Learner-Centered Teaching Approach & Learning Development

Rashi Jaitly
April 5, 2023
min read
September 19, 2023
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Learner-centered teaching improves student engagement & success. Active learning, problem-solving, and group work boost motivation a achievement.
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Of all the teaching methods, lecturing is the most common, the easiest... and yet the least effective. Unless the instructor is exceptionally captivating, most students don't remain attentive throughout the lecture. 

A study finds that undergraduate students in classes with traditional "stand-and-deliver" teaching models are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students with a learner-focused approach — regardless of if they're in general ed or a hyperfocused laboratory environment University lecturer Richard M. Felder says:

"Research shows that students in lectures generally retain a reasonable percentage only of what they hear in the first ten minutes and relatively little of anything that happens thereafter. They really only learn by thinking and doing, not watching and listening."

Actively involving students in the learning process instead of lecturing them improves their attentiveness, motivation to learn and lasting interest in the subject. Instead of getting blank stares and puzzled eyes in response to your questions, you can keep them involved throughout the lecture. 

How do you get it done? Let's find out. 

Definition of learner-centered approach 

Educational psychologists say that you can't just tell anyone how to do anything and expect them to know it. It's so much more effective to show them how, and let them try it themselves.

And that's how a learner-centered approach works. 

A report published by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that teaching methods that turned students into active participants from passive listeners saw reduced failure rates and increased scores by almost one-half a standard deviation.

‎A learner-centered approach views students and trainees as active learners. It changes the role of the teacher from a provider of information to facilitating it. The method believes that each student brings in their knowledge, experiences, and ideas, which affect how they consume future information. 

Traditional learning approaches, on the other hand, take complete control of the class. A continuous flow of information makes students lose focus and miss out on the most important part — learning. University lecturer Martha Kennedy says:

"The main virtue of the student-centered classroom is that it removes mastery from the sole province of the teacher and allows students to be masters, too. It meant I needed to — sometimes — leave them alone so they could learn. I understand that teachers can actually impede students' learning."

The American Psychological Association divides Learner-Centered Teaching

into five domains:

  • The knowledge base: A student's knowledge of the subject influences the information they consume, how they organize and represent it, and determines it to be important or relevant. 
  • Strategic processing and executive control: Successful students actively participate in learning, monitoring their success, and taking full responsibility for the knowledge consumed. 
  • Motivation and affect: Learner-centered approach leads to increased motivation towards learning, confidence in one's ability to succeed, and development of advanced thinking capabilities that result in higher achievement in school. 
  • Situation or context: A student's learning is largely influenced by both inherited and environmental factors, like how the teacher teaches and how negatively or positively engaged a student is in the learning process. 

Student-centered learning methods include active learning, in which students solve problems, formulate questions, discuss, debate, and brainstorm ideas. Cooperative learning, where they work in teams on problems, promotes interdependency and individual accountability.

Inductive teaching and learning are where learners are first presented with challenges and learn the course material by solving those problems. 

Difference between the learner-centered approach & the traditional teacher/trainer-centered approach 

Recent times have created a drastic shift in educational methods. Many scholars have challenged the "sage on stage" concept, arguing that engaging students with a learner-based approach is more effective. 

Let's look at the significant differences between the learner-centered approach and the traditional teaching method that make professors adopt this new learning concept.

Teacher-centered methods Learner-centered methods
Instructor model Proffesser talks, students listen Professor interacts with the students, divides them into groups, gives them problems, and lets them brainstorm ideas.
Learning evaluation Teacher evaluates student’s learning Students evaluate their own learning by answering each other’s questions.
Focus Focus is on the instructor Focus is on the learner and instructor
Retaining information Teacher-model prevents students from expressing themselves and engaging in lectures, often making it boring. This leads to low retention of information and understanding of concepts. Give learners the freedom to acquire knowledge independently by asking questions and engaging with peers. This improves retaining information and makes lectures fun to attend.
Engagement Low engagement. The classes are usually quiet and orderly. Maximum engagement. Classrooms can often become chaotic and busy.

How to implement a learner-centered approach in teaching? 

Learner-focused teaching is not as simple as lecturing students. For some teachers, the shift to student-centered learning can seem daunting. But this type of teaching is more natural than you think. 

You can use these strategies to implement a learner-focused approach in education. 

1. Handouts & active learning 

In a typical lecture session, the class would work through a mixture of lecturing, small-group activities, and individual tasks focused on finding answers to the questions in the handout. 

Following is the step-wise method that you can adopt to foster active learning through handouts-

  • Provide students with a problem statement or solution and briefly discuss it to ensure they understand it. 
  • Explain familiar concepts in terms of the problem statement to give students ideas for brainstorming. 
  • Divide them into groups and ask them to predict answers to the questions on the handouts before calculating them. 
  • Give them time to reflect on their answers and ask if they want to discuss anything. 
  • Lastly, let them brainstorm the solutions to the handouts and ask more questions to ensure they understand the concepts. 

This is one of the best ways to get students actively engaged in class and learn complex concepts through practice and feedback, not by being lectured on what they should do and how to do it. 

2. Use a cooperative learning model. 

Instead of just posting questions to the class and enduring subsequent silences, lecturers can use the cooperative learning model. The class is divided into groups of three to five and asked to solve a problem. This peer learning training is quite effective if you want students to actively engage in your class and develop high-level thinking skills. 

Here are five crucial criteria that you can't miss in cooperative learning-

  • Positive interdependence: The team members should rely on one another. If any team member fails to fulfill their responsibility, the entire team's performance might suffer. The success of individuals is tied to the success of the group as a whole.
  • Individual accountability: Different team members may take different responsibilities, but each member is accountable for the entire assignment content. So, if anyone misses their tasks, their grades won't be the same as others in their team. 
  • Face-to-face interaction (at least most times): Each team is responsible for completing different parts of the assignment. There is no better way to foster collaboration than face-to-face interaction. This way, everyone gets to convey their thoughts and get a deep understanding of the concept or problem statement. 
  • Use of interpersonal skills: Team members are encouraged to use their interpersonal skills for high-performance teamwork, including communication, leadership, conflict resolution, project, and time management. 
  • Regular self-assessment of team performance: The team members must reflect on how well they're doing and what they should improve. 

Cooperative learning models allow students to participate in a non-threatening way and encourage them to stay on task. It's an effective way to get students thinking and taking more. 

3. Conduct self-assessment 

Evaluation in a learner-focused approach is tricky. Instead of simply ranking students on their assignments, use the self-assessment route that allows them to monitor their progress, reflect on their learning, and take accountability for their efforts. 

At the end of each class, you can ask them to create learning journals to record the processes and strategies used in their learning. Here are some questions that can include-

  • What are the two most important points that you learned today in class?
  • What were the two muddiest points in the class?
  • Give examples of everyday scenarios that could be answered using the concepts you learned today (or this week).
  • What strategies helped you understand this concept?
  • Is there anything you want to try or implement in the next class?

You can review these responses to evaluate your student's learning status, challenges, and participation in the class. 

4. Document your learning 

Lastly, don't forget to document your processes to reflect, replicate and rework learning materials. As time passes, you will discover new teaching methods, processes, and systems to increase student productivity and improve their learning ability. 

That's what Scribe helps you do. It enables you to create knowledge-sharing materials in minutes, including:

  • Step-by-step guides.
  • How-to articles.
  • SOPs
  • Knowledge base articles
  • Quick reference guides.
  • Runbooks 
  • Job aids 
  • Training manuals
  • FAQs

And more. 

Scribe uses AI to let you create all of this at the click of a button. Here's a Scribe on how to Scribe (that only took 15 seconds to make):

And once you're done, you can share your Scribes as links, export them into different formats or embed them anywhere. And with Scribe's newest feature, Pages, you can combine Scribes with videos, images and more.


Wrapping up 

Learner-centered classrooms are the future of education. But, this change will only be possible when educators are willing to become comfortable with the change and leave traditional ineffective teaching methods.

Also, if you want to simplify learning and faster collaboration, move away from an education and documentation system that requires manual formatting, updating, and distribution. 

You can create a free Scribe account to document your learning processes- that last forever and can be updated anytime.

Ready to try Scribe?

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