Gestalt Theory Principles of Learning Term Paper

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Gestalt Theory

There are many theories and principles of learning. All of which are aimed at facilitating a successful learning experience for both the educator and the learner. Among the initiators of the study of learning is now known as Gestalt Principles of Learning. Even from the very beginning, Gestalt Theory of Learning highlights the very methods of processing learning.

The Beginning of Gestalt Theory

It was the later part of 1890 when Gestalt theory was considered as part of the learning practice. At first, Christian von Ehrenfels, who coined the term Gestalt, used this theory in denoting the "experiences that require more than the basic sensory capacities to be understood" (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2006). It was in 1912 when the term Gestalt was attached other psychological perspectives initiated by Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka. This was the time when Gestalt as a theory and part of the principles of learning was started to be used to interpret the "phenomena of organized wholes rather than in the aggregates of distinct parts." Simply put, this theory has maintained the idea that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2006).

Application of the Gestalt Theory in the Learning Process

Gestalt Theory and Stimuli

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In gestalt theory, it is believed that every responses created by the individual is affected by certain stimuli. However, if two people will be subjected to exactly the same stimuli, there is a high possibility that their reactions will be extremely different because there are other factors that could affect the response - such as their past experiences (Cook, 1993). Like for example when subjecting two children into a certain stimuli like a mug of hot chocolate. If the first child has already experienced being burnt by a hot chocolate in the past, he/she would slowly touch the lid of the mug first to determine if it is hot or not. And then, if he/she felt that it is, he/she would stay away from the mug. Meanwhile, a child who has not had any experience with a hot chocolate in the past will quickly grab the mug, and directly drink its contents.

Term Paper on Gestalt Theory Principles of Learning Assignment

Indeed, from this point-of-view alone, stimuli coupled with the past experiences will comprise for a certain reaction from a person. This goes the same with learning. An individual who has been subjected to a similar topic or learning undertaking in the past will have a different response from a person who does not have seen, heard nor felt the same stimuli in the past.

Moreover, in the Gestalt theory, it is perceived that an individual or any learner for that matter can categorize the types or kinds of stimuli presented to him/her. Such categorization is dependent on the individual's own perception.

There are series of laws in the Gestalt Theory summarizing the individuals' perception of categorizing certain stimuli. First of which is the Law of Pragnanz. In this law, it is stated that if "a perceptual field is disorganized when an organism first experiences it, the organism imposes order on the field in a predictable way" (Blosser, 1973). It is implied in this law that the perception of what is good and what is not is being followed by the individual. Like for example if an individual has been subjected to a room on disarray - with lots of things on the floor, on the shelves, etc. - the person will react on a very predictable way regarding her/own personality. Thus, if there will be a watcher outside, and who knows that the person inside the room hates disorderliness, the viewer can easily predict that the person inside the room will slowly the room and arrange the things. This is because the person inside the room has the common notion that clean is good an unorganized is bad. Hence, to keep being good, he, himself, will make it happen, even if nobody has instructed him to do so.

Gestalt Theory and the Pragnanz Law

Pragnanz Law, as part of the Gestalt Theory of Learning is connected with five other laws. These include (Blosser, 1973):

Similarity - which implies that "similar items should be grouped together"

Proximity - which states that things are arranged according to nearness of its parts or types

Closure - that implies that things that are already completed should be grouped together

Good Continuation - wherein the things are categorized according to its expected ending. Like for example lines will be straightened to appear that it really is a straight line, or the curves will be curved more so as to ensure that it will look like curves.

Membership Character: which implies that a single most part of the whole is greatly defined by the general context in which the single part appears

An individual who will be subjected to various types of stimuli is believed to be providing different reactions in reference to the laws stated above. Like for example a child who is given with several items in front of him. If there are apple, orange, banana, paper, scissor and crayon, and he will be asked to arrange the things in any way he wants it. The child would most likely group apple, orange and banana on the other side while the paper, scissor and crayon will be on the other side. This is in accordance to the law of Similarity.

Gestalt Theory and Kohler's Theory of Insight

In Gestalt Theory, there is also an implied hypothesis that man's insights are very useful in problem solving activities and even in determining the possible responses to stimuli. It was Kohler who summarized the observations he has had with the chimpanzees. A number of chimpanzees were given with bananas; however, these bananas were at the far end of the cage, where any chimpanzee could not easily reach. There is a stick right beside the chimpanzee and it will be up to the chimpanzee if it will decide to use such stick and how the stick will be used. According to Kohler's observation, there were chimpanzees that learned easily. There are some who were persistent enough into trying all possible methods, the stick, the hand etc. just to get the banana. There were some chimpanzees that, after the two failed attempts did not bother to get the banana anymore.

However different the responses were, Kohler was still able to conclude that the result of the chimpanzee's first attempt serve as the determinant on how to conduct the succeeding attempts. This, as Kohler has noted, is how insight is used in problem solving (Blosser 1973).

Gestalt Theory and the Trace System

The idea of Trace Systems is also greatly used in the application of Gestalt Theory of Learning.

Processes (that which goes on because of the present stimulating situation), leave traces in the form of chemical products in the brain. A trace must is formed in such a way that it will facilitate its own recurrence" (Blosser, 1973).

This idea suggests that every new experience of will be stored in the brain and will serve as the basis for possible response in the future, as this will be traced and reflected upon. The process of learning is then the result of tracing the systems from the past experiences and the new experiences that are all stored, categorized and consolidated in the mind. The repetitions of certain stimuli will then subject to tracing of the patterns and thus will result to a predictive response or outcome. Thus, if there has been no traced similar experience in the past, the response of an individual will be highly unpredictable. In the same manner, if there is no traced similarity in the past, the solving the problem will be extremely difficult (Blosser, 1973).

However, there is a concept related to Trace System that coincides why forgetting is a part of Gestalt Theory of Learning.

Forgetting occurs when the trace disappears or the trace cannot influence or communicate with a new process (Blosser 1973).

Thus to forget will mean that nothing will be traced in the memory of an individual. This would mean that presenting him with a certain stimuli (which has been prevented o him in the past, although he has just forgotten about it) will be like presenting him with a brand new stimuli. Problem solving will be difficult. Trial and error will again be followed.

Gestalt Theory and the Constructivism Point-of-View vs. The other Learning Theories

Due to further researches and analysis, it was found out that Gestalt Theory and Principles of Learning is closely related with J.S. Bruner's theory of Constructivism. In constructivism, curiosity is its product. Based on any individual's daily interaction with other people, he/she will be able to acquire thoughts or ideas for the first time. Being a human being, with all the potential to learn and perceive things may perceive thoughts or ideas based on what he/she knows about it personally, based on the previous experiences. It may either be correct or wrong, but what… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Gestalt Theory Principles of Learning.  (2006, November 10).  Retrieved February 28, 2021, from

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"Gestalt Theory Principles of Learning."  10 November 2006.  Web.  28 February 2021. <>.

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"Gestalt Theory Principles of Learning."  November 10, 2006.  Accessed February 28, 2021.