There has been a great deal of interest in learner-centered teaching in the past 20 years, beginning with Barr and Tagg’s (1995) article on the shift from the Instruction Paradigm to the Learning Paradigm in higher education. While there are several aspects to the Learning Paradigm, the emphasis is on construction of the learning environment to produce learning in all students, to elicit student discovery and construction of knowledge, student control of the learning process, active and collaborative learning techniques and processes.
Since then, many educators have been using learner-centered approaches. Maryellen Weimer from Magna Publications (2012) suggested that there are five basic characteristics to learner-centered teaching.
- Learner-centered teaching engages students in the hard, messy work of learning.
- Learner-centered teaching includes explicit skill instruction
- Learner-centered teaching encourages students to reflect on what they are learning and how they are learning it.
- Learner-centered teaching motivates students by giving them some control over learning processes.
- Learner-centered teaching encourages collaboration.
According to Weimer, instructors often do too many of the learning tasks, encouraging students to take a more passive role. Students often need explicit instruction in the skills of generating hypotheses, evaluating evidence and solving problem, and can build these skills in conjunction with learning content. They benefit from being ask to reflect on their assumptions about learning and their learning processes, hypothesis generation, problem solving, and are often motivated when they have some control over the learning process. Classes are typically viewed as communities of learners. Within such a setting, instructors have some expertise, but students can and should learn from each other as well.
Weimer has published one of the initial books on learner centered teaching (updated version published in 2013 Learner-Centered Teaching Five Key Changes to Practice). You might also find resources by Terry Doyle to be of interest. Two books include Putting the Research on Learner Centered Teaching into Practice (2011) and Helping Students Learn in a Learner-Centered Environment: A Guide to Facilitating Learning in Higher Education (2008). Terry also has a blog about learner centered teaching http://learnercenteredteaching.wordpress.com/about/
Another useful resource for people who want to get started with learner-centered teaching is Phyllis Blumberg’s (2008) book, Getting Started with Learner-Centered Teaching. Blumberg provides some materials from the book on her website http://www.usciences.edu/teaching/learner-centered/ Her materials are a good place to start in developing and evaluating your progress in implementing learner centered teaching, as well as strategies to involve students actively in understanding changing roles of instructor and students.