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The power of a learner-driven classroom

Extensive research supports the idea that the learner-centred model improves retention and prepares graduates better.
Last Updated 26 February 2024, 20:35 IST

The concept of a learning-centred or learner-centred approach to teaching is not new; however, educational institutions are only now actively embracing and implementing it in their teaching methodologies. Despite ongoing debates and scholars’ divided opinions on the terminology—whether learning-centred or learner-centred—it is crucial to recognise the positive impact of this method on students.

Extensive research supports the idea that the learner-centred model improves retention and prepares graduates better. The origins of this approach can be traced back to influential philosophers such as Confucius, Socrates, and the 17th-century experiential educationist John Locke. The concept evolved significantly before being formally introduced as a theory by Rousseau in the 18th century.

Despite its historical roots, teachers, especially in India, have not widely adopted the learner-centred method. In India, educational commissions have consistently emphasised the relevance of the learner-centred model in their recommendations. However, they have often remained rhetorical and confined to paper, with limited impact on classroom practices.

Understanding the model

The learner-centred model diverges fundamentally from the traditional teacher-centred approach, which focuses on the teacher’s inputs, credentials, and knowledge as the primary sources of information. In contrast, the learner-centred model emphasizes outputs, focusing on students’ acquired knowledge, abilities, and competencies.

In this model, faculty members relinquish their role as exclusive knowledge providers, encouraging students to take greater responsibility for their learning. Active student participation defines this approach, with teachers adopting roles as facilitators and learning partners. The collaborative and supportive nature of the learner-centred model promotes a deep understanding of subjects over merely seeking correct answers.

Students are recognised as co-creators of knowledge, contributing to decisions about what and how they learn and are assessed, fostering a sense of value and respect for their backgrounds, skills, abilities, and interests.

Teachers’ perceptions

Teachers’ perceptions of the learner-centred model vary based on their teaching style, comprehension of the concept, and willingness to embrace change. Many recognise its importance but remain uncertain about implementation strategies. Some may resist due to the perceived need for a creative, radical outlook, additional efforts, and nuanced thinking. A segment of teachers may be averse to experimentation and adhere to traditional beliefs that view involving students in decision-making as preposterous.

Creating a supportive environment

A conducive environment is crucial for successful implementation. Cultivating a culture of mutual respect and trust between teachers and learners is essential, necessitating small class sizes for personalized attention. Communication and assessment practices must shift from traditional exam-based approaches to enable and emphasise a deeper understanding of concepts.

Teachers and administrators need to discard traditional mindsets and embrace a forward-thinking approach. Organising training sessions and workshops for teachers on the learner-centred model, its usefulness, and relevance can help educators understand the intricacies of the model, ensuring its benefits reach students effectively.

Benefits of the learner-centered model

Students stand to gain numerous advantages through the learner-centred approach. Actively involved in discovering knowledge, students utilize various learning methods that empower them. Collaboration is fostered through team-based activities, inquiry-based exercises, problem-solving tasks, and project-based learning.

Additional approaches like choice boards and flipped classrooms enhance the learning experience. Conducive spaces for active learning, tailored to students’ interests and strengths, facilitate cooperative learning through peer interaction, review, and group exercises. The learner-centred model prioritises an inductive approach over a deductive one, enriching the learning experience.

The shift towards a learner-centred approach represents a transformative change in teaching methodologies. Overcoming challenges requires a collective effort to create a supportive environment, change mindsets, and provide necessary training.

The benefits for students are substantial, fostering a collaborative, supportive, and personalized educational experience beyond traditional boundaries. As educational institutions actively integrate these principles, they contribute to shaping graduates with knowledge and a profound understanding of the subjects they study.

(The author is the professor and dean, CHRIST (Deemed to be) University, Bengaluru)

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(Published 26 February 2024, 20:35 IST)

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