Gadamer, H-G. (1979) 2e, London: Sheed and Ward.

Kirschenbaum, H. (1979) , New York: Delacorte Press. Biography written while Rogers was still alive – but with some interesting insights into the development of his thought.

We cannot teach another person directly; we can only facilitate his learning.

How to cite this article: Smith, M. K. (1997, 2004) ‘Carl Rogers and informal education’, the encyclopaedia of informal education. [. Last update: May 29, 2012]


Rogers, C. R. (1951) , Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Cohen, D. (1997) Carl Rogers. A critical biography, London: Constable. 252 pages. New biography – only in hardback.

Rogers, C. R. (1980) , Boston: Houghton Mifflin. A collection of articles and pieces said to be a coda to . The first part examines Rogers’ personal experiences; the second his professional thoughts and activities. The third section deals with education (including his paper on learning in large groups). The final piece speculates on the transformations needed in society.


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The strength of Rogers’ approach lies in part in his focus on . As he once wrote, ‘The facilitation of significant learning rests upon certain attitudinal qualities that exist in the personal between facilitator and learner’(1990: 305). Freedom to Learn (1969; 1983; 1993) is a classic statement of educational possibility in this respect. However, he had already begun to explore the notion of ‘student-centred teaching’ in (1951: 384-429). There, as Barrett-Lennard (1998: 184) notes, he offered several hypothesized general principles. These included:

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The educational situation which most effectively promotes significant learning is one in which 1) threat to the self of the learner is reduced a minimum, and 2) differentiated perception of the field of experience is facilitated.

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In this we can see something of Rogers’ debt to – but something else had been added in his particular concern with and . First, there is an interest in looking at the particular issues, questions and problems that participants bring (this is not a strongly -based orientation and has some parallels with the subsequent interest in in learning). Second, he draws in insights from more psychodynamic traditions of thinking (as did educators such as and Homer Lane).

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The history and focus of Carl Rogers’ work was one of the reasons why he has been so attractive to successive generations of informal educators. This was a language to which they could relate. The themes and concerns he developed seemingly had a direct relevance to their work with troubled individuals. Informal educators also had access to these ideas. Rogers’ popularity with those providing counselling training (at various levels) opened up his work to large numbers of workers. Crucially the themes he developed were general enough to be applied to therapeutic work with groups (for example, see his work on Encounter Groups (1970, New York: Harper and Row) and in education. Significantly, Carl Rogers took up the challenge to explore what a person-centred form of education might look like.