Learner-Centered Pedagogies: A Critical Review of the Use and Implications for Learner-Centered Pedagogies

Learner-Centered Pedagogies: A Critical Review of the Use and Implications for Learner-Centered Pedagogies

Anne W. Kanga (Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Kenya)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0892-2.ch020
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This chapter is a critical review of conventional and not so conventional Student-Centered Learning (SCL) pedagogies. Additionally, in the African context, educational institutions have been caught up in a theoretical approach to teaching and learning, characterized by a desire to pass examinations. Consequently, this approach leads to surface learning as opposed to deep learning. Hence, teaching and learning outcomes lack quality and definitely fails to meet and promote skills required by the fast changing modern and postmodern global world. To address this need, this chapter examines the following: Overview of SCL pedagogies; Conventional and not so Conventional SCL pedagogies; Implications for SCL pedagogies to learners, instructors, curriculum, and assessment. Finally, this chapter examines the misconceptions and advantages of adopting SCL in the light of learners and instructors.
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Informed by Confucius classical adages, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand” (Confucius, 551-479 BC/2013), to learn without thinking [and doing] is labour in vain. As pointed out by O’Neill and McMahon (2005), to think without learning is desolation to the 21st century rationale for Student Centered Learning (SCL). Hence, it is critically important to challenge, inform, and acquaint the 21st century Teacher Education Programs (TEPs), instructors and learners to appreciate and adopt SCL pedagogies for effective teaching and learning, and most importantly, to nurture lifelong learners who are reflective, independent, active, creative and emotionally engaged in the teaching/learning process and later in the work place.

Many terms and phrases have been used to explain SCL also sometimes referred to as child-centered learning (CCL). However, for the purposes of this paper, and key audience – learners, teacher, and teacher education programs, the term SCL will be used. Additionally, since the focus of the handbook is teacher education and professional development, the concepts instructor and teacher are used in this paper to denote educators trained in pedagogy required to teach at the level of Teacher Education programs and educators trained to teach at the basic education level respectively. Abdullah, Osman, Shamsuddin, Yusoff and Ismail (2012) define student-centered learning pedagogy “as putting students first and focusing on the students’ needs, abilities, interests and learning styles, with the teacher [instructor] as a facilitator of learning” (p. 24). Student-Centered Learning has also been referred to as flexible learning, experiential learning and self-directed learning (Burnard, 1999; Taylor, 2000 as cited in O’Neill & McMahon, 2005.). There is no single widely agreed definition of SCL.

However, scholars and proponents of SCL approaches to teaching/learning concur that SCL is based on the philosophy that the student is at the heart of the learning process, that is, the student is the focal point of the process (Di Napoli, 2010; Education International, 2010; Harris, Spina, Ehrich & Smeed, 2013; Student Centered Learning, SCL, 2010). As the authors further contend, the role of the instructor remains indispensible especially at the level of addressing individual learner’s needs.

In this paper, I adopt Collins and O’Brien’s (2003) understanding of SCL as I perceive it as more operational. In their text, Dictionary of Education, Collins and O’Brien operationalized SCL as:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teaching Philosophy: This refers to the critical reflection that informs an instructor’s approach to scholarship, teaching and learning.

Conventional SCL Pedagogies: These are the SCL pedagogies generally used, and or SCL pedagogies that have been used in teacher education and especially, the pre-computer age. These have been, but not limited to: Improved lecture, questioning method small group teaching, case study, seminar, tutorials, project method, Laboratory method, field trips, and portfolio writing.

Educator: Term is broadly used to mean a professional in the field of education such as a teacher, principal, administrator, lecturer, professor involved in the theory and practice of teaching and learning.

Disruptive and Emerging Technologies: These are technologies that displace established procedures. They are also technologies that shake up the industry usually creating a completely new industry and how processes are carried out. Examples are computers that displaced the typewriter, email that transformed communication, cell phones, laptop and mobile computing, cloud computing, social networking among others.

Instructor: In this paper, the concept is used to denote educators trained in pedagogy required to teach at the level of Teacher Education programs. Depending on different contexts, these are educators with masters and PhD degrees or their equivalent in education.

Pedagogy: In the art/or science of teaching and learning

Lifelong Learning and Learners: This is learning inculcated through SCL pedagogies, usually resulting to lifelong learners, who are intrinsically motivated.

Student Centered Learning: instructional approach in which students influence the content, activities, materials, and pace of learning. This learning model places the student (learner) in the centre of the learning process.

Not so Conventional SCL Pedagogies: These are the SCL pedagogies in the author’s view that call for more instructor reflection, innovation, ingenuity, and of course many pedagogies that are computer based. Most of these pedagogies are “post computer age”. Selected “not so conventional SCL pedagogies in this paper are: problem based [teaching] and learning, Inquiry based learning, challenge based learning, peer observation/peer supported review of teaching (PSRT), Web supported Inquiry based learning (WSBL), and competence based learning.

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