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Gestalt psychology or gestaltism
(German: Gestalt – "shape or form")
School of psychology founded in the 20th century that provided the
foundation for the modern study of perception. Gestalt theory
emphasizes that the whole of anything is greater than its parts. The
word Gestalt is used in modern German to mean the way a thing has
been “placed,” or “put together.” There is no exact equivalent in
English. “Form” and “shape” are the usual translations; in psychology
the word is often interpreted as “pattern” or “configuration.”
Gestalt theory was introduced as a contrast to at the
time dominant structuralism, which claimed that
complex perceptions could be understood through
breaking them into smaller elementary parts of
experience, like splitting graphical forms into sets of
dots or melody into sequence of sounds.
The idea of Wertheimer was that the ability to perceive
objects was an ability of the nervous system, which
tends to group together objects that are
nearby, similar, form smooth lines, form most of the
shape we can recognize.
Gestalt Laws of Organization
We tend to organize perceptions into the object being looked at
(the figure) and the background against which it appears (the
There is a tendency in our perception to complete incomplete
figures, to fill in gaps.
Parts that are close together in time or space appear to belong
together and tend to be perceived together
There is a tendency in our perception to follow a direction, to connect the
elements in a way that makes them seem continuous or flowing in a
Similar parts tend to be seen together as forming a group.
Wolfgang Kohler was the first psychologist who
developed the insight learning in which he
described an experiment with apes that could use
boxes and sticks as tools to solve problem.
in the box problem, the banana is attached to the top of a
chimpanzee’s cage. The banana is out of reach but can be
reached by climbing upon and jumping from a box. Only one
of Kohler’s apes(Sultan)could solve this problem. A much
more difficult problem involved stacking the boxes. This
problem required the ape to stack one box on another , and
master gravitational problems by building a stable stack.
Kohler also gave the apes sticks which were used to take food
into the cage. Sultan, Kohler‘s very intelligent ape, was able to
master a two-stick problem by inserting one stick into the end
of the other in order to reach the food.
The important aspect of learning
was not reinforcement, but the
coordination of thinking to create
new organizations. Kohler referred to
this behavior as insight or discovery
the cross-curricular & critical thinking
The cross-curricular approach embodies the concept of wholeness in
learning and offers to students a “Gestalt” type view and
understanding of the world around them. Gestalt refers to the idea that
the ‘whole’ of something represents more than just the sum of its
An EFL class, for example, might involve students in researching
material about historical events they are currently studying about in
their history class and then might involve having them present their
findings in English. In one novel class an ESL teacher had students write
poems concerning mathematics principles. Simply said, the content
from other classes becomes the ‘material’ with which students come to
grip with the English language.
The unique thing about the cross-curricular approach
to learning is that you end up with a matrix of
activities, all supporting a central goal, while at the
same time providing a plethora of opportunities for
students to put theoretical concepts from other
disciplines into practice. This in turn makes both the
tasks and subjects meaningful. Furthermore, the
exposure and involvement aids memory retention
across disciplines. In the best light, the material is
wrapped around the student as opposed to the student
being wrapped around the material.