Our approach to Learning

OUR APPROACH TO LEARNING – A Brunerian approach

Jerome S. Bruner (1915- ) is one of the best known and influential psychologists of the twentieth century.  At the time of writing he is 99 years old!   It is the field of education that his influence has been especially felt. His books The Process of Education and Towards a Theory of Instruction have been widely read and become recognized as classics.

Key themes emerge out of The Process of Education (1960: 11-16) which in our view are just as important for the education of adults as they are for the education of children.  It is these ideas which underpin the type of learning that we engage in on all our courses from Introductory to Diploma level

The role of structure in learning ‘The approach taken should be a practical one. ‘The teaching and learning of structure, rather than simply the mastery of facts and techniques, is at the center of the classic problem of transfer… If earlier learning is to render later learning easier, it must do so by providing a general picture in terms of which the relations between things encountered earlier and later are made as clear as possible’ (ibid.: 12)

Readiness for learning. Here the argument is that schools have wasted atime by postponing the teaching of important areas because they are deemed ‘too difficult’. We begin with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development. (ibid.: 33)

 A SPIRAL CURRICULUM.  This notion underpins the idea of the spiral curriculum‘A curriculum as it develops should revisit this basic ideas repeatedly, building upon them until the student has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them’ (ibid.: 13).

The Process is the important learning.  ‘To instruct someone… is not a matter of getting him to commit results to mind. Rather, it is to teach him to participate in the process that makes possible the establishment of knowledge. We teach a subject not to produce little living libraries on that subject, but rather to get a student to think mathematically for himself, to consider matters as an historian does, to take part in the process of knowledge-getting. Knowing is a process not a product. (1966: 72.

A SPIRAL CURRICULUM:  The learning process on our courses

INTRODUCTION COURSES.  We put the Brunerian “Spiral Curriculum” at the heart of our learning process. Students on our Introduction Courses learn the basic ideas and structure around Adlerian Psychology.  By the end of the course they know what Adlerian Counsellors do and they have a basic understanding of the theory of Adler’s Psychology. This is knowledge based, but the process of learning is experiential.

CERTIFICATE COURSE.  When a student goes on to the Certificate Course, they will meet the same basic  ideas again, but this time, at a different conceptual level. There will be background reading and extended subject material which builds on the basic structure and  which puts another layer of knowledge in place.  Students will experience group work which involves them in seeing the basic ideas operate and work on each other  so that there is increased understanding of their use and effects.

DIPLOMA COURSE .  Over the two years of the course students consolidate what they have learned on the Certificate Course and also see where Adlerian Psychology fits in the overall scheme of other approaches.  In addition to this the theory and practice learned so far is applied to a wide cross section of behaviours and disorders through case study work and clinical supervised practice.

All of the courses are based on a learning that sees the learner fully engaged with the process.

As Bruner said we revisited the basic ideas at every stage in very different ways and at different academic and experiential  levels until the “student has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them”  that is until Adler’s psychology can be understood, used and applied to self and others.


Further reading and references

Bruner, J (1960) The Process of Education, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 97 + xxvi pages.

  1. S. (1966) Toward a Theory of Instruction, Cambridge, Mass.: Belkapp Press

BruSmith, M.K. (2002) ‘Jerome S. Bruner and the process of education’, the encyclopedia of informal education. [http://infed.org/mobi/jerome-bruner-and-the-process-of-education/ ner,.