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Student-centred learning

July 25, 2006

I'm back again after a bit of a break!

Hello once more,

In talking to various language professionals recently, I realized that much misunderstanding surrounds the concept of student-centred learning. It is not an approach that gives students a free hand; it does not mean that the teacher devolves responsibility to the students, nor does it permit ...

...students to pass judgment on a teacher if they decide, for whatever whim, that they don’t like him or her.

On the contrary, student-centred learning is about helping students to discover their own learning styles, to understand their motivation and to acquire effective study skills that will be valuable throughout their lives. To put this approach into practice, teachers need to help students set achievable goals; encourage students to assess themselves and their peers; help them to work co-operatively in groups and ensure that they know how to exploit all the available resources for learning.

Learning is thus more a form of personal development than a linear progression that the teacher achieves by rewards and sanctions. Errors are seen as a constructive part of the learning process and need not be a source of embarrassment.

The main principles of student-centred learning are:

  • The learner has full responsibility for her/his learning
  • Involvement and participation are necessary for learning
  • The relationship between learners is more equal, promoting growth, development
  • The teacher becomes a facilitator and resource person
  • The learner experiences confluence in his education
  • The learner sees himself/herself differently as a result of the learning experience.

Classroom activities that are suitable for student-centred learning include diaries, a portfolio of work completed to reflect the goals set; projects; discussions; communicative tasks. The activities will be appropriate to demonstrate to the students their knowledge (e.g. use of tenses of the verb); their skills (how they read, write, listen and speak) and their attitudes (the thought processes involved in studying: the importance of critical thinking, the significance of active listening, a proactive attitude towards learning, and respect for the opinions of others.)

Teachers wishing to ensure a student-centred approach must know their students and their backgrounds in order to help them develop appropriately. Clearly there are cultural and personal issues to be addressed, as student-centred learning will be different for each group.

I’d like to hear of your experience in this field.

Bye for now!

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  1. Charles Says:

    When I first read this post, I mostly agreed. And I still agree with the main thrust of learners becoming autonomous, learning as development, and errors being constructive. But from my own experience, knowing one's learning styles and understanding one's motivation don't play a significant role in learning. The most important factor is simply time on task.

  1. Ranko Says:

    Dear Brenda,

    Loved your "Lost in the Translation" letter.
    But the most amazing thing with your "Student -centred learning" for me is that each one of those six main principles I had already discovered / experienced in my work. (I teach small groups, 4-6 students mostly, having opportunity to study the students as well as the effects of my teaching on them.)
    The most important achievement and the greatest satisfaction for me as teacher is the last principle you named: If the learner, evaluating the whole proces afterwards, can conclude him(her)self that the change within them actually happened. It is not just the knowledge they attained, it is the image of Self that changed.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  1. katioa baraniko Says:

    Dear Brenda
    Congratulations on the amazing work you have done. However I would like to request you if you could possibly send or add examples of student-centred activities. Actually I will be graduated at the end of this year from Teacher's college.
    I will be grateful to hear from you.

    Thank you very much.

    Katioa Baraniko

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