“ There are wholes, the behavior of which is not determined by that of their individual elements, but where the part-processes are themselves determined be the intrinsic nature of the whole. It is the hope of Gestalt theory to determine the nature of such wholes.” Max Wertheimer ,1924
In other words, the Gestaltists believed that phenomenological experience should not be studied in parts but as a whole. This is because our brain processes the information received from our senses organizing it in Gestalten (meaningful wholes).
The cognitive process that our brain exercises on the sensory stimulation simplifies, organizes and adds meaning to our psychological experience.
What the Gestalt psychologists study is human perception. And according to them, our conscious perception of sensorial elements is diverse to the sensorial elements themselves, because we add a meaning to it. Therefore, according to the Gestalt psychologists “The Whole is more than the sum of its parts”
According to K öhler, a general dynamic interdependence exists in our sensory field, although dynamic factors operate towards a measure of segregation.
In most visual fields the contents of particular areas “belong together” as circumscribed units which are segregated from their surroundings.
These units acquire names and become richly symbolic.
This organization into units is not present in the stimuli themselves, but a product of our neural functions.
Law of Pr ägnanz
“ Psychological organization will always be as good as the controlling circumstances allow”- Law of Pr ägnanz or of “Essence”(Koffka, 1963) is the basis to all cerebral processing of sensorial information in Gestalt psychology.
The law of Pr ägnanz is based on a series of principles. That explain the ways in which we come to perceive Gestalten.
Gestalt Principles of Perception
Principle of Closure-
Our cognitive process completes incomplete sensorial elements, causing us to consciously perceive them as a “whole” or gestalt.
Ehrenstein Kanizsa Triangle
Principle of Similarity- We perceive sensorial elements which share similar characteristics as a “whole” or Gestalt.
Principle of Proximity
We perceive sensorial elements that are close to each other as a “whole” or Gestalt.
Principle of Symmetry-
We perceive simple and regular “wholes” more readily than irregular ones.
Principle of Continuity-
If one sensorial element directs us to another we perceive both as a “whole” or Gestalt.
Principle of Figure-Ground perception-
We separate whole figures from their backgrounds based on one or more of a number of possible variables.
Gestalt Learning A holistic approach
Interdisciplinary learning and Topic work
Learning beyond subject boundaries
Based upon experiences and outcomes drawn from different curriculum areas or subjects within them
Provides relevant, challenging and enjoyable learning experiences and stimulating contexts to meet the varied needs of children
Revisiting a concept or skill from different perspectives deepens understanding and can also make the curriculum more coherent and meaningful from the learner’s point of view.
Cross Curricular Learning
Cross curricular learning gives children the notion that things are connected and topics are not isolated facts with no link to reality. Children have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in a wider variety of fields
"The coherence of the curriculum can be strengthened by combining aspects of one subject with those of another" Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA)
According to Hull's (1993) definition of contextual learning, learning occurs only when learners connect information to their own frame of reference:
"According to contextual learning theory, learning occurs only when students (learners) process new information or knowledge in such a way that it makes sense to them in their frame of reference (their own inner world of memory, experience, and response). This approach to learning and teaching assumes that the mind naturally seeks meaning in context--that is, in the environment where the person is located--and that it does so through searching for relationships that make sense and appear useful."
Psycholinguistic Guessing Game
In 1967, Ken Goodman wrote and article on the "psycholinguistic guessing game". He said reading is a process that relies on holistic examination of words.
graphophonemic cueing system
semantic cueing system
syntactic cueing system
According to Goodman, these systems overlap and work together to help readers "guess" appropriately. He emphasized that pronouncing individual words will involve the use of all three systems (letter clues, meaning clues from context, and syntactical structure of the sentence
He carried out studies with children. They read words individually and then the same words in connected text, the children did better when they read the words in connected text
Piaget and Vygotsky highly valued the writings by gestalt psychologists.Although Piaget later developed one central criticism of the Gestalt theory its lack of concern with the genesis of structures under discussion.
Piaget and Vygotsky The social genesis of thought. Anastasia Tryphon and Jacques Voneche (eds) 1996
Gestalt theories of perception are criticized for being descriptive rather than explanatory in nature. For this reason, they are viewed by some as redundant or uninformative. For example, Bruce, Green & Georgeson conclude the following regarding Gestalt theory's influence on the study of visual perception.
Bruce, V., Green, P. & Georgeson, M. (1996). Visual perception: Physiology, psychology and ecology (3rd ed.). LEA. pp. 110.
A general criticism of Gestalt theory has been that it does not provide an explanation of emotion and personality.
The Philosophical review, Volume 45 By Jacob Gould Schurman, James Edwin Creighton, Frank Thilly, Sage School of Philosophy, Gustavus Watts Cunningham