Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Student-Centred Teaching in High Education

Traditionally, research into learning and teaching in universities has focused on what the teacher does (discussing, for example, how to develop effective presentations or how to organise study materials), rather than on the learner's experience. But recent research into student learning indicates what Thomas Shuell expressed so well: "Without taking away from the important role played by the teacher, it is helpful to remember that what the student does is actually more important in determining what is learned than what the teacher does" (T.J. Shuell, "Cognitive Conceptions of Learning " (1986), p429).
In response to this research, educators have developed "learner-centred" or "student-centred" pedagogy, and Monash encourages teachers to take a student-centred and active learning approach to designing, implementing and reviewing their courses.
Why does student-centred teaching work so well?
“Student-centred teaching is not just a different style of teaching” (Margaret A.L. Blackiea, Student-centredness: the link between transforming students and transforming ourselves, (2010 p638). Student-centered teaching focuses on the student. Decision-making, organization, and content are largely determined by the student’s needs and perceptions. Student-centred teaching allows students to create knowledge, as opposed to passively receiving information, and encourages deep learning. A student-centred approach focuses primarily on what the student needs to do in order to learn, rather than on the course content or the transmission of information by the teacher. Even assessment may be influenced or determined by the student. The instructor acts as coach and facilitator. In many respects, the goal of this type of teaching is the development of the student’s cognitive abilities.
How do I, as a language teacher, implement student-centred teaching?
To be student-centred in our teaching, I believe that I need to know the following about my students, particularly in a large class of diverse cultures.

  Who Are My Learners?
Students are individuals. They differ from each other in many ways, including how they like to learn.

  What Are They Learning?
My unit outline will set out the desired learning outcomes of the course, which in turn will be aligned with Monash graduate attributes. Where should I start when I write a unit outline?

  How Do They Learn?
The answer depends on the students themselves, the nature of the content we're teaching and the learning activities we are devising to enable them to construct their own learning. 

With student-centred-teaching, what your students do is as important for their learning as what you as the teacher tell them.

  • Thomas J. Shuell, Cognitive Conceptions of Learning, Review of Educational Research, Vol. 56, No. 4 (Winter, 1986), pp. 411-436
  • Margaret A.L. Blackiea*, Jennifer M. Caseb and Jeff Jawitzc, Student-centredness: the link between transforming students and transforming ourselves, 4 May 2010, pp638

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