What is the Holistic Learning Approach and why it is important


How do you view your child’s success? How do you determine that your child is doing well? What do you envision for your child 5 or 10 years hence? Answers to these questions are generally consistent across regions, countries, and around the globe. The Holistic Learning approach helps you achieve these goals.

What is Holistic learning  Approach and Do parents Adopt it?

Most parents consider test or exam scores as a criterion for determining progress. Moving to the next grade is high priority as is scoring high grades or marks. Education is visualized as an important part of growing and development and success is measured in terms of career choice and salary. Yet as adults they envision their child as a responsible, empathetic, and hardworking individual who will not only care for his family and loved ones but also do good for the community. In short, parents envision a well-rounded development and career success for their children. This is exactly what the Holistic learning  Approach is all about.

 The holistic learning  approach is an approach to education where the caregivers – including parents, teachers, and others associated with the child – ensure a well-rounded development of the child with attention not only to academics but other aspects like sports, drama, and other extra and co-curricular activities that promote skills like social interaction, fine and gross motor skills, cognitive skills, reasoning, logic, spatial awareness, and physical fitness. Indeed the holistic learning approach ensures development in all aspects.

Implementing the Holistic learning  Approach

The holistic learning  approach is a set of creative teaching strategies that track a number of metrics apart from academics – such as attendance, participation in activities like class discussion, sports, arts, performance arts, and so on. These metrics are designed to measure different capabilities such as cognitive skills, motor skills, emotional quotient, and spatial capabilities. While these activities are already a part of the school agenda, the metrics are rarely monitored and little attention is paid to skills like reasoning, spatial judgment and so on. They do not form a part of the final assessment nor do they feature in the report card. By monitoring these aspects of development, the holistic learning approach endeavors to achieve the following objectives:

  • Inclusion of diverse learning styles and capabilities in the classroom
  • Ensuring social and emotional development of every child
  • Encouraging self-awareness and mindfulness about thoughts and ideas
  • Encouraging application of learning in real life
  • Encouraging the desire to learn in each child
  • Ensuring a well-rounded development for every child based on individual capabilities
  • Helping each and every child reach his full potential

Under the holistic learning approach – also called the whole child approach – learning is essentially student led. It is the student who determines what will be studied or learned. He will determine how much time to devote to theory, practice, projects, and other aspects of academics as well as time spent on extra and co-curricular activities – based on his interests and capabilities. So for instance a child with strong reasoning capabilities may wish to work longer with subjects like Math or Science but a creative child will prefer to spend time with art or history. The holistic learning  approach takes into account not only the child’s learning capabilities but also his emotional well-being, social skills, fine and gross motor skills, and other capabilities such as reasoning, sequencing, abstract thinking, spatial capabilities and so on. The ultimate objective is to ensure that every child is afforded a learning environment in which he feels safe and comfortable, yet is eager to learn new things. The holistic learning approach leans towards experiential learning.

The Teacher’s Role in Holistic learning  Approach

The teacher’s role in the holistic learning  system of education is simple – to ensure that the child is given the freedom to learn based on his capabilities and interests, and that he is able to reach his true potential. The approach from a teacher’s perspective thus shifts to supportive rather than persuasive. Where earlier teachers attempted to cajole and persuade children using rewards and punishments under the holistic learning  approach, it is the student who will take the initiative to learn and learning will occur not by imparting lessons but by self-reading, experimentation, and questioning the teacher. The supportive tutor will supply answers to the questions asked by the students in a way that the student comprehends. She will explain the concepts by using analogies and examples from real life, and through experiments conducted in a controlled environment. Teachers may use various technological and other learning aids for this purpose.

Along with providing answers, guidance, and direction to students, teachers must also simultaneously ensure that the child is exposed to multiple subjects, activities, and challenges as well as ensure the safety and well-being of the child. The teacher will also provide guidance to the parents of the child and suggest ways to encourage holistic learning at home.

Role of parents in Holistic learning  Approach

The primary responsibility of the child rests with the parents. They are the first caregivers and they are the ones who understand the child’s needs best. The holistic learning  approach therefore begins with the parents. It is primarily the responsibility of the parents to ensure that their child receives a holistic learning  and well-rounded education or learning experience.

The first and foremost responsibility is of course the health of the child – and since holistic learning  approach includes health concerns, the parents must ensure that the child is healthy and medically fit above all else.

Besides this, parents must become aware about their child’s learning style, his cognitive and other capabilities of their children and adapt their learning experience accordingly. If the child is attending school, parents must talk to the teacher about learning styles and discuss the best way to approach learning. If the child is being homeschooled, the tutor must be aware of the learning style and adapt teaching accordingly. Care must also be taken to expose homeschooled children to extra and co-curricular activities such as art, drama, and sports – thus allowing the child the freedom to choose what he wishes to learn. Parents must also monitor cognitive, emotional, and other capabilities and discuss progress with service providers such as teachers or homeschool tutors.

Benefits of the Holistic learning  Approach

Holistic education is an alternative to the traditional push-learning method. It has been proven that a child learns best when he wants to learn and playful – or hands on – learning is the best form of learning. This is what experiential learning is all about. But experiential learning does not consciously monitor emotional quotient and health. The focus is still on academics. On the other hand, holistic learning encompasses all aspects. Through the holistic learning approach, the child learns to use his skills to better his emotional quotient and social skills among other things. Specifically, the holistic approach to learning addresses the five most important skills viz. language, cognition, physical, social, and emotional. As a fall out of this, other skills like fine and gross motor skills and spatial awareness are also addressed. All these skills are necessary not just for academics but to navigate through career and life.

The benefits of holistic approach to education can be enumerated as under:

  • Learning becomes enjoyable
  • Child’s curiosity is spiked – and satisfied
  • The child is a willing participant in the learning process
  • It encourages visualization, abstract thinking, and out-of-the-box thinking
  • It promotes problem solving skills and resourcefulness
  • It removes the stress of performance
  • Learning is faster with better retention of what is learnt
  • It is beneficial in the long term

Holistic is a term that was until not so long ago used by practitioners of alternative medicine. The term holistic learning has evolved over the past few years. It is an emerging concept that is supported by the New National Education Policy which seeks to reduce the performance pressure on children among other things.

If you want to know more about the holistic approach to learning and how you can adopt it do mention in the comments. Do share your thoughts and ideas too. Join our Facebook Community to discuss further – and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so that you’re sure to get the latest from BYN every week.

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