The Application of the Learning Sciences to the Design and Delivery of Student-Centered Learning Activities

The Application of the Learning Sciences to the Design and Delivery of Student-Centered Learning Activities

Michael D. Hamlin
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5085-3.ch021
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The goal of this chapter is to provide a framework for creating student-centered learning activities that rest on a firm theoretical foundation and are based on a definition that highlights the actual learner abilities involved in successful student performance. To achieve this goal, it is important to establish a definition of student-centered learning that can be used to guide the selection of the important pedagogical elements that must be addressed in the design of student-centered learning activities. Having established these foundational elements, the chapter provides a framework for the design of case-based instruction that incorporates teaching and learning principles derived from theory and research in the learning sciences.
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Creating the conditions for and the skills of effective adult reasoning and the disposition for transformative learning - including critical reflection and dialectical discourse - is the essence of adult education and defines the role of adult educator. Jack Mezirow (2009 p. 22)

The great educator, E.L. Boyer (1997), in his Scholarship Reconsidered, provided a perspective on the goal of teaching that can serve as a description of the goals of student-centered learning. Boyer stated, ‘‘…create a common ground of intellectual commitment...[and] stimulate active, not passive, learning and encourage students to be critical, creative thinkers, with the capacity to go on learning after their college days are over’’ (p. 24).

There are many perspectives on student-centered learning and it is possible to develop an extensive set of characteristics derived from the literature. A report by Attard, Di Ioio, Geven and Santa (2010) titled Student-centered Learning: An Insight into Theory and Practice produced for the European Student Union, states the need for a student-centered focus in European education and draws a contrast between what they call conventional (traditional) and student-centered learning practices. Table 1 contrasts some of the elements of conventional instruction and the delivery of student-centered learning.

Table 1.
Comparison of conventional instruction and student-centered learning
Conventional InstructionStudent Center Learning
1. Students as passive recipients of information
2. Teaching what to think
3. Competition for grades
4. Lecture and note-taking
5. Teaching for memorizing, recognition or reproduction
1. Helping students become active processors of information
2. Showing students how to think
3. Cooperation in learning activities
4. Active learning with activities that allow for comparison of ideas questions and reinforce inquisitiveness
5. Support for self-regulated learning

In their overview of the need for a student-centered approach to education in Europe, Attard, et al. cite MacLellan and Soden (2004, p. 254) who describe conventional instruction as “lecturing, note-taking, and memorising information for later recognition or reproduction.” They cite MacHemer and Crawford (2007, p. 11) who show that in contrast to the passive learning in conventional instruction, the student-centered learning experience is active, as it is based on the premise that “student passivity does not support or enhance … learning” and that it is precisely “active learning” which helps students to learn independently.

Attard’s et al. list suggest that student-centered learning activities should:

  • 1.

    Produce student engagement

  • 2.

    Explicitly target higher-level cognitive and metacognitive strategies

  • 3.

    Require cooperation and opportunities for social learning

  • 4.

    Assist students in becoming autonomous and self-regulated learners

Key Terms in this Chapter

Contextualization: Practical reasoning and requires that the practitioner select the elements of professional knowledge most relevant to the given context.

Authentic Learning Activities: Activities that mimic real-world issues or situations. In the business education this could be simulations, problem-based learning exercises, or cases.

Cognitive Apprenticeship: Extension of apprenticeship training techniques to the teaching of cognitive and metacognitive skills.

Situated Learning: What some have called the situative perspective views learning and cognition as distributed over activity systems and communities of practice rather than residing strictly in the head of individuals. The situative perspective looks at learning, cognition, motivation, and achievement as social activities and applies the sociocultural view to research in classroom learning.

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