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Teacher centred learning: one size fits no one?
Since the 11th and 12th centuries, the traditional method of learning involves a teacher centred approach where an educator dictates knowledge to students while they sit and absorb it. In many schools today, this model is still prevalent. A typical student’s day can often consist of taking notes at a desk in advance of an exam or quiz—while their teacher talks from the front of the classroom.
It’s all about the teacher…
In this teacher centred approach, lesson design is based on the teacher’s requirements to help all students reach the requirements of an established ‘one size fits no one’ curriculum. At the end of the unit or term, students are assessed on how well they’ve absorbed the didactically-taught knowledge and to what extent they can reproduce the material instructed. This traditional education method imposes the same curriculum and assessments on every student without taking into consideration their strengths, weaknesses, and interests.
But should it be?
This ‘one size fits no one’ style of curriculum and lesson design doesn’t take into account the individualised nature of learning. The focus needs to shift from the teacher meeting the curriculum’s requirements to being about the journey. More importantly, to include adaptive learning strategies that can support educational pathways that suit student’s individual needs.
Education which meets only a limited number of learning styles
It’s relatively common knowledge in today’s more self-aware world that there are seven common learning styles. These include:
Of those seven learning styles, only aural learners connect well to the teacher centred approach, where the educator explains concepts to students. This excludes an overwhelming number of learners who engage best with group projects, visual stimulus, or practical hands-on learning.
A shift from teacher centred learning to student-centred
Thankfully, teaching has slowly begun to undergo a pedagogical shift in recent years, with new approaches being adopted to increase student engagement, enhance the learning experience, and improve learner outcomes. Through the years, many theories have evolved that change the focus from teacher to student-centred learning.
Meeting core curriculum competencies
Student-centred learning does mean that the curriculum and surrounding lessons acknowledge some predefined competencies. However, this more progressive approach to education focuses on the child as a whole. Such student-centred learning has the ability to stimulate cognitive, social, and emotional development: which are key to educational growth. Online education can be a valuable key to leveraging this method. Elearning provides the tools and functionality for students to engage with content-rich lessons/units in a number of ways that stimulate multiple different learning styles all at the same time.
The role of online education in student-centred learning
The two approaches combined offers students the space, tools, and support they need to take control of their own learning. Research demonstrates that education which is purely focused on academic achievement has shown mixed reviews. (1) While many past studies validate that online education can be as effective as traditional classroom instruction at the same time as offering a platform for including more learning styles. (2) Students learning in this kind of setting are proven to be more engaged and higher achieving.
Embracing innovative change
Given today‘s uncertain, volatile, and complex business environment, education needs to embrace a more progressive nature in regards to its curriculums and leverage innovative strategies that will produce an eclectic mix of responsible future leaders. Rather than attempting to manipulate each student with the same ‘one size fits no one’ mould. If students are provided with the opportunity to design, construct, and engage in their own curriculum through student-centred learning, they will integrate skills, information, and concepts they may never have encountered through instruction-based, teacher centred learning.
Going beyond the classroom
Online education is also becoming an important long-term strategy to improve learners’ digital literacy skills for life outside of the classroom. Digital learning prepares students for entry into higher education as well as the job world by helping them use software and processes that will become part of their day-to-day life. For more on digital learning, don’t miss our recent post on how to Improve retention in online courses.
Students who are subject to the traditional didactic methods of teaching, who are not challenged to process or understand fully, are unlikely to reach their full academic or life potential. A ‘one size fits all’ education approach as typically designed by education systems is ultimately very limiting. Schools who have yet to acknowledge this may leave many young people focusing on their outlier feelings and internalising these as self-inadequacies when it is the system letting them down instead.
Instead, we encourage schools to embrace a progressive approach to education which is student-centred. Leverage digital tools to optimise student-centred education for more autonomous learning. If all this is considered then the chances of creating content-rich, exceptionally designed lessons that speak to multiple learning styles all at once vastly improves!
1. I. Jung and I. Rha, “Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Online Education: A Review of the Literature,” Educational Technology, Vol. 40, No. 4, 2000, pp. 57–60; and T. Russell, “No Significant Difference Phenomenon,” (accessed July, 2019).
2. E. I. Allen and J. Seaman, Entering the Mainstream: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States; and T. M. Olson and R. A. Wisher, “The Effectiveness of Web-Based Instruction: An Initial Inquiry,” International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2002, (accessed July, 2019).