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IELTS Teacher e-newsletter – April 2019

Learner-Centred Teaching

By Matthew Lane

Learner-centred teaching, also known as learning-centred teaching or student-centred teaching, generally refers to methods which shift the focus of activity from the teacher to the learners. The teacher acts as a facilitator, providing a variety of opportunities and experiences through which learning can take place. This approach to education is often juxtaposed with teacher-centred teaching, in which the teacher is seen as an expert who hands down knowledge and dictates what students study and the ways in which they study it. Learner-centred teaching has a wide range of characteristics including:

•Learner involvement in design of course content and procedures
•Learner involvement in design of learning activities
•The learner taking responsibility for the success of their own learning inside and outside the classroom
•The use of a methodology which gives learners greater control over the learning process.

Methods commonly employed in a learner-centred classroom are:

•Active learning: when students tackle questions, solve problems, brainstorm, and engage in discussions and debates
•Cooperative learning: when students work in teams on projects, designed to encourage both collaboration and individual accountability
•Inductive learning: a process by which learners arrive at general principles through independent thinking and discovery

How can learner-centred teaching be beneficial for your students?

Students tend to find learner-centred teaching motivating, especially students who have been through, or are going through, school education systems which have extremely intense study loads and tremendous pressure on gaining good grades, which leads many of them to become jaded and apathetic when it comes to learning.

Learner-centred teaching can encourage your students to become more independent, or ‘autonomous’. Autonomy can be thought of as a learner’s ability to take responsibility for, and control of, their own learning, either in an institutional context, or completely independent of a teacher or institution. Learner-centred teaching encourages independent, self-motivated learning which will be sustained into the future and can be particularly beneficial for students who are used to a teacher-centred teaching approach, in which they are told what, how, and when to learn.

On top of this, learner-centred teaching can help your students develop skills which will be of useful for them in life in general, such as:

•communication and collaborative skills such as taking on roles in groups and sharing information
•skills related to decision-making, self-management and self-direction
•practical skills such as giving presentations, writing emails and putting together a CV

What are some ways in which you can implement learner-centred teaching?

•Start by offering your students small choices in the classroom such as ‘Do you want me to write this on the board?’ and build up to letting them make more important decisions, such as whether to start a project, as well as increasing the frequency of decisions they make.
•Let your students contribute to the design of activities by asking them to bring their own materials to class, which would give them an opportunity to work on the kinds of things that are relevant to their studies or their jobs or that are of personal interest to them, such as making presentations or reading newspaper articles.
•In order to encourage your learners to become more autonomous, have regular slots in your lessons in which they present the ways in which they like to study English outside the classroom. They might recommend websites they like to use, podcasts they like to listen to, or movies or TV shows they like to watch, and you of course can make your own recommendations as well.
•Suggest that your students keep a blog, which could serve as a learning journal and be a great way for them to reflect on their learning, share comments with others and monitor their progress.
•Have them take part in role plays, projects and discussions, which encourage active, cooperative learning. If you already do any of these, think about ways in which you can make them more challenging. For example, after your students have worked in small groups to decide which 3 famous people to not throw out of a hot air balloon, follow this up with a whole-class discussion about whether some of the famous people mentioned bring more value to society than others.
•Debates are a great way to let your learners develop the ability to speak in front of others, think critically, plan, and work both independently and collaboratively. Debate topics are generally quite deep and complex, which is great if you have higher level students, but if you have lower level ones you can have them talk about simpler topics such as personal preferences.
•In terms of student evaluation, consider methods which you may not have used before, such as self-evaluation and peer evaluation. These can be great ways for your students to measure their ongoing progress and can also inform your own teaching.

Experiment with these ideas and see how it goes!




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