The traditional form of teaching, where the instruction revolves around needs and interests generated by the instructor, is called teacher-centered (or instructor-centered) instruction. Learner-centered instruction is education that revolves around the needs and interests of the learners.
Learner-centered instruction (synonymous with student-centered learning) increased learner motivation, engagement, and relevance. Learners are forced to tap into prior knowledge to build on new ideas. This promotes the scaffolding of information.
Teacher-Centered Instruction v.s. Learner-Centered Instruction
There are significant differences between teacher-centered instruction and learner-centered instruction. These include:
- Teacher-centered instruction focuses on what the teacher knows about language and language structures. Learner-centered instruction focuses on how learners will use the language.
- Sage on the Stage. This phrase is a reference to instructors who lecture to an audience of learners. In most settings, this is how a class is conducted. Learner-centered instruction focuses on the instructor modeling the task or skill, followed by learners interacting with each other to do the same.
- Working Together. Usually, the teacher speaks, then the learners work independently. In a learner-centered class, learners work in pairs or groups to solve problems. Groups are not assigned based on ability, but by a sense of belonging and shared responsibility to solve the issue. This also gives learners a chance to reflect on the content, which promotes deeper levels of understanding and problem-solving.
- Look Who’s Talking. Imagine a class where the learners are in control of the conversation. They speak constantly without interruptions from the instructor. This is a learner-centered class at its finest. The instruction in a learner-centered classroom allows learners to exercise their own learning preferences. It builds on learner’s strengths, interests, and experiences.
- Assessing Learners. In a teacher-centered classroom, the instructor is treated as the source of information. Learners reach out to the teacher to get information for any question they have. In a learner-centered classroom, learners lean on each other for information without much interaction with the instructor. In a learner-centered classroom, the relationship between learners and the instructor is more collaborative.
Moving from teacher-centered instruction to learner-centered instruction can be a challenge. It is often difficult for instructors to relinquish control of the classroom and maintain faith that all the material will be learned. However, instructors can learn to do so by relinquishing small pieces of the curriculum to learners to see how it goes.
Online learning platforms can help instructors to create more learner-centered experiences as well. By allowing learners to collaborate and solve problems in an online setting, the instructor is able to remove him or herself from the experience. Additionally, online learning platforms offer new and innovative ways to assess learners using multimedia authoring tools. Online learning platforms can enhance the learner-centered classroom for instructors and learners alike.
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