Student Centred Approaches in Higher Educational Settings

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“One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil.” Nietzsche (1891).

Traditionally, the teacher-centred learning involved the instructor’s active role, whereas the students exhibited a passive, receptive role. Of course, the student-centred learning has many implications for the design of the courses. In this perspective; within the student-oriented approach, the educator adapts to the pupils’ needs, abilities, interests, and learning styles. Handelsman et al. (2004) held that there is sufficient evidence that supplementing or replacing lectures with active learning strategies and engaging students in discovery and scientific process improves their learning and knowledge retention. Many educators are adopting a broad spectrum of the student-centred approaches, which include: Active Learning (Bonwell and Eison, 1991), Collaborative Learning (Bruffee, 1984), Inquiry-based Learning, Cooperative Learning (Johnson, Johnson and Smith, 1991), Problem-based Learning, Peer Led Team Learning (Tien, Roth, and Kampmeier, 2001), Team-based Learning (Michaelson, Knight and Fink, 2004), Peer Instruction (Mazur, 1997) among other methodologies.

As a proponent of active learning I suggest that exercises such as role-playing, debating, student engagement in case studies, active participation in cooperative learning and the like, may be used to create a context of material, where learners work collaboratively. Needless to say, the degree of the teacher’s involvement while the students are being “active” may vary according to the specific task and its context in a teaching unit (Bonwell and Eison, 1991). Examples of “active learning” activities include:

A collaborative learning group: Students are assigned in groups of 3-6 people and they are expected to work together, in tandem in a particular assignment. They are usually requested to answer a question to present to the class or to produce a project. A student debate: Students are urged to participate in activities by giving them the opportunity to express their views and opinions in verbal presentations. Debates will allow the students to take a position and collect information to substantiate their views and explain them to others. Class discussion are usually much more effective in smaller class settings. This educational setting allows the instructor to act as a moderator as s/he can guide the students’ learning experience, and foster the right environment. The students are requested  to critically reflect on the subject matter and use rationality to evaluate their peers’ positions. They are expected to discuss about any topic, in a constructive and objective manner. A discussion may be used as a follow-up activity when the lecture has already been delivered. Similarly, a think-pair-share activity is used when students are encouraged to reflect about the previous lesson. They are expected to discuss with one or more of their peers. Finally they are invited to share their concerns with the class as part of a formal discussion. The instructor is responsible to clarify any misunderstandings. In this case, the learners need a background of the subject to identify and relate what they know to others. Students need to prepared with sound instruction before expecting them to discuss any subject matter on their own.

A class game is a very innovative way to learn, as it provides an opportunity for students’ to review the course material. It also helps the them to enjoy the subject in creative ways. Different games may possibly include; jeopardy and crossword puzzles which keep the students’ minds going. Videos: It transpires that relevant video clips support students in their understanding. It is important that the video relates to the specific topic that students are covering at the particular point in time. The lecturer may possibly include a few questions before you start the video so to engage the students to pay attention to the video. After the video is complete, the students may be divided into groups in order to discuss what they learned. They may also be requested to write a review or points about the video clip or movie.

Evidently, it is up to the instructors to determine the educational goals and objectives. They have to analyse the environment in which they operate, identify the factors which may constrain their approaches, and choose any curricular model and methods that suit to their students. A diversity of approaches and varying methods are to be encouraged. This contribution suggests that a strategy that promotes a student-centred learning is likely to be very effective. Yet, I believe that there is a need for a fair evaluation of the students’ background before any approach can be considered to produce better results than others. The teacher’s duty and responsibility has inevitably changed to a  facilitator of learning. The learner-centred approach suggests that the students are the responsible participants in their own learning  journey.  Such a strategy puts the student at the very centre of the educator’s realms.

References:

Bonwell, C.C. and Eison, J.A. (1991) “Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ERIC Digest”, ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports, The George Washington University.

Bruffee, K.A. (1984) “Collaborative Learning and the” Conversation of Mankind”, College English 46.7: pp635-652.

Handelsman, J. et al. (2004) “Scientific teaching”, Science 304.5670: pp521-522.

Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T. and Smith, K.A. (1991) “Active learning”, Interaction Book Company.

Mazur, E. and Hilborn, R.C. (1997) “Peer instruction: A user’s manual”, Physics Today 50: 68.

Michaelson, L., Knight A., and Fink, L., (2004) “Team- based learning: A transformative use of small groups in  college teaching”, Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Nietzsche (1891) “Decadence, and Regeneration in France (1891-95)” In Forth, C.E. ( 1993) Journal of the History of Ideas, 54:1 pp97-117.

Tien, L.T., Roth, V. and Kampmeier, J.A (2002) “Implementation of a peer‐led team learning instructional approach in an undergraduate organic chemistry course”, Journal of research in science teaching 39.7: pp606-632.

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One response to “Student Centred Approaches in Higher Educational Settings

  1. I enjoyed reading your post! I especially like how you incuded the terms and their meanings. Very informative.

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