Friday, September 4, 2015

Following Up Our Faculty Conference Discussion

In this first blog of the 2015-16 academic year, I was hoping that we could carry on the discussion started at our opening Faculty Convocation.  (At least in the blogosphere, unlike in the Wellness Center, we can all hear each other…)
At the Friday morning session of the conference, we talked about learner-centered teaching and  the fact that research suggests that active, engaged, motivated, mindful students are more apt to learn and retain information than are students who put in the same amount of learning time but do so in a more passive, listening role.
Maryellen Weimer, in Learner-centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice, describes  learner-centered teaching as teaching that     
  1. engages students in the hard, messy work of learning;
  2. motivates and empowers students by giving them some control over learning processes;
  3. encourages collaboration, acknowledging the classroom as a community where everyone shares the learning agenda;
  4. promotes students’ reflection about what they are learning and how they are learning it;
  5. includes explicit learning skills instruction.
Would you argue a different point of view?  Great--let's hear it. Do you have any observations or questions to follow up your small group discussions at the conference?  Please share. Do you have a successful teaching/learning experience that you have tried out already or have planned for later in the semester that is aimed at enhancing student motivation, collaboration, reflection, metacognitionDo you have suggestions for brown bag discussion topics that could provide some practical how-to teaching tips?

The floor is yours. Let's actively continue the "active learning" conversation!


  1. I thought all teaching is learner-centered; at least, as a goal. Whether it succeeds or not in being learner-centered, is another matter. I understand active learning (as opposed to passive learning), but learner-centered teaching seems to me to be a tautology and not very illuminating as a concept or even label.

    Safro Kwame

  2. Well, yes and no. All teaching should indeed be learner-centered, in the context that there was no teaching if no learning took place, but I think it's the "tautology-ness" of the label that makes it effective, causing people to rethink what should be a truism but all too often isn't.

    And while active learning and learner-centered learning are sometimes used interchangeably, Weimer and others argue that they are different. A class activity can call for active learning (i.e., involvement) on the part of the students but if it's just an exercise to which the teacher already knows the answer and for which the teacher has set up the activity structure, etc., then it wouldn't fall under the "learner centered" umbrella.One of the books --sorry I forget which-- described a continuum from "learning with students" on the one end to "teaching to students" on the other. It's interesting to consider where on that continuum our different class activities fall.