school and designed a German elementary school curriculum that the school used. This school became "the center of Herbartian theory and practice and attracted students of pedagogy from outside Germany, including the United States".[6]

Between the 1890s and the early twentieth century, Herbartianism was influential in normal schools and universities as they worked towards a science of education.[6] Adherents of Herbartianism founded the National Herbart Society in 1895[1] "to study and investigate and discuss important problems of education".[6] Among those prominent in the society were Charles De Garmo (their first president), Charles Alexander McMurry, and Frank Morton McMurry, who all wrote on methods in education. The society also acknowledged works influenced by Herbartianism, such as two works by John Dewey, within a yearbook. The society removed Herbart from its name in 1902 and later became the National Society for the Study of Education.[6]


Newer pedagogical theories, such as those of John Dewey, eventually replaced Herbartianism.[1] Though Herbartian work is unpopular in the 21st century, its greatest influence was in the 19th century's "development of the science of education".[6] In the 1996 Philosophy of Education: An Encyclopedia, J. J. Chambliss wrote that Herbartianism's influence shows wherever "thinking, moral judgment, and conduct" are considered simultaneously.[6]

Notes and references


  1. "Herbartianism". Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2014. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  2. "EVERYDAY USE OF HERBARTIANISM". The Journal of Education. 40 (5 (979)): 93–94. 1894. JSTOR 44040318.
  3. "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Herbart and Herbartianism". www.newadvent.org. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  4. Fujimoto, Kazuhisa (March 1, 2014). "The Development of C. A. Mcmurry's Type Study: Emergence of a Unit Development Theory Embedding Teacher Training". search.ebscohost.com. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  5. Dunkel, Harold B. (1969). "Herbart's Reply to Jachmann's Review of His 'General Pedagogy'". History of Education Quarterly. 9 (2): 234–252. doi:10.2307/367319. ISSN 0018-2680. JSTOR 367319.
  6. Chambliss, J. J (1996). "Herbart, Johann Friedrich". Philosophy of Education: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. Retrieved November 13, 2014 via Credo Reference.

Further reading

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