Carl Rogers’ Theory in Education

Carl RogersPsychotherapist Carl Rogers (1902-1987) born in Illinois, USA is well known for being the founder of ‘Humanistic Psychology’. Believing that therapy should be client centred. Rogers initially studied theology, but later moved towards a more educational aspect of psychology. Throughout his life, Rogers studied at a number of institutes including the University of Wisconsin and Union Theological Seminary. He dropped out of the Union Theological Seminary to study clinical psychology at Columbia University.

Rogers is famous for his ‘Personality Development’ theory.  He believed that humans can change the personality of other individuals. Rogers came up with the concept of ‘client centred therapy’.  ’Rogers proposed that therapy could be simpler, warmer and more optimistic than that carried out by behavioural or psychodynamic psychologists.’  (McLeod, 2008) Rogers (1986) said that “It is that the individual has within himself or herself vast resources for self-understanding, for altering his or her self-concept, attitudes and self-directed behaviour – and that these resources can be tapped if only definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided”. (Kirschenbaum, H and Henderson, V (1989))

For his theory he identified 6 conditions:

  1. Two people must have psychological contact
  2. One of the two have to be in a state of ‘in-congruence’, vulnerable or anxious (client)
  3. The other must be congruent or intergrated into the relationship (therapist)
  4. The individual who is congruent must show unconditional positive regard for the one in a state of ‘in-congurence’
  5. They must also have empathy towards the one in a state of ‘in-congruence’
  6. This all must be to a minimal degree

Roger ‘believed that the experience of being understood and valued gives one the freedom to grow’ Rogers took his experiences from therapy to the process of education and ‘developed the concept of learner-centred teaching.’ He came up with five ideas for learner-centred education.

  1. ‘A person cannot teach another person directly’
  2. ‘A person learns significantly only those things that are perceived as being involved in the maintenance of or enhancement of the structure of self.’
  3. ‘Experience which, if assimilated, would involve a change in the organization of self, tends to be resisted through denial or distortion of symbolism’
  4. ‘The structure and organization of self appears to become more rigid under threats and to relax its boundaries when completely free from threat’
  5. ‘The educational situation which most effectively promotes significant learning is one in which (a) threat to the self of the learner is reduced to a minimum and (b) differentiated perception of the field is facilitated’

Rogers’ ‘Personality Development’ Theory is important when it comes to learning because if we create the idea of learner centred learning, the pupil is more likely to want to learn and retain the knowledge.

The idea of ‘unconditional positive regard’ is another main link in Rogers theory to learning and education. When teaching children teachers must be aware on how what they say can affect the child. By positively encouraging students, it helps them want to find out more, and should produce a more relaxed working environment.

carl quote


Kirschenbaum, H and Henderson, V (1989) The Carl Rogers Reader  Library of Congress Cataloging-in Publication Data: New York.

McLeod, S. (2008) Person Centered Therapy [Online] Avaliable at: (Accessed: 22 Jan 2013)


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