Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Student-Centered Learning vs. Teacher-Centered Learning

We have all been in the position of not understanding something even after someone explains it. This is completely normal because the human brain is like a muscle. We must train it like any other muscle in order to strengthen it. Could a baseball pitcher be "told" how to pitch? Or does he/she have to practice? This similar principle applies to learning in school as well. 

Recently, I have been taking a science pedagogy class and some of the things we talked about were quite relevant to this blog. An interesting article speaks on why, "Lectures aren't just boring, they're Ineffective, too". The issue today is that with an ever-growing student population, classes sizes are growing and student-centered learning is diminishing. College campuses often have lectures with over 300 students and with this kind of class size, it is a logistical challenge to create an active learning environment. Unfortunately, the reality is that many professors simply give lectures and talk about things they find interesting themselves because asking the class to participate is difficult. This is teacher-centered learning because the things that are occurring within the learning environment are being catered to what makes the teacher's life easier. This is rather unfortunate because a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "concluded that teaching approaches that turned students into active participants rather than passive listeners reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-half a standard deviation". The good news is that in recent years, teachers have been trying to find innovative ways to create a more active learning environment even with 300+ students in a classroom. 

The most recent methods teachers have used to create an active learning environment in large lecture settings is the use of clickers. The teacher simply puts up a multiple choice question on a large screen and students answer using their personal clickers. From these clickers, teachers can see the results of the class as a whole and also the results of individual students. Some of these clicker questions are often graded and are given sporadically throughout the duration of the class. With the aspect of points being earned throughout the class, students are much more engaged. 

Another tool teachers could use is Kahoot. It is similar to clickers and is usually presented as a multiple-choice question on a big screen. The primary benefit to this method is that it is more fun and also given a competitive aspect. An in-depth post regarding Kahoot from January 2016 on our blog can be found here.

All in all, creating an active learning environment is the key to creating a successful learning environment. The use of Clickers or kahoot are simply examples of innovative ways teachers have used technology to create student-centered learning even when the class size is 300+. Lastly, innovation does not stop at these two tools, so I encourage you to test new tools and share back with us here what you have found effective!

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