Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi

Pestalozzi, Johann Heinrich (yōˈhän hĪnˈrĭkh pĕsˌtälôtˈsē) [key], 1746–1827, Swiss educational reformer, b. Zürich. His theories laid the foundation of modern elementary education. He studied theology at the Univ. of Zürich but was forced to abandon his career because of his political activity on behalf of the Helvetic Society, a reformist Swiss political organization. From 1769 to 1798 he lived at his farm "Neuhof" near Zürich, where he conducted a school for poor children. He then directed a school at Burgdorf (1799–1804), and from 1805 until his retirement (1825) to "Neuhof" he was director of the experimental institute at Yverdon-les-Bains, which was established on Pestalozzian principles. Pestalozzi's theory of education is based on the importance of a pedagogical method that corresponds to the natural order of individual development and of concrete experiences. To Pestalozzi the individuality of each child is paramount; it is something that has to be cultivated actively through education. He opposed the prevailing system of memorization learning and strict discipline and sought to replace it with a system based on love and an understanding of the child's world. His belief that education should be based on concrete experience led him to pioneer in the use of tactile objects, such as plants and mineral specimens, in the teaching of natural science to youngsters. Running through much of Pestalozzi's writing is the idea that education should be moral as well as intellectual. Never losing his commitment to social reform, Pestalozzi often reiterated the belief that society could be changed by education. His theories also influenced the development of teacher-training methods. Although he respected the individuality of the teacher, Pestalozzi nevertheless felt that there was a unified science of education that could be learned and practiced. His belief that teacher training should consist of a broad liberal education followed by a period of research and professional training has been widely adopted throughout Europe and the United States. Pestalozzi's writings in English translation include The Hours of a Hermit (1780, tr. 1912), Leonard and Gertrude (4 parts, 1781–87; rev. ed. 1790–92, 1819–20; tr. 1801, 1894), and How Gertrude Teaches Her Children (1801, tr. 1915).

See W. S. Monroe, History of the Pestalozzian Movement in the United States (1907, repr. 1969); J. A. Green, The Life and Work of Pestalozzi (1912) and The Educational Ideas of Pestalozzi (1914, repr. 1969); M. R. Heafford, Pestalozzi: His Thought and Its Relevance Today (1967); K. Silber, Pestalozzi: The Man and His Work (2d ed. 1974).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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