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Teacher-Centered VS Student-Centered Learning: Which one is Better?

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teacher centered vs student centered

Google defines the term education as an “enlightening experience.” Meaning that it’s a process that imparts wisdom and education to youngsters. Keeping this in mind, researchers started working on teaching methodologies to check whether those strategies fulfilled the learning criteria or not. Over time, they found that teacher-centered classrooms where students are not encouraged to speak up and participate in discussions undermine the original learning purpose.

This is where student-centered learning comes into play!

If you want to know the major differences between these two strategies, plus which teaching method is better, then you’re on the right platform.

We’ve discussed everything in detail below…

What is Teacher-Centered Learning?

These instructions revolve around teachers only. Teachers speak… teachers interact… teachers do everything, and the students just listen (passive learning). Most of the time, students get frustrated, which deviates their attention from the lecture. They don’t focus; they don’t learn, and as a result, they end up with F grades in the most subjects. 

Some of the characteristics of teacher-centered learning are:
  • Knowledge is passively transferred to the students.
  • Students are bombarded with knowledge and information.
  • Teachers, online tutors, and instructors are the centers of attention.
  • Students are not expected to collaborate with their peers or teachers.
  • Pupils’ opinions and recommendations are often neglected.
  • Teachers seem to be the kings of the class!
  • Students’ autonomous study skills are not empowered.
Unfortunately, this approach has failed in helping students reach their maximum potential. Modern pedagogy's main focus is to foster learners’ autonomous learning skills. However, teacher-centered doesn’t support a culture where students aren’t reliant on teachers. The main disadvantage of this approach is that it damages learners’ cognitive, memorization and decision-making skills. Because they are expected to learn a limited set of information provided by teachers without focusing on processing skills that are required in professional life.

The only advantage of this approach is that teachers can control their students and deliver their lectures without any hindrances from the students’ side. This, however, is a great disadvantage to the learners.

What is Student-Centered Learning?

Unlike the above strategy, this approach places the students at the center of the learning experience. Focusing more on students in traditional or virtual classrooms can create a learning environment that sparks passion and ignite students’ enthusiasm.

Student-centered approach involves active learning, which means that the students are encouraged to think, analyze and discuss information.

Here is an image that clearly illustrates the main differences between teacher-centered and student-centered learning: 

As you can see in the image, student centered-learning has more advantages over teacher-centered learning. Let’s explore this argument in more detail in the next section. 

Is Learner-Centered Teaching Better? If yes, Then Why?

As discussed above, student-centered learning allows students to participate and share their opinions in the classroom. This fosters creative thinking, builds problem-solving skills, strengthens confidence, and promotes autonomous learning. Hence, calling this teaching methodology the most effective approach won’t be wrong. Here’re some impacts of learner-centered teaching on students:

Cultivates Problem Solving Skills

Students spend half of their lives in schools, colleges and universities. From a very young age to adulthood, they learn, learn and learn. This course of their lives prepares them for the future. Learners are expected to master all the skills, such as problem-solving expertise, that will help them in their professional lives.

But how will one strengthen his decision-making skills if he just keeps sitting in a classroom listening to a boring lecture? And how will a learner who never participated in class discussions effectively communicate with his colleagues in the future?

The point is that student-centered learning fosters problem-solving skills that are much needed in professional life. Activities like role-plays, quizzes, etc., teach the learners how to define, analyze, evaluate and determine the solution to a problem.

Boosts Confidence

Healthy self-confidence can do wonders!

It develops learners’ social skills, eradicates fear and improves their motivation. With self-confidence, students tend to take pride in their skills while accepting and improving their flaws. Sadly, approaches that revolve around teachers only kill learners’ confidence and transform them into terrifying puppets having zero leadership skills.

Alternatively, student-centered learning supports an environment where learners can collaborate with each other, share their ideas and present their projects in front of the class or institution. This ultimately reduces their public fear and makes them better personalities. 

Teachers, when designing a student-centered lesson plan, focus on both strengths and weaknesses of the learners. They add certain activities to the plan that help them feel confident, capable, and stronger. Such tasks provide the building blocks for self-confidence and make the learning experience entertaining. 

Elevates Students’ Interest

Learner-centered learning is enriched with interesting tasks that hold students' attention during lectures. When students are forced to attend the never-ending boring lectures, their brains start giving up, hindering their concentration. Even though they keep sitting in the class for hours, they won’t learn anything in this case. This is why teacher-centred learning has faced huge criticism from scholars and educational experts.

To ensure that the students are learning, it is important for teachers to capture their attention. And for the same purpose, using learner-centered approach is perfect. As an instructor, you can use technology in classrooms, i.e., projectors for showcasing colorful PowerPoint presentations or interesting educational videos. This small yet amazing strategy can hook the learners’ interest and further add motivation for learning into their hearts. Apart from that, teachers should conduct fun activities inside and outside the class to provide real-life experiences to the students.

In short, student-centered learning’s main focus remains on learners and using this strategy makes learning more effective.

Strengthens Team Working Skills

Ryunosuke Satoro once said that “Individually you’re one drop, together we’re ocean”. True to these lines, from a doctor to an engineer and from an architect to a businessman, every person needs a team to reach success. This highlights the importance of strengthening students’ team working skills.

When students are divided into groups to perform a certain activity in a learner-centered environment, they try to solve a particular problem with effective collaboration. This way, they learn how to lead a team, what measures should be taken to manage the team and so on. In other words, student-centered learning provides a real-life-like environment to the students where they’re expected to work independently and solve problems autonomously. 

5 Steps to Creating Student-Centered Virtual Environment

As we all know that technology has shifted educational trends into entirely new directions. Instead of the traditional classrooms, we now have Skype. And, instead of hardcover books, students now use soft copies. With these changes in the academic world, scholars started facing new challenges, such as building a virtual student-centered learning environment.

If you’re conducting online classes and aim to help your students achieve academic success, then you need to use student-centered approach. Here are the steps for your guidance:

Know Your Students Well

Know Your Students Well

The very first step is to understand your students. Gather data about their prior knowledge, experiences, and interests. Figure out what works for students and what does not.

Does any particular platform impact their learning behaviour? Which tools have they used previously for learning? Finding the answers to all these questions is important because only this will help you conduct online classes where the students won’t get bored and frustrated. 

List Down Your Objectives

List Down Your Objectives

Once you’re done with the above step, you must highlight your objectives.

For online English teachers, it’s humanly impossible to target all four English skills, i.e., writing, reading, listening and speaking, in one class. Every skill has further sub-skills. To teach them effectively, the teacher should divide the course into different lectures and set specific objectives for each class. For instance, an English tutor can set objectives, i.e., improve pronunciation and vocabulary in session one, strengthen grammar writing skills in session 2 and so on.

The same is the case with every subject. Depending on the subject you're teaching, draft your goals but ensure they’re achievable and flexible. 

Choose the Right Technology

Choose the Right Technology

Now comes choosing the right kind of software and hardware. In this ever-evolving digital world, new hardware and online teaching platforms never stop coming in. This makes it difficult for teachers to pick the right technology for their classes.

Pre-technology tests can help instructors decide which software or hardware is best for their virtual classrooms. Test technology before conducting online classes and, if possible, try different software/hardware to pick the best one.

For lectures that include PowerPower slides, you can stick with software that allows screen sharing, such as Skype and Zoom. You might have to spend extra time doing this, but believe me, it’s worth it. 

Incorporate Fun Activities

Incorporate Fun Activities

To create a student-centered online learning environment, you must keep your students engaged from the first minute of the lecture to the last. I recommend integrating activities encouraging learners to speak and participate during class. For example, as a chemistry teacher, you can ask your students to prepare an interesting project on the periodic table instead of assigning them a quiz. This way, learners would take more interest in the periodic table and ultimately memorize chemical names while preparing the project. 

Form Online Discussion Forums

Form Online Discussion Forums

You should stay in touch with your students after online classes as well. They might need support in a project or homework. You can create WhatsApp groups and allow them to share their queries there. You can also share homework reminders, deadlines, datasheets, and other relevant information there. Further, online tutors who are teaching individual students can communicate with the learners on calls or text messages. 

Wrapping up!

Student-centered learning is an essential part of education.

If you’re not going to engage learners in classes, then you’re not going to build a generation of talented people who can lead in future and solve complex problems to make this world a better place. Luckily, with the right activities, student-centered teaching can make learning more effective and instil all the required skills in youngsters.

On the other hand, teacher-centered learning approach can kill students’ productivity, so its best to avoid using it in both traditional and virtual classrooms. 

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Austin has 10+ years of experience in teaching. He has researched on thousands of students-related topics, issues, and concerns. You will often find him writing about the common concerns of students, their nutrition, and what is beneficial for their academics and health both.