Herbartian Approach - A Guide

Herbartian Approach - A Guide

  • Arya Vishwaroop
    Arya Vishwaroop


The way education is imparted is ever-evolving and these shifts are undoubtedly improving the educational experience for all. Educational theorists have been coming up with different teaching strategies to leave a long-lasting impact on students. Here, we are going to discuss the Herbartian approach which was introduced by the German educator Johann Friedrich Herbart. Herbart is regarded as one of the pioneers of modern scientific pedagogy as his contributions like the Herbartian approach had a great impact on modern education. In the next sections of this article, we'll explore his contribution in more detail.

Who is Johan Friedrich Herbart?

As mentioned above he was a German educator who made influential contributions to modern education. He is also considered the father of scientific pedagogy. His Herbatian approach gained popularity during the 19th century. It was primarily used to teach adolescent students. Herbartianism, his theory of education, was introduced in two of his works: 1) Pestalozzi’s Idea of an A B C of Sense Perception and 2)Universal Pedagogy. His theory was based on how the mind assimilates information. The mind assimilates knowledge by connecting prior experience with new information. Originally, his teaching theory had four steps, but later two more were added by his disciples, making it six.  Now, let us look at the six steps to understand more about the approach.

The Herbartian Approach - Steps

First, let's see what the six steps are before looking at them in detail. The steps are as follows,

  • Preparation/ Introduction
  • Presentation
  • Association and Comparison
  • Generalization
  • Application
  • Recapitulation

Preparation/ Introduction

As the name implies, this is a preparatory stage where students are prepared before actually presenting the topic before them. This is to spark interest among the students in the topic. The teacher can use the blackboard to write the topic in order to introduce the topic to the students. With the help of this step, students will be able to prepare themselves for the lessons that follow. This stage of the Herbartian approach would make the students’ minds ready for the lesson. Teachers can make use of charts, images, or maps to pique the interest of the new topic. Teachers can share a story or provide an experiment to pique students' interests in the new information.


In this step of the Herbartian approach, new ideas are presented to the learners with the help of concrete objects or actual experiences. Students would be encouraged to relate their past experiences to this new topic in order to develop an interest in it. Teachers would ask a number of questions to students to understand more about their past experiences so that they can relate them to the new topic. In this way, learners become active participants in the learning process. Moreover, teachers can use charts, images, graphs, and other teaching aids to facilitate the learning process. Teachers would also summarize the topic of discussion to their students. The main objective of this step is to present the ideas in the most effective way to the students.

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Association and Comparison

During this stage, the new knowledge is compared with the student's past experiences as isolated information can easily escape their minds. When they associate one information with another, knowledge retention would increase. By comparing this information, they would be able to devise their own definition of the learning concept. Students are urged to make comparisons and contrasts between the experiences. This is a useful method in the process of learning.


Here, students are encouraged to draw conclusions from the comparisons. In the generalization stage, the teacher takes on the role of a facilitator and becomes a passive observer of the learning process.  It is a practice that is crucial for the education of adolescents. This stage is intended to expand the capacity of the mind beyond perception and tangible thoughts. Students get an in-depth understanding of the ideas as students are actively engaged in the comprehension of the concept. This step of the Herbartian approach also fosters the critical thinking capabilities of students.


This is a vital step in the Herbartian approach, because, in this step, the students try to apply the learned knowledge in real-life situations. If the student is unable to use the knowledge in different situations, the knowledge he/she gained would be laid to waste. With the help of this method, the topic would get etched into the minds of students and it will stay with them for a long period of time. Also, the concept becomes a part of their mind on a functional level and would enable them to meaningfully interpret life.


In the final step of the Herbartian approach, teachers give students a summary of the entire subject. The teacher would ask the students many questions to determine how well they understood the subject. The teachers can also give assignments or other activities to evaluate the students’ understanding. In this way, teachers can identify whether or not their students have a grasp of the subject. The effectiveness of the teaching is assessed with the help of this step.


The Herbartian approach has 6 stages or steps and an outline of each step has been given here. However, there are other learning approaches as well, such as the practical teaching approach. Incorporate the best approach that suits your teaching style and students the best.

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