Student-Centered Approaches

Link to my reading

way forward

Student-centered learning provides the means for learners to equip themselves with the competencies required to succeed in the 21st century knowledge economy, particularly the ability to learn continuously. Learning doesn’t stop when the phase of formal education is complete. Research shows that Millennials value the opportunity to learn new things in the workplace more than they do regular increases in their wages. They recognize that learning must never stop. Much can be done in the classroom by adopting the student-centered learning approach to begin to blaze a trail for lifelong learning.


The teacher can give over the authority and control traditionally associated with this position. For example, giving over control can be achieved through the introduction of technology into learning, such as through the use of a Learning Management System (LMS), which enables learners to take control over what they learn, when they learn, and how they learn. An LMS will typically have a chat or blog component, which facilitates commenting and question-asking and supports the development of analytical, critical thinking and inquiry skills. However, technology is not a panacea; it must be used responsibly, and sometimes not at all. Sometimes, the way ahead is not to look forward, but to look around.


This process of giving over control should not occur abruptly. Instead, the process should be done on a gradual trajectory. Early on, the classroom is a high-structure environment where the instructor plays an active role. Slowly, the instructor should remove the scaffolding that supports the learner, giving learners mores autonomy, creating a low-structure environment. This process is typical of my teaching, as skill-using tasks are always preceded by skill-building ones. In this way, we can foster learner autonomy.


The giving over of control places additional responsibility on the learner, requiring that the learner transform from a passive recipient of knowledge to an active learner that creates knowledge, applies knowledge and gains understanding. This shift can be problematic for learners who are not accustomed to the kind of learning that goes beyond rote memorization and that emphasizes knowledge at the expense of understanding. Peer-work can play an important role at this stage as collaboration among learners fills the space left by the teacher. I incorporate pair, triad and small-group work consistently in my teaching as a way of valuing teamwork and building soft skills.


At the same time as the scaffolding is slowly removed, and the learning becomes more active, the instructor should be supporting learners in developing valuable metacognitive skills. Employing metacognition allows the learner to become more fully aware of their own learning styles and habits for success and begin to manage their learning process on their own. I encourage learners to reflect frequently on why they are (un)successful on a task so that they recognize the importance of being aware of their own strengths and weaknesses as learners.

Through the learner-centered approach, learners have now equipped themselves with the skills required to learn autonomously, collaborate effectively and apply their knowledge, competencies in highest demand in industry.


One thought on “Student-Centered Approaches

  1. Great post Stuart! I completely agree. I too have talked about the teacher giving up control in my post. I liked the point you’ve made about giving over control gradually rather than abruptly. I too have faced situations where students are not used to student-centered approaches and they’re surprised when an instructor encourages that. I’ve seen two different reactions to it. One, they prefer being lectured to and given deadlines and clear instructions on work needed to be done to get the credit. Two, they think instructors who don’t conduct long lectures and those who encourage student involvement do not have sufficient knowledge in their field. Like I mentioned in my post, I always have doubts about how much control students can have in a class room.


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