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Johann Friedrich Herbart

Updated on December 1, 2016

Johann Friedrich Herbart was a German philosopher, psychologist, and educator. Born Oldenburg, Germany, May 4, 1776.

Herbart, one of the first important educational psychologists, had a great influence on education in Germany and in the United States. He believed that education should mold the moral character of the learner, emphasized the need for arousing the child's interest, and held that the teacher should present new information gradually in order to make it easily understood and accepted.

According to Herbart's method of teaching, new ideas should be presented only after the pupil has had some experience with similar material and can absorb the new information by relating it to something he already knows. This principle led to the development of the scientifically ordered curriculum, which is planned so that pupils move step by step from familiar ideas to closely related unfamiliar ones. Herbart also introduced mathematics into the study of psychology, thus contributing to the growth of experimental psychology.

Herbart was a graduate of the University of Jena and began his career as a tutor in Switzerland, where he became acquainted with the famous Swiss educator Johann Pestalozzi. In 1802, Herbart became a lecturer at the University of Gottingen, and was professor of philosophy at the University of Konigsberg from 1809 to 1833. At Konigsberg he set up a seminary and model school to train high school teachers and to conduct educational research. Among his important works are Text Book of Psychology (1816), Psychology as Science (1824-1825), and Outlines of Educational Doctrine (1835). His complete works were published in 12 volumes in 1850.

Johann Friedrich Herbart died in Gottingen, Germany, August 14, 1841.

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