A Historical Perspective
Gestalt psychology

As mentioned, Plato believed that education was a process of finding balance between the body, mind, and spirit. Two thousand years later, European psychologists posed the question whether or not the three parts that Plato believed people tried to balance were in fact one. Thus, while Plato thought that the teacher provided balance of the body, mind, and spirit, the Gestalt Psychologists viewed the body, mind, and spirit as one concept that defined human mind and behavior.




While much of the work in Gestalt psychology centers on how people perceive scenes, spaces and other stimuli, the take away is how forms, structures, and configurations are whole sums rather than individual parts. According to Segal (2001), Gestalt psychologists view elements as parts of larger structures rather than individual elements. Furthermore, Segal noted, "Whereas other systems thought of learning as gaining new connections between elements through association, they thought that the best learning (problem solving) was due to insight, or restructuring the components of a whole so that they could be seen or understood in a new way".

Therefore, the Gestalt psychologists used their belief of holistic processes to advance Plato’s tripartite view of human nature. Instead of recognizing that the body, mind, and spirit acted as separate parts trying to strike a balance, the Gestalt psychologists recognized that they were all one entity. By recognizing that the body, mind, and spirit together defined human behavior, the Gestalt psychologists played a vital role in the development of experiential education.

Their understanding of holistic properties set forth the idea that experience brings together the body, mind, and spirit. In regards to experiential education, while Gestalt focused on concepts of perception, it also focused on awareness of experience. Thus, according to Gestalt, processes help bring awareness to experience, and thus enhance experience by making emotional content accessible.