Maryellen Weimer (whose bio includes: Penn State Professor Emeritus of Teaching and Learning and Editor-in-chief of Teaching Professor) addresses the wide spread use of the term “learner-centered” in her post, “Five Characteristics of Learner-Centered Teaching” on The Teaching Professor Blog at Faculty Focus. At the heart of her concern is this: “With widespread use comes a certain definitional looseness.”
To help tighten up the definition, she offers five clarifying characteristics, quoted below with a single descriptor pulled from her explanations. For more fully fleshed out descriptions, visit her original post, or better yet, check out her book, “Learner-Centered Teaching.”
1. Learner-centered teaching engages students in the hard, messy work of learning.
On any given day, in most classes teachers are working much harder than students.
2. Learner-centered teaching includes explicit skill instruction.
Learner-centered teachers teach students how to think, solve problems, evaluate evidence, analyze arguments, generate hypotheses—all those learning skills essential to mastering material in the discipline.
3. Learner-centered teaching encourages students to reflect on what they are learning and how they are learning it.
They challenge student assumptions about learning and encourage them to accept responsibility for decisions they make about learning; like how they study for exams, when they do assigned reading, whether they revise their writing or check their answers.
4. Learner-centered teaching motivates students by giving them some control over learning processes.
Learner-centered teachers search out ethically responsible ways to share power with students.
5. Learner-centered teaching encourages collaboration.
Learner-centered teachers work to develop structures that promote shared commitments to learning.
It is pretty easy to see how these core characteristics can apply to any age learner — be they kindergarteners or faculty in a school system. If we want our educators to be learning models for students, we would do well to employ some of these characteristics at all levels of learning.