Resources for Strategies on Learner-Centered Instruction
By: Greg Kaminski, Instructional Computing Facilitator
February 4, 2010
The concept of learner-centered instruction has been around a long time. Back in my former days as an ESL instructor it always seemed to be the natural thing to strive for, to engage students in ways of actively using the language with the goal of more effectively internalizing the target language skills. Lecture was a rare format, used mainly to help prepare the students for future academic classes.
But beyond creating engaging learner centered activities, what else is entailed in learner centered instruction? What are the roots? Perhaps of most interest to instructors, what are some resources to tap into to explore current teaching strategies that revolve around learner-centered instruction?
With learner centered instruction, students are kept at the center of the learning process, and they share more of the responsibility as the instructor helps to create an environment in which the students can make connections. The balance of power shifts somewhat as the instructor role moves from the expert delivering the content toward facilitation of the student learning process. What does this really mean, and how much of a shift would you be comfortable with? For example, how would you feel about letting students have input into the course syllabus, topics of discussion during class time, which assignments students will complete, and deadlines for those assignments?
With these questions in mind, I’ve compiled a set of resources that provide background information along with strategies for those who would like to move toward a more learner centered approach.
A Vision of Students Today
This 5-minute video, A Vision of Students Today, was created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University, October 2007. It captures some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, etc. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s well worth the time.
Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Center
The Eberly Center has put together an outstanding set of resources for enhancing education. From the Instructional Strategies page you can explore strategies focusing on various methods, including lectures, discussions, case studies, writing, labs, group projects, public reviews.
Teaching Effectiveness Program, University of Oregon
The Teaching Effectiveness Program has developed an excellent set of resources for th Learner-Centered Classroom. In particular I recommend looking at Maryellen Weimer’s sections “Five Key Changes to Practice”, “33 Ways to Make Your Classroom More Learner Centered”, and “The Balance of Power” in Weimer’s book Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice.
Faculty Focus is a free e-newsletter for faculty, academic deans, and department chairs on topics concerning the best practices on the academic issues at the forefront of higher education. Topic categories can be searched, e.g., a search for “learner centered” brings up a number of contributions from within the last year. You can also browse topic areas such as “Trends in Higher Education” where you can find an answer to the question “Do College Students Spend Too Much Time on Facebook, YouTube and Other Social Networking Sites?” Or, consider the article “More than 30% of Faculty Say They Tweet”. Does PCC fit that profile?
The Teaching Professor Blog
Looking for something that welcomes participation? Maryellen Weimer’s blog, The Teaching Professor, is just the thing. Maryellen Weimer is a Penn State Professor Emeritus of Teaching and Learning, and editor of The Teaching Professor newsletter. Dr. Weimer has consulted with over 400 colleges and universities on instructional issues, including delivering the keynote speech at Portland Community College’s Anderson Conference a number of years ago. The blog is searchable, or you can browse by topic. For example take a look at the topic “Teaching and Learning” where you can read about “The Learning Question”, and “Learner Centered Evaluation.”
MERLOT Pedagogy Portal
The “Teaching Strategies” page of MERLOT is a collection of broader teaching resources. You’ll find a category for learner-centered teaching and a lot more, e.g., resources for Service Learning, Critical Thinking, and Learning Communities. If you haven’t seen MERLOT, it’s also worth spending some time there browsing the collection to find potential learning resources in your own discipline.
Try your own search with Google Scholar, and you’ll find a number of academic resources on the topic, e.g., “Navigating the Bumpy Road to Student-Centered Instruction” by Richard Felder and Rebecca Brent, or “From Teacher-Centered to Learner-Centered Curriculum” by Kathy Brown. When using a computer on campus, you’ll note that some of the results have a direct link to the full text article. This is a slick feature! Just click on the “Full Text @ PCC.” link.
PCC Teaching & Learning Center
Check out your campus Teaching Learning Center (TLC) to see what teaching and learning resources are available. For example, at Sylvania you’ll find current and archived issues of Dr. Maryellen Weimer’s The Teaching Professor, where you’ll find articles such as “Empowering students through choice” (March 2008) and “The power of putting students at the center of learning” (May 2005). Co-directors of the Sylvania TLC have also just started to offer instructor “consultation” hours during which time they are available to consult and brainstorm ideas together on various teaching topics, including learner-centered instruction. Just contact your local TLC to explore the possibilities.
Library & Learning
Vol. 2 Issue 1 February 2010