Student Centered Learning-Science Right Outside


Lesson planning that involves everyone as learners using the immediate environment


Student Centered Learning—Science Right Outside

By Stan Chu, Bank Street College of Education, New York City.


Young children are curious about the natural world around them.  Teachers can facilitate their explorations of what is immediately available to them just footsteps away from their classrooms.


Here is a description of an exploration of animals found within the grounds of the Rato Bangala School (RBS) in Kathmandu, Nepal and done by 28 teachers of grades one through five as part of a two-week intensive in-service teacher training program I led August 6-15, 2012.  This was a continuation of a  20 year collaboration between the RBS and the Bank Street College of Education, New York City.

Direct Experience

This work with classroom teachers having direct experiences with real materials is in keeping with the belief that teachers need to experience learning in the same ways children raise questions and gather evidence from first hand encounters with the physical world.  In addition, learners must create ways to represent their understandings in order to form mental models.

Using the immediate environment to explore and teach

For this session, I collaborated with Basante Yadav, an experienced Nepali science teacher at the RBS in facilitating an exploration of animals found along the edges of the school’s grassy football field.  Teachers were given small trays and hand tools to dig into the soil.  The goal was to find any animals, living or dead, that caught the interests of teachers, and that raised questions that could be answered in the context of available time, materials, and previous understandings.

Teachers formed themselves into groups of four, and walked to the school football field a few minutes away.  They spent about 15 minutes overturning fallen branches and rocks, and digging in the soil.  The teachers were helped to take particular notice of physical settings where they found their animals.  Was the soil moist or dry?  Was the area in the shade or direct sunlight?  Were the animals on leaves, soil, or underground?

Experiential learning

The animals were taken back to the workshop classroom.  Each group had magnifying glasses to help them notice details of the body of their animal.  They then created an enlarged drawing on clear plastic with a fine tipped black marker.

Participatory learning

Group then took turns projecting their drawings using an overhead projector.  Each group member said something about the animal or the conditions in which it was found.  This reporting-out included sharing questions group members had about their animal, and what they might do to try to answer these questions.

Small environments were then created similar to the physical conditions from which the live animals were found along the football field.  This close duplication of living conditions maximized chances for the animals to remain alive, and fostered the idea that living organisms need to be respected and cared for by learners.

During the following days, teachers devised ways to try to answer questions they had about the animals.  Could the animal see?  Could it hear?  What does it eat?  Should the soil be moist or dry?  Does it like shade or direct sun?

The teacher’s role in student centered learning

An aspect of student-centered learning involves questions learners themselves generate from direct experiences.  The teacher has a number of roles, including scaffolding questions of students when needed in order to make the initial questions more accessible to answering, and anticipating sufficient time and tools that help learners pursue their own questions.





Op Ed



of Promoting Student Centered Learning

The web site Student Center Learning Thailand was founded in July 2011, and this month marks its anniversary date. From google statistics we discovered that 12,189 visitors have come to visit over the course of the year. Approximately 60% of those visitors came from Thailand. The rest of visitors came from 134 countries, with the largest percentage of visitors outside of Thailand coming from the United States, Australia, India and the U.K.

We are particularly proud of the fact that in the last  six months  our Thai readership reading in Thai has risen considerably . Only 10% of our readership was reading our web site in Thai the first six months of our founding. We are happy to report that the per cent of Thai readers reading our web site in Thai has risen to 17%. That fact  leads us to mentioning our thanks. Our translator, Miss Neung, certainly gets the credit for raising our Thai readership reading in Thai. Her time and effort translating articles written in English into Thai are very much appreciated not only by the web management but by our Thai readers. And thanks also  to one of the three co-founders, Greg Cairnduff for his indefatigable efforts as deputy editor. Greg has kept the whole operation alive during my duty in Pakistan as the educational adviser for the International Rescue Committee.  And special thanks too to Bryan Fost who is also a member of our threesome founding group. Bryan actually designed the web site and has been the web master overlooking the site. And a thank you  to Kevin Wales who has taken over the web mastering as Bryan has taken on responsibilities in Laos with an organization known as Power.  A final thanks to contributors who wish to remain anonymous for their generosity in covering the salary of the Thai translations and internet costs.

It has been a very good first year. Thank you to all of you for your support. We most certainly appreciate the support of those who have submitted articles too. And, of course, we thank our readership. We hope to continue to appeal to our current readership and hope to expand our readership  in an effort to promote student centered learning.


Peter  J. Foley

Managing director and editor-in-chief.


Student Centered Learning: The Healing Classroom


Student- Centered Learning Pathways in Thailand and Around the World

The Jalozai Refugee Camp in Pershawar, Pakistan: the IRC’s Healing Classrooms

Special Report from  editor-in-chief: Peter J. Foley,Ed.D.

The core of the  IRC’s (International Rescue Committee’s) education program is the “healing classroom” , featuring child- friendly classrooms and child- centered learning.



IRC constructs these classrooms all over the world where children find themselves victims of floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters or when they are faced with bloody wars and conflicts that force them to flee their homes and seek safety in a refugee camp or other refuge.

One such refugee camp is Jalozai Camp just outside Peshawar City.  The school is set up  in tents provided by UNICEF and run by IRC.  The schools are an oasis of safety , friendship and learning for thousands of children. Above are pictures that I hope give a sense of the IRC “healing classrooms in Peshawar , Pakistan.

articles Featured Articles

Teaching for Understanding : Article 1

Teaching for Understanding

An Introduction


Thai teachers

Shifting the Educational Paradigm  to Student Centered Teaching and Learning


Greg Cairnduff

By Greg Cairnduff, 

Director The Australian International School of Bangkok 

January  2012  





This article is a  contribution to the  discussion about moving Thai education  from rote learning as the pedagogical norm, towards a pedagogy that is student-centered  and one that  will enhance the capacities of Thai students going into  the 21st Century workforce.

This is the first of a series of three articles on the basics of the methodology known as Teaching for Understanding.

Educational Change is Not Easy to Achieve

The challenge of educational change is well documented  and demonstrated in the practical attempts at reform by education systems around the world. Evidence of reform efforts reveals one inescapable factor: large scale educational change is never easy, nor is it quick to achieve.

The Finnish education system is an outstanding example of a high performing, high quality system. But it should be noted that it took Finnish educators  least 15 years to develop their at system to its current level.

Systemic context is relevant to the pace of successful reform. For example, Finland’s context is one of a relatively small country of under 6 million people compared to Thailand’s population of 62 million. On this count alone, the contexts of the two systems are very different.

Educational Change in Thailand

Thailand has  a very large education system. To move from an old paradigm of education [20th Century model] to a new paradigm [21st Century model] in a system of over 35 000 schools is like turning a large ship around – it takes time and sea space; it can be slow, cumbersome, and hard to achieve in the short term.

Despite these contextual challenges, the shift to student-centered learning is the  shift that is essential for  students’ success in the 21st Century.  In the end it is teachers in the classrooms of Thai schools who have to actually bring about this big change.

What are some of the needs of 21st Century Education?

Students must be prepared differently to enter the Information Age [C21st] workforce than in the Industrial era. The main difference is  preparation related to knowledge work, the kind of work that more and more people will do in the 21st century.

If Thailand is to have workers with the necessary skills for these times, the nation must have an education system that focuses heavily on the skills required for this  century, particularly communication and computer skills

What Knowledge and Skills are required for the 21st Century?

Building knowledge and developing sets of skills have traditionally been considered the mainstays of education.

In the rapidly changing world, the acquisition of the standard skills of reading, writing and numeracy are no longer sufficient. Internationally, education systems are  looking at ways to prepare students for  jobs that involve complex thinking and communication skills. These are the knowledge work jobs of today and tomorrow that require complex skills, expertise and creativity.

What seems certain is that there are two sets of skills that are at the top of job requirements for 21st century work: The ability to quickly acquire and apply new knowledge and  know how to apply certain commonly required skills to all aspects of the workplace; such as  problem solving, communication, teamwork, technology and innovation.

Four powerful elements  are converging and leading towards new ways of learning for life in the 21st century.

These  are generally recognised as:

  • Knowledge work
  • Thinking tools
  • Digital lifestyles
  • Learning research.

The diagram  provides an  indication of how these four elements fit together.

Education Transitions

Knowledge Work

The Thai Education system faces increasing pressure to produce knowledge workers.

Internationally, corporations are making investments in global programs to attract graduates to the high technology fields and to train them in these fields. The Thai education system has to ensure that students are not at a disadvantage when these corporations are in the Thai or international market for knowledge workers. For example, Thai graduates have to compete with well educated graduates from India and China.

In the book, The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What it Means for all of US, the author, Meredith writes “suddenly Americans must compete with much of the rest of the world for their jobs with much of the rest of the world “ [1] This comment emphasises the same for Thailand – Thai workers are competing with Indian and Chinese workers on the international job market.

Thinking Tools

The mental tasks of knowledge work involve accessing, managing, creating, and communicating information. These tasks are becoming easier and more efficient as digital tools for assisting with the tasks become increasingly sophisticated. Therefore, teaching in and learning in Thai schools has to move towards teaching students methods to help them organise their thinking, as well they need to use the digital tools available to them.

Digital Lifestyles

The terms “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” describe the divide that often exists between the students who are digital natives and their teachers, who are mostly digital immigrants. These digital natives [the students] and the digital immigrants [the teachers], must be able to work together. It is likely that it is the teachers who have to change the most.

Traditional Teaching

Studies of traditional teaching practices reveal numerous and persistent pitfalls. Too frequently students can’t remember what they have learnt or don’t understand the material well enough to apply it in different situations.  Regular classroom activities are often too routine to promote understanding.

The spelling drills, true-and-false quizzes, arithmetic exercises and conventional essay questions so common in the teacher-led classroom, promote the learning of knowledge, but limit the versatility of the skills.  The development of knowledge and routine skills are important, but what students learn is superficial and often remains inert, students are unable to apply their knowledge, or recognize opportunities to do so.

Educators must provide alternate applications for the theory and real-world examples. Learning experiences where students can apply their new knowledge and understanding outside the academic context, and

Teaching for Understanding

The approaches to developing understanding in students as used in many parts of the world  are  often based on the work of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Faculty members at the Harvard Graduate School of Education collaborated with many experienced teachers and researchers to develop, test, and refine this approach for effective teaching.

It is strongly recommended that readers refer to the web site at:

Teaching for Understanding is based on the premise that students who understand information are more flexible with their knowledge.

What is Understanding?

The term understanding denotes a variety of mental processes, states and structures.

  • Understanding refers to the ability appreciate the nature, significance, or explanation of a concept and apply these concepts appropriately (Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 2002).
  • Understanding implies to the ability to make connections between facts [knowledge] and relating newly acquired information, to that which is already known and integrating knowledge into a cohesive whole so that ideas and concepts are understood.

The Need to Develop Understanding in the Teaching and Learning Process

Educators and students find themselves in the middle of an information explosion and a rapidly changing world.  The increased body of information proves problematic for teaching and learning. It is no longer feasible for students to memorize all the facts and figures that come at them on a daily basis.  Instead, teachers need to work with students to develop their ability to understand concepts and principles that will permit them to operate in the rapidly evolving world.

Researchers and educational reformers have worked collaboratively to develop a definition of understanding and identify approaches to teaching that develop skills and improve student understanding.

Developing Understanding  

Students’ ability to understand the world needs to be developed so they are able to adapt to new situations and apply their understanding to enable them to solve  problems.

The application of skills and knowledge beyond the classroom requires more than just the ability to do the task. It requires understanding of concepts and big ideas.

In Thailand [and not only Thailand] most of the current teaching practice has students acquiring knowledge and routine skills without necessarily any real understanding of the concepts and reasons which underpin the acquired knowledge. Often students know how to do something, but they have no depth of understanding of the processes and outcomes of what they are doing.

For example, students may know how a car can be driven so that it moves, but do they understand the chemistry and physics in causing this to happen?

In looking at an issue for example, the environment, it is necessary to have an understanding of the internal combustion engine in order to make judgments about the impact of the car on the environment.

Implications for Thai teachers

The challenge for Thai teachers is to move their practice from mainly teaching and testing the acquisition of knowledge to teaching students to think, ask questions, and develop deep understanding of the knowledge they acquire and rather than testing knowledge,  assessment ought to part of the learning process.

Articles presented in earlier by Ellen Cornish and Dr Don Jordan [December, and September October 2011] provide practical examples of how teachers can plan for this type of teaching.  

Article 2 in this series on Teaching for Understanding in February, will suggest ways teachers can enhance the development of deep understanding.

[1] Meredith, R. The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What it Means for all of US New York, Norton, p190

articles Featured Articles

Student Centered Learning: A Case for Integrated Learning Classrooms

Ms Ellen Cornish and Dr Don W Jordan

Our classroom experience has shown us that the many benefits of moving away from rote learning to an integrated learning classroom, is that skills, values and understandings can best be taught and assessed within meaningful ‘connected’ contexts. Based on our understanding of students’ needs, interests, prior knowledge and experience, we planned a set of broad understandings to help frame our unit of work. These understandings – though specific to the topic – incorporated some of the    key concepts that students explore with increasing sophistication as they move through school.  The following is an example of what our classroom planning and teaching towards enhancing understanding in an integrated classroom looks like, sounds like, and feels like, together with a suggested unit of work on the human body, feel good feel great.

Integrated learning advantages teachers and students by:

·         Reflecting, more closely, the interdependence between all aspects of life in the real world

·         Challenging learners to use and develop their thinking as they work to make connections and see the ‘big picture’

·         Catering to the various learning styles and preferences held by students

·         Managing an increasing crowded curriculum

·         Meeting outcomes in context

·         Making more ‘sense’ to the school day – as activities have stronger links with each other

·         Providing students with a greater degree of control over learning

·         Encouraging staff to plan and work in teams

·         Structuring a meaningful context for the teaching and assessment of outcomes across key learning areas

·         Enabling students to transfer knowledge, skills and values across content and experiences

·         Skilling students to process and respond to experience in a range of ways

·         Linking purposes with activities more explicitly

·         Enriching understanding, enjoyment and reflection in teaching and learning.

The essence of this approach to planning is the relationship between those learning areas concerned with ‘the world around us’ (science, technology, health, and environmental and social education) and those areas through which we explore and come to understand that world (language, mathematics, art, drama, dance, music and aspects of technology.  Kath Murdoch (2003, P.1)


Creating an Integrated Classroom


An Integrated Classroom

Connects Prior Learning to New Learning



Fosters Reflective Practices

Makes Learning Meaningful

Recognises Individual Differences

Looks like


  • Teachers working / planning collaboratively.
  • Desks arranged in clusters of 4-6.
  • Activity centres with work space and resources.
  • Wall displays of student work and instructional material.
  • Comfortable reading space. (Cushions and books).

  • Smiling faces.


  • Tuning in activities using various graphic organisers e.g. what I know, what I would like to know etc.
  • Teacher assessment. (formative, summative).


  • Teacher and student created rubrics.
  • Students displaying their learning in a number of ways, e.g talking, writing, art, drama etc.


  • Relevant and up to date resources.


  • Adequate work spaces for students.
  • Curriculum relevant to student needs and interests.


  • Classroom program arranged to allow students to find space and resources. Allowing the teacher to give time and encouragement to students in order to demonstrate their learning across curriculum areas.
  • Learning program developed so that students can enter at their level and be extended and challenged.

Sounds like


  • Students discussing and helping each other.
  • The teacher interacting with individuals and groups.
  • Students confidently sharing their learning with the class through speaking, writing, drama, music, art.







  • Students being able to discuss their understandings and to make connections.







  • Students confidently explaining, discussing their learning with peers, teacher and parents.





  • Teacher making learning objectives clear.
  • Opportunities for students to takes risk in sharing their learning.





  • The sound of discussion between students and between students and teacher.
  • Students sharing the learning with peers, parents and teacher.


Feels like

  • Warm and safe to share confidently.
  • To ask questions and give opinions.
  • Inviting and feeling part of the group.














  • Warm and safe to share confidently.
  • To ask questions and give opinions.
  • Inviting and feeling part of the group.




  • Warm and safe to share confidently.
  • To ask questions and give opinions.
  • Inviting and feeling part of the group.


  • Students feeling confident to share their understandings with others.







  • Supportive environment so students feel comfortable to give thoughts and opinions.










Murdoch, K. (2003), Classroom Connections; Strategies for Classroom Learning. Australia: Publishing Solutions.



Overarching Goals: Goals which overshadow the whole topic.

Tuning In: Finding out what the students already know about the topic, as well as what they would like to find out in order to stimulate their interest and enthusiasm for the topic.

Brainstorm: group discussion and sharing of ideas.

Guiding Questions: questions related to the topic which promote thought as well as refining the investigation to be undertaken.

Graphic Organiser: Charts which help visually organise information (there are many examples, including Y charts, T charts, fish bones, placemats, concept maps, flow charts etc. on the internet)

Rubrics: Teacher or student generated charts based on the topic being studied to assist with self-assessment.

Formative Assessment: Teacher assessment, as well as student self-assessment which can be demonstrated through drama, oral presentations, written material, information technology, art and craft etc.

Summative Assessment: System and school based testing.

Culmination: The final part of the topic where students demonstrate their understandings using a variety of methods including drama, information technology, oral presentations, written material, art and craft etc.





articles Featured Articles

Student-Centered Learning: Demystifying the Myth




Chutima Thamraksa

Teacher-centered or teacher-direct orientation has long been the focus of education in Thailand. This approach has placed an emphasis on rote learning or memorization rather than developing the thinking skills of learners. The drawback of the system is seen through the passive and dependent learners, who lack the skills to think critically and creatively. Recognizing this major drawback, the Ministry of Education has initiated a major  reform of the system—from the traditional teacher-centered to a student-centered approach—with the intention of producing competent, independent and life-long learners who can keep pace with global competition. However, due to the several changes that have occurred as a result of the implementation of this student-centered approach,  it leaves a number of teachers perplexed about their roles and the teaching pedagogy. This article attempts to unfold the puzzle by first giving a definition of the term and later on examining several aspects pertinent to the approach.


The issue of student- or child-centered learning has been an explosion of interest among educators and school/college teachers in recent years. In fact, the term was not much recognized until the Thai National Education Act 1999 made it the key concept in the reform of education. This new approach, it is hoped, will maximize the potential of Thai people to cope with the increasing demands of the knowledge based economy and the world of  information and communication technology.

Even with this interest, however, there arises much confusion and mistrust of the pedagogical movement behind the new model. Some teachers view it as a threat to their long-time teacher-centered or teacher-front orientation, while some fear that the approach will lessen the significant role they play in class, i.e., as the importer of page 60 SLLT 2003 knowledge. Likewise, some students become sullen and hostile to this approach as can be seen from the remarks that were recently reported in the newspapers that “the child-centered approach is like ‘khwai’-centered approach.” Literally, the term ‘khwai’ in Thai refers to a large cow used to draw plows for farmers. When used in reference to people or ideas, it implies that the compared people or ideas are witless. By describing the child-centered approach as ‘khwai’-centered approach, it can be inferred that the approach is a disappointment; it does not help students to become  smarter but rather impedes their progress.  Such a criticism clearly  reflects the failure, not of the approach per se, but of the teachers’ misinterpretation, misuse and abuse of the concept.

Despite a substantial body of literature on student-centered learning, the majority of teachers, it can be said, are still skeptical of whether the approach can really enhance student learning quality. Much worse, teachers are uncertain of how and what they should do to implement the approach. A number of questions regarding the feasibility, viability and applicability of this teaching model are raised widely in the teaching community. As such, this paper will attempt to clarify and analyze the principles and aspects of student-centered learning through the most frequently asked questions in terms of this issue.

What Is Student-centered Learning?

Simply put, student-centered  learning is a model wherein students are placed in the core of the learning process. As such, students’ needs, opinions, backgrounds, and goals are acknowledged and incorporated within the learning environment. In this model, teachers are guided by what is best for the students when helping them to learn or make decisions.

The concept of student-centered learning is derived from several models. It first evolves out of the constructivist learning theory which asserts that knowledge is constructed uniquely and individually in multiple ways (Vygotsky, 1978, cited in Bush & Saye, 2000). It also derives from the experiential model in which teaching is seen as transformation of existing knowledge (Kohonen, 1992) and the active learning model which suggests that all learning activities involve some kind of experience or some kind of dialog such as dialog with self and dialog with others (Fink, 2002).SLLT 2003 page 61

What Are the Characteristics of Student-Centered Learning?

On the basis of the models from which it derives, studentcenteredness entails these characteristics:

• The focus is on active learning, using an integrated approach to connect new learning to prior learning, stimulating interest and relevance, providing student  choice and control, adapting to individual developmental differences, and providing a caring and supportive learning environment (Bansberg, 2003).

• Knowledge is constructed through authentic learning. It is learnt in a real context or the context in which it was first generated. In other words, it links school learning experiences to real world situations.

• Students are active participants in the learning process rather than passive recipients. They have opportunities and increased responsibilities to identify and self-direct their own learning needs, locate learning resources, and construct their own knowledge based on those needs.

• Class activities and project work are arranged differently to allow learners a variety of choices to select according to the needs of each student. This results from the notion that students have different capabilities and  preferences for learning modes and strategies.

• A learning environment, where learning may take place anywhere, at any time, in many forms and by diverse means, is created. Such a learning environment enables students to be responsible for and involved in their education. As such, students are provided with  substantive out-of-classroom activities that increase students’ learning in a number of dimensions.

• Students are motivated more intrinsically (self-motivation) than extrinsically (external motivation). Simply put, students are motivated from within not from without. For example, they type a written assignment because they take pride in their work not because they want people to admire or approve of 62 SLLT 2003

Why Switch to this New Model?

What Is the Problem with the Traditional Method?

To answer these questions, we need to look back to analyze the nature of the traditional teacher-centered approach, and its outcome on learners to see why a student-centered approach should be promoted as an alternative.

The teacher-centered approach, influenced by the transmission model,  affirms that knowledge is something that can be transmitted from teachers to students, like a two-dimensional learning of teacher to student instruction.  In a classroom, a teacher is the person in authority whose job is to impart knowledge and skills, evaluate and correct the learners’ performance according to the criteria he/she has set. The students are relatively passive recipients of knowledge, and expect the teacher to be totally in charge of their learning.

As such, the typical pattern of classroom interaction in this transmission model is IRE—teacher Initiation, student Response, and teacher Evaluation (Mehan,1979). In the IRE pattern,  teachers are always at the front of the room, providing knowledge, asking students to demonstrate knowledge previously taught, and evaluating the students’ responses and performance.

This teacher-centered practice is deeply rooted in Thai society, wherein “hierarchy” lies as a central value. Since Thais place an emphasis on the vertical respect relation and submission to authority (Williams, 1980), teachers, who have a much higher status than students, are regarded as the second parents whose mission is not only to impart knowledge but to teach morals and mold the students to be good citizens in society as well. The image that is generally assigned to a teacher is that of a “righteous guru” who possesses great knowledge. As such, it goes without saying that in the learning process, the teacher, not the learner, is placed right in the center.

In view of these two factors, the hierarchical pattern of society and the transmission model of education, we can understand more clearly why Thai teachers need to maintain their “righteous guru” image through the use of teacher-front orientation and the IRE pattern.

Unfortunately, however, such teaching practice has a major downside, for it has shaped learners to be passive recipients who merely listen, memorize, and absorb the information transferred  by the guru rather than to initiate or negotiate the outcome of the learning process. Students are not trained  to exercise their analytical, critical, and reflective thinking. Much worse,  this education system does not (SLLT 2003 page 63) prompt students to become independent learners who recognize that knowledge is constructed in many ways, see the value of learning, realize that learning is a life-long process, and understand that there’s no one else but themselves be responsible for their own learning.

To keep abreast with the rapidly changing world of information and the economy that requires critical thinking, we need to empower the students. We need to enable them to think critically and independently, and be responsible for and involved in their learning. Students need to be self-directed  and become active players in the academic learning enterprise. On all these accounts, it is time to advance from two-dimensional teacher-to-student instruction to  three dimensional student-centered learning where students and teachers are involved in project work. According to Watanabe (1999), the latter can “allow for a depth in the learning process through the students and teachers active participation in the learning process—a participation that allows for an unlimited amount of creativity” (p. 1).

How Can Student-centered Learning be Implemented?

As mentioned earlier, the teacher-centered model has long been the focus of our education system. Therefore, in an attempt to implement the student-centered approach, the first thing that needs to be done is to re-conceptualize teaching and learning. The traditional concept—that emphasizes knowledge  as the object to be transmitted, teaching as the presentation of knowledge, and learning as its absorption—must all be reformed. We need to implement a new conception that views knowledge as something that can be constructed, teaching as a means to provide an environment that is most conducive to learning, and learning as the process of learning how to learn. Based on the new concept, teachers and students need to modify their new roles to fit the learning process. These can be outlined as follows:

The Role of a Teacher

The teacher’s role, in a student-centered classroom, is much more crucial and valuable than that of the teacher-centered orientation.

Teachers need to:

• Change from the role of authority and presumed expert who possesses all knowledge to become a facilitator who provides apage 64 SLLT 2003 setting in which the students can play an active and inquiring role in their own learning.

• Create a learning environment that stimulates and challenges learners, fosters critical thinking and the process of knowledge construction. For example, teachers can enhance the thinking skills of learners through doing  such activities  as reasoning, decision making, reflecting, making inferences and problem solving. These types of activities encourage students to engage cognitively and emotionally with the learning tasks. The latter activity, especially, can be done by building an environment that allows students to examine complex problems using a wide variety of resources, develop their own strategies for addressing these problems, and present and negotiate solutions to these problems in a collaborative manner.

• Promote collaborative learning. Collaboration among students is an integral component of  the student-centered approach. Working as a team, according to Kohonen (1992), can create a positive interdependence and individual accountability among learners as each member attempts to contribute to the team product and thus is in charge  of helping his/her teammates to learn. Collaboration can also foster learners’ growth, develop social and learning skills, and  help them construct their own knowledge through engaging in the exchange of ideas.

• Recognize the individual differences in approaches to learning. Teachers should set multiple tasks and give choices to learners to select and sequence their own activities independently.

• Reinforce the idea that the source of knowledge is not confined within the walls of a classroom, but may also be discovered outside. Some examples of sources of knowledge include: parents, elders, libraries, museums, historical sites, authentic materials, and the Internet.

• Utilize “authentic assessment” (“Authentic Assessment,” 2001)—one that examines a student’s collective abilities, criterion-referenced, and performance-based—rather than standardized assessment.

• Draw from different disciplines to integrate learning experiences and more importantly, use team teaching toSLLT 2003 page 65 achieve integrated learning outcomes. For example, teachers with different expertise like tourism and biology, working together, can bring together the concepts in different subjects to teach generally about the environment.

• Draw upon the relation between the students’ prior knowledge and experiences to the new learning. This is based on the notion that the learning experiences that relate to the students’ personal knowledge and experiences are the most easily learnt and often the most difficult to forget.

The Role of a Student

In a similar vein, students play a significant role in the learningprocess. They no longer view themselves as empty vessels waiting to be filled. Instead, they need to:

• Change from the old belief “knowledge is to be transmitted by teachers” to the new understanding “knowledge is to be constructed,” and be aware that students are responsible for constructing their own personal knowledge.

• Change from merely being passive recipients to taking part as active participants who are engaged in all aspects and activities of their learning (both cognitively and physically) that are generally the duty of the teacher in most traditional learning activities.

• Set meaningful goals for completing the learning activity, assume more responsibility for meeting those goals, and monitor their progress in order  to determine if the strategies they are using to accomplish their goals are effective (Glassglow, 1997).

Is the Use of Technology an Integral Component in Student-Centered Learning?

There is no doubt that in the 21st century technology is increasingly important. Not only does it affect the way we live, the way we conduct business, the way we communicate with one another, but also the way we teach and  learn. According to Tsang-Kosma (2003), the business world demands  that schools prepare graduates who are skilled at working in teams, can effectively solve problems,page 66 SLLT 2003 are able to process and apply information, and more importantly, can use technology effectively in order to maximize productivity. As such, the challenges and educational  goals for schools should focus on creating the learning environment that incorporates technology as well as fosters the skills necessary to empower students. If integrated properly, technology such as audio, dynamic visual formats, computers, and the Internet, will  enrich the learning environment by using them effectively as a medium of instruction or a tool to enhance student learning. Some merits of technology, as outlined by NCREL (2003) are highlighted here:

• Technology can change the learning context from teachercentered to learner-centered activities, giving students more control of content, creating  a more collaborative learning environment, and providing different ways of accessing information and communicating with people. Many interactive software programs can lend themselves well to learnercentered instructional approaches.

• Technology provides hands-on, minds-on activities—those that engage students’ physical as well as mental skills to solve problems. The activities can increase students’ fluency with given content, strengthen basic skills, help students acquire higher-level proficiencies, increase the relevancy of instruction to students’ lives, provide interactive feedback about their performance, and most of all, motivate students. For example, the use of electronic books, often on CD-ROM, can turn reading from a static, print-based activity into an exciting, interactive experience.

• Technology, particularly the Internet, is a tool well-suited to learning. It provides an ideal learning environment that allows anyone to learn by doing, to  receive feedback, to refine understanding, to build new  knowledge, and to reflect (“Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers,” 2003). What Difficulties Can Arise in the Implementation of Student-Centered Learning? The difficulties that may arise from implementing this innovative model include: SLLT 2003 page 67

• Some teachers resist changing  their old beliefs and usual teaching practices. Such  resistance may occur from the deeply rooted “righteous guru” or  “imparter of knowledge” image fixed in their head. These teachers view themselves as the authorities whose mission is to teach, direct, instruct, and control students. Therefore, they may fear doing things differently; they may see the change as a threat to their status and profession.

• A number of teachers are not willing to implement the approach, for they perceive that the way they teach is already the best and thus there is no  need to change. Since these teachers opt to use only one way or method that they feel works best, they are not open to new ideas or other possibilities.

• Some teachers are in a rush to implement the approach without a thorough understanding of the principles and a careful plan of teaching. These teachers are too eager to make changes and do not take into consideration the  culture and realities of their classroom situation.

• Some teachers lack the knowledge and skills to incorporate technology into their own teaching. Unfortunately, many teachers know very little about computers and are not interested in learning; while others may try to seek new uses for technology in the classroom but do not have sufficient technical support. These teachers see the value of technology but they feel frustrated because they are not trained to use these resources in the classroom setting.

• It may be the case that while many teachers are personally committed to serving students’ needs, the structure of their organization and policies may  not accommodate or, in some cases, hinder the desire to be more student-centered.

• Some students reject the approach because they want evidence that they are being taught something. These students, like some teachers cling to the perception that knowledge must be transferred and thus wait for teachers to spoonfeed 68 SLLT 2003

What Results Can be Indicative of Success in the Implementation of Student-Centered Approach?

The ultimate goal of student-centered learning is to produce self-directed, lifelong learners. This means that teaching can facilitate students to move from dependency toward autonomy. The success of the implementation of such an approach can be examined from the stages of student development below: (“Steps Toward,” 1996)

Stage One: Dependent Learners

Learners, at this very first stage, are dependent on teachers— authorities who impart knowledge, give explicit instructions on what to do, how and when to do it. To students, learning is teacher-centered. Students are not given an opportunity to make choices or exercise control over their learning.

Stage Two: Interested Learners

At this stage, learners show positive response toward the motivation and guidelines given by  teachers. Despite a directive approach, teachers can successfully link content to students’ interests, show high support, and build  a good rapport in the classroom community, all of which can reinforce student willingness and enthusiasm.

Stage Three: Involved Learners

Students, at this level, are  much more developed. More and more, they see themselves as participants in their own learning, seeing the value of their own life experiences, and also the value of learning from and with others. Learners respond well to teaching through collaborative learning.

Stage Four: Self-directed Learners

At this stage, learners can  set their own goals, plans, and standards. This gives them a  sense of independence in, and responsibility for their learning. Teachers no longer give lectures, but rather act as consultants, monitor student progress, and give feedback in the learning process.

(SLLT 2003 page 69)


Student-centered learning is a model in which students are the focus of the learning process. This model, however, does not mean that teachers will step aside, letting students alone run everything. Rather, it means that teachers, when planning their teaching, will take into consideration the views and needs of students and run the classroom to the benefit of students. It also means that teachers will manage their teaching in a way that makes students feel included, value the educational process, and take control of their own learning.

Implementing a student-centered model is a true challenge for the 21 st century. The process of incorporating it into our education system demands hard work and effort from teachers and students alike. The key to the success of implementation requires, on the teacher’s part, a careful study and a thorough  comprehension of the model’s principles, as well as a genuine recognition of its value. Through the new understanding, teachers then can change their old beliefs and practices; they can set the new goals and standards, and plan their teaching, taking into account what is  best for students. In so doing, teachers can also work on their personal and professional development. On the learner’s part, likewise, students, guided by teachers, need to adopt a new conception of the learning process. They need to realize that if they are to keep pace with the rapidly changing world, and to compete in the global market place that has a growing demand for educated workers with skills in critical thinking, problem solving and decision making, they  must change their long-time practice from passive to active  learners. They need to empower themselves, gain control over their learning, and become autonomous learners. Finally, it is hoped, teachers and students working in collaboration, can gradually make  the learning environment become productive and worthwhile.


Authentic assessment. (2001). Retrieved April 19, 2003, from


Bansberg, B. (2003). Applying the learner-centered principles to the

special case of literacy. Theory into Practice, 42 (2), 142-147.

Bush, T., & Saye, J. (2000). Implementation and evaluation of a

student-centered learning unit: A case study. Educational

Technology, Research and Development, 48 (3), 79-91.

Fink, L. D. (2002). Active learning. Retrieved April 5, 2003, from

http://www.hcc.hawaii.edupage 70 SLLT 2003

Glassglow, N. (1997). New curriculum for new times: A guide to

student-centered, problem-based learning. Thousand Oaks, CA:


Kohonen, V. (1992). Experiential language learning: Second language

learning as cooperative learner education. In D. Nunan (Ed.),

Collaborative language learning and teaching (pp. 17-32).

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mehan, H. (1979). Learning lessons. Cambridge, MA: Harvard

University Press.

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL). (2003).

Focus on student-centered learning/Support professional

development. Retrieved March 27, 2003, from

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March 3, 2003 from


Steps toward becoming a self-directed learner. (1996). The Teaching

Professor, 10 (4). Retrieved March 3, 2003  from

Tsang-Kosma, W. (2003). Student-centered learning + technology =

rethinking teachers’ education. Retrieved March 27, 2003, from

Georgia State University

Watanabe, Y. (1999). Second language literacy through studentcentered learning. The Internet TESL Journal, 5 (2). Retrieved

March 2, 2003  from

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015980). Dekalb, IL: Northern Illinois University, Center for

Southeast Asian Studies. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service

No. ED 231183)

About the Author

Asst. Prof. Chutima Thamraksa obtained her Ph.D. in English

Rhetoric and Linguistics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania,

U.S.A. in 1997, M.A. in English for Non-Native Speakers and a

Certificate in Teaching English  as a Second Language (TESL)from

Central Missouri State University, U.S.A. in 1988, and B.Ed. in

English from Chulalongkorn University in 1985.  She is currently the

Chairperson of the English Department, School of Humanities,

Bangkok University. Her publications include three textbooks:

Exploring through Writing: An Advanced Rhetoric; Report Writing;SLLT 2003 page 71

Critical Reading, and articles on Virtual schooling: a technological and

educational revolution, and The use of ICT on language teaching.



*Chutima Thamraksa is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Bangkok Univeristy Language Institute

May 30th 2011

Student-Centered Learning: Demystifying the Myth


articles Featured Articles

Student Centered Learning: What does it mean for Students and Lecturers?


Student-centred learning: What does it mean for students and lecturers?

Tim McMahon

Geraldine O’Neill and Tim McMahon
University College Dublin
E-mail: /

reprinted here with the permission of both authors


The term student-centred learning (SCL) is widely used in the teaching and learning literature. Many terms have been linked with student-centred learning, such as flexible learning (Taylor 2000), experiential learning (Burnard 1999), self-directed learning and therefore the slightly overused term ‘student-centred learning’ can mean different things to different people. In addition, in practice it is also described by a range of terms and this has led to confusion surrounding its implementation.

The concept of student-centred learning has been credited as early as 1905 to Hayward and in 1956 to Dewey’s work (O’Sullivan 2003). Carl Rogers, the father of client-centred counseling, is associated with expanding this approach into a general theory of education (Burnard 1999; Rogoff 1999). The term student-centred learning was also associated with the work of Piaget and more recently with Malcolm Knowles (Burnard 1999). Rogers (1983a:25), in his book ‘Freedom to Learn for the 80s’, describes the shift in power from the expert teacher to the student learner, driven by a need for a change in the traditional environment where in this ‘so-called educational atmosphere, students become passive, apathetic and bored’. In the School system, the concept of child-centred education has been derived, in particular, from the work of Froebel and the idea that the teacher should not ‘interfere with this process of maturation, but act as a guide’ (Simon 1999). Simon highlighted that this was linked with the process of development or ‘readiness’, i.e. the child will learn when he/she is ready (1999).

The paradigm shift away from teaching to an emphasis on learning has encouraged power to be moved from the teacher to the student (Barr and Tagg 1995). The teacher-focused/transmission of information formats, such as lecturing, have begun to be increasingly criticised and this has paved the way for a widespread growth of ‘student-centred learning’ as an alternative approach. However, despite widespread use of the term, Lea et al. (2003) maintain that one of the issues with student-centred learning is the fact that ‘many institutions or educators claim to be putting student-centred learning into practice, but in reality they are not’ (2003:322).

This chapter aims to:

Give an overview of the various ways student-centred learning is defined,
Suggest some ways that student-centred learning can be used as the organising principle of teaching and assessment practices,
Explore the effectiveness of student-centred learning and
Present some critiques to it as an approach.
What is student-centred learning?

Kember (1997) described two broad orientations in teaching: the teacher centred/content oriented conception and the student centred/learning oriented conceptions. In a very useful breakdown of these orientations he supports many other authors views in relation to student-centred view including: that knowledge is constructed by students and that the lecturer is a facilitator of learning rather than a presenter of information. Rogers (1983b:188) identified the important precondition for student-centred learning as the need for: ‘… a leader or person who is perceived as an authority figure in the situation, is sufficiently secure within herself (himself) and in her (his) relationship to others that she (he) experiences an essential trust in the capacity of others to think for themselves, to learn for themselves’.

Choice in the area of the learning is emphasised by Burnard, as he interprets Rogers’ ideas of student-centredness as ‘students might not only choose what to study, but how and why that topic might be an interesting one to study’ (1999:244). He also emphasises Rogers’ belief that students’ perceptions of the world were important, that they were relevant and appropriate. This definition therefore emphasises the concept of students having ‘choice’ in their learning.

Harden and Crosby (2000:335) describe teacher-centred learning strategies as the focus on the teacher transmitting knowledge, from the expert to the novice. In contrast, they describe student-centred learning as focusing on the students’ learning and ‘what students do to achieve this, rather than what the teacher does’. This definition emphasises the concept of the student ‘doing’.

Other authors articulate broader, more comprehensive definitions. Lea et al. (2003:322) summarises some of the literature on student-centred learning to include the followings tenets:

‘the reliance on active rather than passive learning,
an emphasis on deep learning and understanding,
increased responsibility and accountability on the part of the student,
an increased sense of autonomy in the learner
an interdependence between teacher and learner,
mutual respect within the learner teacher relationship,
and a reflexive approach to the teaching and learning process on the part of both teacher and learner.’
Gibbs (1995) draws on similar concepts when he describes student-centred courses as those that emphasise: learner activity rather than passivity; students’ experience on the course outside the institution and prior to the course; process and competence, rather than content; where the key decisions about learning are made by the student through negotiation with the teacher. Gibbs elaborates in more detail on these key decisions to include: ‘What is to be learnt, how and when it is to be learnt, with what outcome, what criteria and standards are to be used, how the judgements are made and by whom these judgements are made’ (1995:1). In a similar vein in earlier literature, the student-teacher relationship is particularly elaborated upon by Brandes and Ginnis (1986). In their book for use in second level education (post-primary), entitled ‘A Guide to Student-Centred Learning’, they present the main principles of student-centred learning as:

The learner has full responsibility for her/his learning
Involvement and participation are necessary for learning
The relationship between learners is more equal, promoting growth, development
The teacher becomes a facilitator and resource person
The learner experiences confluence in his education (affective and cognitive domains flow together)
The learner sees himself differently as a result of the learning experience.
The theoretical standing of student-centred learning is often surprisingly absent in the literature. However, it appears to relate primarily to the constructivist view of learning in the importance it places on activity, discovery and independent learning (Carlile and Jordan 2005). Cognitive theory also highlights activity but in a different form than that supported by the constructivists (Cobb 1999). The cognitive view supports the idea that the activity of learning is computed in the head, or as often described ‘in the mind’. The constructivist view of activity is related more to performing physical activities, for example, projects, practicals. Student-centred learning has some connections with the social constructivist view, which emphasises activity and the importance of communities of practice/others in the learning process. However, the definitions of SCL do not necessarily highlight the importance of peers in learning (Cobb 1999; Bredo 1999).

In summary, it appears from the literature that some view student-centred learning as: the concept of the student’s choice in their education; others see it as the being about the student doing more than the lecturer (active versus passive learning); while others have a much broader definition which includes both of these concepts but, in addition, describes the shift in the power relationship between the student and the teacher.

How can you implement student-centred learning?

Learning is often presented in this dualism of either student-centred learning or teacher-centred learning. In the reality of practice the situation is less black and white. A more useful presentation of student-centred learning is to see these terms as either end of a continuum, using the three concepts regularly used to describe student-centred learning (See Table 1 ).

Table 1: Student-centred and teacher-centred continuum

Teacher-centred Learning Student-centred Learning
Low level of student choice High level of student choice
Student passive Student active
Power is primarily with teacher Power primarily with the student
In examining how you might look at this in practice, it is worth thinking how far up the continuum you are able to move within the contextual barriers in your teaching situation. The next sections will present some ideas for your practice to aid you in making that progression.

Implications for curriculum design

In relation to curriculum design, student-centredness includes the idea that students have choice in what to study, how to study. However, to what extent can this be carried out in the structures of today’s Universities? Modularisation, which will be expected in all European undergraduate courses by 2006, provides a structure that allows students an element of choice in what modules they study. Donnelly and Fitzmaurice (2005) in their chapter in this collection on ‘Designing Modules for Learning’ highlight the importance of attempting to focus on the needs of the students at the early stage of curriculum design. Choice in the curriculum is not without its difficulties and Edwards argues about the dangers of individuality in the concept of the social learner and how this can in a seemingly contradictory way lead to disempowerment (2001).

One student-centred approach to curriculum design, Problem-Based Learning (PBL), allows for some choice within a programme of areas that students may study. It allows students to set some of their own learning objectives/outcomes, dependent on prior knowledge. Problem-Based Learning, through the use of problems/issues/triggers, encourages the students to develop their own learning goals, thereby filling in the gaps in their knowledge or understanding (Boud and Feletti 1997). This element of choice or control is referred to in many of the definitions of student-centred learning. This aspect of responsibility aligns with the Lea et al. (2003) view that student-centred learning involves ‘increased responsibility and accountability on the part of the student’. Problem-based learning is higher up the student choice aspect of the SCL continuum in Table 1 , than the usual problem-solving or problem-oriented exercises performed in a lecture/tutorial. These approaches are more controlled by the teacher in their presentation and outcome (Davis and Harden 1999). However, they are useful in addressing the active learning aspect of student-centred learning. Other approaches to curriculum design also support the idea of student choice and activity in learning, for example, the systems-based approach, resource-based learning, and experiential/ personal relevance approach (Toohey 2000).

A growing practice in course design internationally is the writing of learning outcomes/objectives focusing on what the student will be able to do, rather than on the content being covered by the teacher (UCD Centre for Teaching and Learning 2005). This practice is an example of the move towards student-centred learning in the curriculum and helps to shift the emphasis on the learner as opposed to a coverage model by the teacher. Donnelly and Fitzmaurice (2005) re-iterate the importance of this shift in emphasis. This is also reflected in Gibbs’ (1995) definition, i.e. an emphasis on the process and competence, rather than content. Table 2 presents some examples of student-centred learning outcomes.

Table 2: Learning Outcomes and Student-centred Learning

Student-centred Learning Outcomes:
Some examples Traditional Learning
By the end of this modules: you (the student)
will be able to: The course will cover:
Recognise the structures of the heart The anatomy of the heart
Critique one of Yeats’ poems A selection of Yeats poems
Implications for teaching/learning methods

The University of Glasgow (2004) identified four main strategies in a study on student-centred learning practices in their University. The first strategy was to make the student more active in acquiring knowledge and skills and might include exercises in class, fieldwork, use of CAL (computer assisted learning) packages etc. The second strategy was to make the student more aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it. A third strategy is a focus on interaction, such as the use of tutorials and other discussion groups. The final strategy is the focus on transferable skills. This last strategy is not mentioned in other definitions of the student-centred learning but does look beyond the immediate course requirements to other benefits to the student in later employment. Table 3 highlights a sample of student-centred learning/teaching methods and includes some ideas for lecturers both within (more teacher-centred) and outside of the lecture format. You may consider, however, in striving to reduce the amount of lecture contact hours for more student-centred formats, where possible.

Table 3: Examples of student centred learning/teaching methods

Outside of the lecture format In the Lecture
Independent projects Buzz groups (short discussion in twos)
Group discussion Pyramids/snowballing (Buzz groups continuing the discussion into larger groups)
Peer mentoring of other students Cross-overs (mixing students into groups by letter/number allocations)
Debates Rounds (giving turns to individual students to talk)
Field-trips Quizes
Practicals Writing reflections on learning (3/4 minutes)
Reflective diaries, learning journals Student class presentations
Computer assisted learning Role play
Choice in subjects for study/projects Poster presentations
Writing newspaper article Students producing mind maps in class
Portfolio development
Implications for assessment practices

Black (1999) summarised some of the difficulties highlighted in the literature in the area of assessment, for example, a) that the giving of marks and grades are over emphasised, while the giving of advice and the learning function are under emphasised, b) pupils are compared with one another which highlights competition rather than personal improvement. He also explains the concept of self-assessment as essential activity to help students ‘take responsibility for their own learning’, an important aspect of SCL (Benett 1999; Black 1999:126). Foucault argued that the examination was a technique of power, where a student is ’controlled through a system ’micro-penalties’, the constant giving of marks which constitutes a whole field of surveillance’ (cited in Broadfoot 1999:88). The use of the written examination is still a strong practice in today’s Universities and is primarily a summative assessment, i.e. an assessment for judgement or accreditation. The addition of more formative assessment, which emphasises feedback to students on their learning, would ‘enhance their (student) learning’ (Brown et al. 1997; Light and Cox 2001:170). By developing more formative assessment in your courses you can provide a focus for the student by highlighting their learning gaps and areas that they can develop. Examples of formative assessment include feedback on essays, written comments on assignments, grades during the year that do not add to end of year mark and multiple-choice questions/answers for feedback only. The addition of more formative assessment encourages a more student-centred approach.

Table 4 presents practical examples of student-centred assessments as presented by Gibbs (1995). Further details of some of these assessments can be seen on the UCD Centre for Teaching and Learning website (

Table 4: Examples of student-centred assessments (Gibbs 1995)

Diaries, logs and journals
Peer/self assessment
Learning contracts and negotiated assessment
Group work
Skills and competencies
Peer and self-assessment both give some control and responsibility back to the student, emphasising ‘ an increased sense of autonomy in the learner’ as noted in Lea et al.’s definition of student-centred learning (2003). Learning contracts/negotiated contracts are goals set by the student, depending on their learning gaps, which are in turn negotiated with the lecturer (Knight 2002). The contract can also highlight the manner in which the student would like to be assessed in order to demonstrate that they have reached the goals. This can add choice in what to study and, in addition, choice in how the student will be assessed. Choice is one of the key terms in relation to student-centred learning. The concept of negotiation of learning also addresses the unique change in relationship between lecturer and student noted byLea et al. (2003) in their definition of student-centred learning.

Gibbs (1995:1), as mentioned earlier, describes the range of choices available to students in relation to assessment as: ‘……, what criteria and standards are to be used, how the judgements are made and by whom these judgements are made’. In practice, how do we give students some autonomy and decision-making in an area such as assessment? Brown et al. (1994) highlight a range of suggestions on how lecturers can involve students in the assessment process: (Table 5 ).

Table 5: Assessment process and student-centred learning

Involving students at the stage when
the task is set:
Choosing the assessment task
Setting the assessment task
Discussion the assessment criteria
Setting the assessment criteria
Involving students at the stage after
the task is completed:
Making self-assessment comments
Making peer-assessment feedback comments
Suggesting self-assessment grades/marks
Negotiating self-assessment grades/marks
Assigning self-assessment grades/marks
Assigning peer-assessment grades/marks
(Brown, Rust, and Gibbs 1994)

The suggestions in Table 5 above may seem a large jump from your current practices, therefore, you might consider moving your assessment practice slightly up the teacher/student-centred continuum. An example of a small but significant change is to provide a choice of essay topics and exam questions as a manageable starting point.

The effectiveness and critiques of student-centred learning

The use of student-centred learning appears to be reflective of today’s society where choice and democracy are important concepts, however is it an effective approach to learning? Lea et al. (2003) reviewed several studies on student-centred learning and found that overall it was an effective approach. A six-year study in Helsinki, which compared traditional and activating instruction, found that the activating group developed better study skills and understanding, but were slower in their study initially (Lonka and Ahola 1995). Equally, Hall and Saunders found that students had increased participation, motivation and grades in a first year information technology course (1997). In addition, 94% of the students would recommend it to others over the more conventional approach (Hall and Saunders 1997). Students in a UK University elaborated on the impact of student-centred learning on them, i.e. they felt there was more respect for the student in this approach, that it was more interesting, exciting, and it boosted their confidence (Lea et al. 2003).

Student-centred learning, despite its popularity, is not without its critics. The main critique of student-centred learning is its focus on the individual learner. In addition, there are some difficulties in its implementation, i.e. the resources needed to implement it, the belief system of the students and staff, and students’ lack of familiarity with the term.

Simon (1999) describes that student-centred learning, in the School system, can be in danger of focusing completely on the individual learner and taken to its extreme does not take into account the needs of the whole class. Simon highlights the point that ‘if each child is unique, and each requires a specific pedagogical approach appropriate to him or her and to no other, the construction of an all embracingpedagogy or general principles of teaching become an impossibility’ (Simon 1999:42). Edwards (2001:42) also highlights the dangers associated with student-centredness in adult education where in empowering an individual there is a potential danger of ‘a person’s physical isolation from other learners’. The importance of the social context of learning and the value of interaction with peers is emphasised in the socio-cultural view of learning (Bredo 1999). The concept of being an independent learner choosing his/her own route of learning, may in fact drive some of the sociability out of the learning process if care is not taken to emphasise the importance of peers. In relation to this individuality, Lea et al.’s study on psychology students highlighted their concern over being abandoned or isolated from other supports in a student-centred learning approach (2003).

O’Sullivan (2003) described student-centred learning as a Western approach to learning and may not necessarily transfer to the developing countries, such as Namibia, where there are limited resourcesand different learning cultures. It can be equally hard at times to see how the approach can be economical in the large classes associated with many current University undergraduate courses. A comprehensive study was conducted in 2004, by the University of Glasgow, on the use of student-centred learning with full-time undergraduate students (2004). In this study they found that student-centred learning (SCL) was more prevalent in the later years of the student degrees, and this they believe is often down to class sizes.

Another concern regarding student centred learning is the belief that students hold in relation to their learning. Students who value or have experienced more teacher-focused approaches, may reject the student-centred approach as frightening or indeed not within their remit. Prosser and Trigwell’s work in higher education emphasises the different belief systems held by staff and students (2002). They found that lecturers with a teacher-centred approach to teaching held views that students should accommodate information rather than developing and changing their conceptions and understanding. The reverse was true for those with more student-centred approaches to their teaching. Perry’s work on the development of University students highlights how students move from a dualistic view that knowledge is right or wrong to a relativist view that all answers are equally valid (Perry 1970). This study highlights that even during the University years, students can change their view on learning and as they move through the years so to may their views on student-centred learning change. In support of Perry’s work, Stevenson and Sander (2002) highlighted that 1st year medical students were suspicious of the value of student-centred learning methods.

Finally, students’ familiarity with the term can be poor. Lea et al. (2003) conducted a study on 48 psychology students in the University of Plymouth on students’ attitudes to student-centred learning. They found that, despite a University student-centred policy, 60% of the students had not heard of the term.


The changing demographics of the student population and the more consumer/client-centred culture in today’s society have provided a climate where the use of student-centred learning is thriving. The interpretation of the term ‘student-centred learning’ appears to vary between authors as some equate it with ‘active learning’, while others take a more comprehensive definition including: active learning, choice in learning, and the shift of power in the teacher-student relationship. It is used very commonly in the literature and in University policy statements, but this has not necessarily transferred into practice.

Student-centred learning is not without some criticism but in general it has been seen to be a positive experience, for example, Edwards (2001) emphasises the value of student-centred learning: ‘Placing learners at the heart of the learning process and meeting their needs, is taken to a progressive step in which learner-centred approaches mean that persons are able to learn what is relevant for them in ways that are appropriate. Waste in human and educational resources is reduced as it suggested learners no longer have to learn what they already know or can do, nor what they are uninterested in’. (Edwards 2001:37).

Although recognizing that it is not necessarily an easy task, it is hoped that this chapter has gone some way to providing evidence and ideas to move you higher up the continuum towards a more student-centred practice.


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Boud, D. and G. Feletti (1997). The Challenge of Problem Based Learning. London: Kogan Page.

Brandes, D. and P. Ginnis (1986). A Guide to Student Centred Learning. Oxford: Blackwell.

Bredo, E. (1999). Reconstructing educational psychology. In P. Murphy (Ed.), Learners, Learning and Assessment. London: Open University Press.

Broadfoot, P. (1999). Assessment and the emergence of modern society. In B. Moon and P. Murphy (Eds.), Curriculum in Context. London: Sage Publications.

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Op Ed Opinion:Thai education

Public Education at Risk, A Nation at Risk


by Peter J. Foley                 July 2011

THE NATION in an article published on April 27, 2011 reported that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is quite worried about the country’s educational system because students have lamentably poor knowledge in science, mathematics and English. Speaking at a recent meeting of executives from medical schools, Abhisit said students had  alarmingly low scores during the recent Ordinary National Educational Test (O-Net).

“So many children got zero in maths, even though it was a multiple-choice test,” he said. “I can’t believe that our children can be this stupid.”

He also said he found some science students from Chulalongkorn University were unable to do even the most basic of fractions.

The Prime Minister is echoing what leading educators throughout Thailand have been  saying about the seemingly fruitless efforts  since 1999 to turn the country’s education system in the direction of student based learning.


The Problem

There is a boulder blocking  the Thai Kingdom’s path  to 21st century  social, political and economic development.  That obstruction is preventing the preparation of Thai youth to solve problems unique to any time in history.   Thailand must participate in solving the complicated problems of the 21st century , including  global warming, scarce energy resources,  environmental degradation, the growing gap between rich and poor,  complicated trade and economic issues, drug resistant disease  and urban sprawl.

To solve the problems of the digital age,  Thai youth must learn  skills in critical thinking, collaborative problem solving, and the effective use of internet technologies both in communication and in searching for vital information.  The huge rock blocking the learning of these skills is the rote teaching methods found throughout the Thai public school system.  The typical Thai teacher tells students what they must know. The students demonstrate what they have learned by repeating what the teacher says both in class and in examinations.  This methodology is deeply ingrained in the Thal hierarchical culture.

The teacher ( Kru derived from the Sanskrit word Guru) is to be revered for their learning and not questioned. Respect for teachers is given to teachers by the community, because they are seen as learned regardless of their pedagogical style. The common teaching style is one where  the teacher does not ask for the opinions or thoughts of students since their job is to transmit knowledge one way, teacher to student. Not only would the Thai teacher have a difficult time in having students become active in their own learning process. Thai  students would be embarrassed and uncomfortable asking questions and pursuing solutions to problems in a group or class.

The Western contrast is that teachers are not simply given respect because they are teachers, they  must earn the respect of the students and their families by demonstrating that they care about the students and they must do this by clearly showing they have excellent pedagogical skills and a passion for teaching and learning. The teachers who have these qualities are those who truly engage their students in learning by developing in them a quest for understanding rather than merely knowing. The Thai system referred to above teaches students to know things but the results on the O Net tests seem to indicate that they lack deep understanding of real world situations . This ia a direct result of the rote learning methodology so prevalent in the Thai education system.

Food for Thought

The Royal Thai Government , particularly the Ministry of Education must once again state, perhaps more clearly than ever 1. The reason that the conversion of school administrators , students , teachers and parents to a student centered learning approach is necessary , and 2.  explain and show what student centered learning is and what it looks like.

What is suggested here as “food for thought” is to teach behavior change that cuts across deep Thai cultural roots that originate in respect and reverence for teachers particularly and older people in general.   There is obviously no quick solution as the Thai government has discovered since the promulgation of the  1999  Education Act.  The Act espoused in legislation,  a student centered learning approach to learning, the antithesis of traditional rote learning.

Twelve years later the huge rock blocking Thai future economic and social development has only been moved enough to allow relatively few Thai students to really participate  and take responsibility for their own learning.  Most of those students are from private international  schools or model schools [Pattana schools] .  Almost all of these progressive schools are located in Bangkok.

Since 1999, the Ministry of Education has made efforts to change teacher education to incorporate the various curriculum  components of student centered learning , including inquiry based learning, problem based learning, project based learning and brain based learning.  Part of the challenge in teacher training is to decide just how much control the teacher should give up in the classroom.  The other great challenge is  designing methods of teaching a curriculum that turn major responsibility over to the student and give the teacher more of a coaching role in the learning process.  Of course there also remains in many Thai schools the huge class sizes which lend themselves more to the teacher directed rather than student centred, pedagogy.

So despite these efforts , the typical Thai classroom remains teacher centered to an extreme degree, meaning the  talk in the classroom is almost  exclusively is from the teacher,  and there is little input in the learning process from students, except for rote responses.   In short , students in Thai classrooms are not being taught to think for themselves and solve problems.  The Thai Ministry of Education has also set up special student centered teacher training centers.   They have also held myriad special seminars on student centered learning.  They have also created student centered model schools.

There has been  no “sea change” in the way teachers in Thailand teach.

A Fresh Look at Teaching and Learning in Thai classrooms:

In taking a fresh look at the issue  it is useful to think of teacher centered learning and students centered learning as part of a continuum.  On the one end are teachers who completely dominate classroom time with one way communication and demands that student listen to, and  then give rote responses.

On the other end of the continuum would be a teacher who just turns the class room over to the students and tells them to learn whatever they are interested in [the laissez faire approach experienced in some Western systems  in the 1970s].

With this continuum in mind it may be useful to think of producing change on the basis of a slide. Thus we want to move teacher centered learning, teacher and their  class, more and more toward the empowerment of students over their own learning.  The Singaporean Government has a stark way of expressing to teachers the way teachers are  expected to move the slide to a more student centered education:  “Talk less, learn more.”

Specific Steps in the Solution Process

  1. modeling student centred learning [scl] using classroom teaching videos showing best practices


If the Ministry of Education wants behavior change in the Thai classrooms they must be much more directive in terms of what specific student centered learning characteristics should be evident in the “new” Thai classroom.

A significant part of the problem is that administrators, teachers  students and parents don’t know what student centered learning looks like. It can take many different appearances depending on where on the continuum the learning is based and what part of student centered learning methodology is being used.  For example,  students could be working in groups on particular projects;  groups of students would be presenting their findings to the rest of the class; a teacher could be explaining where students might find information resources to help solve a particular problem or enquiry; or individual students could be conducting their own experiments with the teacher simply giving encouragement and advice as asked .   In summary  , teachers , administrators and students must have something that will serve as as  models of student centered learning and can be readily accessed.  The Education Act of 1999 gives the guide lines , but there is a great need for real models that can be imitated and learned from. ** (viz footnote below)

There could be a national education campaign that has a variety of media presentations and teacher training literature  that provide  clear models of student centered learning .   These media films and TV presentations would show all the aspects of student centered learning and provide step by step instructions to teachers and students about how to transform a class room into a more student empowered learning environment.


2. Creation of a Network of Pathway Schools that are located strategically throughout Thailand and can accommodate visiting teachers who want to observe good practices in student centered learning


Creation of  a network of pathway schools that consistently use  student centered learning techniques in classrooms that visiting teachers can observe , followed up by  assistance  for  teachers in incorporating these methods in their own classrooms.

3. Providing specific project activities that teach students to think and link the national curriculum to the experience of the students’ daily lives and experience.

A quick list is as follows:   expanding  the current  national curriculum into specific methods that lend themselves to projects for students that would produce deep learning; provide  games and activities that address specific skills and also give the student an opportunity to provide a performance of the skills and that can also be used as an assessment, especially in math and science; provide participatory language lessons that emphasize students actually using dialogues and thinking of their own dialogues in a real world context.   For each subject area linking the curriculum with real world problems and relate to the students’ lives .

4. Providing concrete examples of performances in all the main subjects of the national curriculum that can be used as assessments of student learning

Explaining how student performances should be used as the principal assessment tool to gauge student progress instead of continual  written testing.  To begin with, the MOE could require all students to keep reflective learning journals or diaries of their learning;  have a learning contract with the teacher; keep reflective portfolios, engage in peer and self assessment, produce period individual and group project work, and keep a list of acquired skill and competencies such as:

(1)    Developing aptitudes, bearing in mind individual differences;    **

(2)    Providing  training in developing deep understaning through thinking processes, time  management, and how to face various situations and apply knowledge for obviating and solving problems;

(3)    organize activities for learners to draw from authentic experience … enable learners to think critically and acquire the reading habit and continuous thirst for knowledge;

(5)    … both learners and teachers may learn together from different types of teaching-learning media and other sources of knowledge;

(6)    enable individuals to learn at all times and in all places.”

(Section 24, National Education Act of 1999)





การเรียนรู้โดยเน้นผู้เรียนรู้เป็นศูนย์กลาง มีความหมายอย่างไรสำหรับครูและนักเรียน

คำว่า การเรียนรู้โดยเน้นผู้เรียนรู้เป็นศูนย์กลาง (Student-centered learning) เป็นคำที่ใช้บ่อยในเอกสารเกี่ยวกับการเรียนการสอน มีคำอื่นๆ ที่นำมาใช้ประกอบคำนี้ เช่น การเรียนรู้แบบยื่ดหยุ่น การเรียนรู้แบบประสบการณ์ และการเรียนรู้ที่ผู้เรียนกำหนดขึ้นเอง ดังนั้นคำว่า student-centered learning อาจมีความหมายต่างๆ นานาสำหรับแต่ละคน นอกจากนั้น ในเชิงปฏิบัติ การเรียนวิธีนี้ก็ถูกอธิบายโดยศัพท์หลายคำ ซึ่งทำให้เกิดความสับสนในการนำไปใช้
ความคิดเกี่ยวกับ student-centered learning มีมานานแล้วตั้งแต่ปี ค.ศ. 1905 ซึ่ง Carl Rogers บิดาแห่ง client-centered counseling ก็นับว่าเป็นผู้ที่นำวิธีนี้เข้าสู่วงการศึกษาโดยทั่วไป คำว่า student-centered learning ก็เกี่ยวข้องกับงานของ Piaget และ Malcolm Knowles ด้วย ในหนังสือ Freedom to Learn for the ’80s. Roger ได้พูดถึงการโอนอำนาจในห้องเรียนจากครูผู้รู้ไปสู่นักเรียนผู้เรียน ซึ่งเกิดจากความต้องการให้มีการเปลี่ยนแปลงสภาพแวดล้อมดั้งเดิมที่ทำให้นักเรียนเฉื่อย ไม่สนใจ และเบื่อหน่าย คอนเซพท์ของ child-centered education ในโรงเรียนได้เกิดจากงานของ Froebel เสียส่วนมาก และความคิดที่ว่าครู ‘ไม่ควรไปแซกแซงกระบวนการเติบโตของเด็ก เป็นเพียงแต่ผู้ชี้นำเท่านั้น’ Simonได้เน้นว่าความคิดนี้เกี่ยวข้องกับกระบวนการพัฒนาของเด็กที่จะเรียนรู้เมื่อพร้อมที่จะเรียนเท่านั้น
การเปลี่ยนจากการเน้นการสอนไปสู่การเน้นการเรียนได้อำนวยให้อำนาจย้ายจากครูไปอยู่ที่นักเรียน การสอนแบบครูเป็นศูนย์/การถ่ายทอดข้อมูล เช่นการปาฐกถา ได้เริ่มถูกวิจารณ์ซึ่งเป็นการปูทางให้เกิดการเรียนรู้แบบ student-centered learning เป็นทางเลือกอีกทางหนึ่ง อย่างไรก็ตาม ไม่ว่าได้มีการใช้คำว่า student-centered learning บ่อยๆ แต่ความจริงคือ สถานการศึกษาและครูหลายคนอ้างว่าใช้ student-centered learning แต่ที่จริงแล้วไม่ได้ใช้อย่างถูกต้อง
ให้ภาพรวมว่า student-centered learning ถูกนิยามอย่างไร
ให้คำแนะนำว่า student-centered learning นำไปใช้ให้เป็นหลักการสอนและการประเมินได้อย่างไร
สำรวจประสิทธิภาพของ student-centered learning และ
Student-centered learning คืออะไร?
Kember ได้อธิบายถึงการสอนอย่างกว้างๆ 2 วิธี: คือการสอนแบบ ครู/เนื้อหาเป็นศูนย์กลาง และ ผู้เรียนรู้/การเรียนรู้เป็นศูนย์กลาง เขาได้สนับสนุนความคิดเห็นเกี่ยวกับผู้เรียนรู้เป็นศูนย์กลางว่า: ความรู้ถูกสร้างโดยนักเรียนและครูเป็นเพียงผู้อำนวยการการเรียนรู้ ไม่ใช้เป็นผู้เสนอข้อมูล Roger ได้กำหนดว่าก่อนจะมีการเรียนรู้แบบ student-centered ได้ ต้องมีผู้นำหรือผู้ใดที่ครูทั้งหลายยอมรับเป็นผู้มีอำนาจในเหตุการณ์นี้ มีความมั่นใจในตัวเองพอสมควร และในความสัมพันธ์ที่เขามีกับผู้อื่น จนเขาไว้ใจความสามารถของผู้อื่นที่จะคิดเองและเรียนรู้เองได้
Burnard ได้เน้นการเลือกเรียน ซึ่งเขาตีความหมายของ Roger เกี่ยวกับ student-centeredness ว่า ‘นักเรียนไม่ใช่แต่เลือกว่าจะเรียนอะไร แต่สามารถเลือกวิธีเรียนและเหตุผลที่เรียนหัวข้อนั้นๆ’ เขาเน้นความเชื่อของ Roger ว่า ความเข้าใจโลกเป็นเรื่องสำคัญ ตรงประเด็นและเหมาะสม คำนิยามนี้จึงเน้นความคิดที่ให้นักเรียนมี ‘ทางเลือก’ ในการเรียนรู้
Harden และ Crosby อธิบายวิธีเรียนรู้แบบ teacher-centered เป็นการเน้นครูถ่ายทอดข้อมูลจากผู้เชี่ยวชาญไปสู่ลูกศิษย์ ตรงกันข้ามเขาอธิบายการเรียนรู้แบบ student-centeredเป็นการเน้นการเรียนรู้ของนักเรียนและนักเรียนจะทำอย่างไรจึงจะบรรลุสิ่งนี้ให้ได้ แทนที่จะเน้นว่าครูทำอะไร ดังนั้นคำนิยามนี้จึงเน้นการกระทำของนักเรียน
ผู้เขียนอื่นมีคำนิยามที่กว้างกว่านี้ Lea ได้สรุปบทความต่างๆ เกี่ยวกับ student-centered learning ว่าควรมีสิ่งเหล่านี้
การเรียนรู้แบบ active ไม่ใช่ passive
Gibbs อธิบายหลักสูตร student-centered ว่าเป็นหลักสูตรที่เน้น activity มากกว่า passivity ของนักเรียน ประสบการณ์ของนักเรียนที่ได้รับก่อนเข้าสถาบันและก่อนที่เขาเรียนหลักสูตร กระบวนการและประสิทธิภาพมากกว่าเนื้อหา นักเรียนทำการตัดสินที่สำคัญเกี่ยวกับการเรียนรู้โดยมีการเจรจากับครูเสียก่อน นอกจากนี้ Gibbs ลงไปรายละเอียดที่สำคัญดังนี้ จะเรียนอะไร เรียนวิธีใดและเมื่อไหร่ มีผลสำฤทธิ์อย่างไร ใช้กฎเกณฑ์และมาตรฐานอะไร และจะมีการตัดสิน/ประเมินอย่างไรและใครจะเป็นผู้ตัดสิน Brandes และGinnis ในหนังสือ A Guide to Student-Centered Learning หลักสำคัญของ student-centered learning ว่ามีดังนี้
ความสัมพันธ์ระหว่างนักเรียนเสมอภาคมากขึ้น ซึ่งส่งเสริมความเจริญเติบโตและการพัฒนา
นักเรียนจะรู้สึกว่าการเรียนรู้จะไหลไปด้วยกัน (affective and cognitive domains flow together)
นักเรียนจะมองตัวเองแตกต่างออกจากเดิมเพราะการเรียนรู้แบบ student-centered
ประสิทธิภาพของการเรียนรู้แบบ student-centered ไม่ค่อยมีใครกล่าวถึงในบทความต่างๆ แต่ในทัศนะคติของพวก constructivist มันดูเหมือนเกี่ยวกับความสำคัญที่ให้ต่อการกระทำ การค้นพบ และการเรียนรู้อย่างอิสระ ทฤษฎีการเรียนรู้ (cognitive theory) ก็เน้นการกระทำแต่ในอีกรูปแบบหนึ่งที่ไม่เหมือนพวก constructivist พวก cognitive สนับสนุนความคิดที่ว่าการกระทำในการเรียนรู้เกิดขึ้นในสมอง หรือใน ‘ความคิด’ และทัศนะคติของพวก constructivist ถือว่าการกระทำเกี่ยวข้องกับการกระทำทางกายภาพ เช่น การทำโครงการ หรือแบบฝึกหัดเชิงปฏิบัติ การเรียนรู้แบบ student-centered มีความสัมพันธ์กับทัศนะคติของพวก constructivist บ้าง ซึ่งเน้นการกระทำและความสำคัญของผู้อื่นในกระบวนการการเรียนรู้ อย่างไรก็ตาม คำนิยามต่างๆ ของ student-centered learning ไม่ค่อยเน้นความสำคัญของผู้เรียนรู้ร่วม
สรุปจากบทความต่างๆ คือ student-centered learning: คอนเซพท์ที่นักเรียนมีทางเลือกในการเรียนรู้ของตน บางคนเห็นว่านักเรียนกระทำมากกว่าผู้สอน (active versus passive learning) ในขณะที่คนอื่นให้คำนิยามกว้างๆ และรวมทั้งสองคอนเซพท์นี้เข้าด้วย และยังเห็นว่ามีการเปลี่ยนแปลงเรื่องอำนาจระหว่างนักเรียนกับครู
จะนำ student-centered learning มาใช้ได้อย่างไร
การเรียนรู้มักเสนอว่าเป็นการเลือกระหว่าง student-centered หรือ teacher-centered ในทางปฏิบัติไม่ได้เป็นขาวดำถึงขนาดนั้น การเสนอการเรียนรู้แบบ student-centered ทั้งสองวิธีเป็นสองจุดที่เป็นภาวะต่อเนื่องโดยใช้ศัพท์พวกนี้อธิบาย
ตารางที่ 1 ช่วงระหว่าง Student-centered และ Teacher-centered
Teacher-centered Learning                             Student-centered Learning
ทางเลือกของนักเรียนมีน้อย                             ทางเลือกของนักเรียนมีมาก
นักเรียนถูกกระทำ (passive)                             นักเรียนเป็นผู้กระทำ (active)
อำนาจส่วนมากอยู่กับครู                                    อำนาจส่วนมากอยู่กับนักเรียน
คุณควรพิจารณาว่าในบริบทแห่งการเรียนการสอนของคุณ คุณสามารถไปได้แค่ไหนระหว่างสองจุดที่เป็นภาวะต่อเนื่อง ต่อไปนี้เป็นการเสนอความคิดเห็นที่จะช่วยให้คุณก้าวไปสู่ student-centered learning ให้มากขึ้น
ในการออกแบบหลักสูตร student centeredness รวมถึงความคิดที่ว่า นักเรียนมีทางเลือกว่าจะเรียนรู้อะไร และจะเรียนรู้อย่างไร แต่ในมหาวิทยาลัยทุกวันนี้เราจะปฏิบัติได้แค่ไหน? การจัดหลักสูตรเป็นมอดูลจะทำสำเร็จในมหาวิทยาลัยยุโรปภายในปี 2006 ซึ่งเป็นการให้โอกาศให้นักศึกษาเลือกมอดูลได้ แต่การให้เลือกหลักสูตรของตนเองก็เต็มไปด้วยความลำบาก ซึ่งอาจมีผลลบก็ได้
Problem-Based Learning (PBL) เป็นการออกแบบหลักสูตรวิธีหนึ่งตามแนวความคิด student-centered learning ซึ่งเปิดทางให้มีการเลือกว่านักเรียนจะเรียนอะไรบ้าง และยังให้โอกาสให้นักเรียนตั้งเป้า/ผลสำฤทธิเอง ขึ้นกับว่าภูมิเดิมมีแค่ไหน Problem-Based Learning โดยการใช้ปัญหา/ประเด็น/ลั่นไก เป็นการส่งเสริมให้นักเรียนพัฒนาเป้าหมายการเรียนรู้เอง ซึ่งจะได้อุดช่องโหว่ความรู้หรือความเข้าใจ ซึ่งการมีการเลือกเป็นสิ่งที่ student-centered learning เรียกร้องอยู่แล้ว และประเด็นที่ว่าต้องรับผิดชอบสูงก็ตรงกับความคิดLea ในตารางที่ 1 Problem-Based Learning อยู่สูงพอสมควรในภาวะต่อเนื่องของ student-centered learning มากกว่าการให้ทำแบบฝึกหัดแก้ปัญหาต่างๆ ยังมีการออกแบบหลักสูตรอย่างอื่นที่สนับสนุนให้นักเรียนมีการเลือกในการเรียนและให้ทำกิจกรรมในการเรียนรู้ เช่น systems-based approach, resource-based learning และexperiential/personal relevance approach
การเขียนหลักสูตรที่เป็นการยอมรับมากขึ้นในวงการศึกษาสากลคือ การเขียนผลสำฤทธิ/วัตถุประสงค์โดยเน้นว่านักเรียนจะทำอะไรได้ มากกว่าที่จะให้สอนให้ครบหลักสูตร การกระทำนี้เป็นการบ่ายเบนไปทาง student-centered learning ในหลักสูตรและช่วยหันความเน้นหนักไปสู่นักเรียนมากกว่าไปที่ครู Donnelly และ Fitzmaurice ได้เน้นความสำคัญเรื่องนี้ และ Gibbs ก็แสดงความสำคัญโดยรวมอยู่ในคำนิยามด้วย นั่นคือ เน้นกระบวนการและประสิทธิภาพมากกว่าเนื้อหา ตารางที่ 2 เสนอผลสำฤทธิ์ student-centered learning บางประการ
ตารางที่ 2: ผลสำฤทธิ์ในการเรียนรู้และ Student-centered Learning
Student-centered Learning Outcomes                          Traditional Learning
จบมอดูลนี้คุณ (นักเรียน) สามารถทำ:                           หลักสูตรนี้จะครอบคลุม:
เข้าใจโครงสร้างหัวใจ                                                        วิชาว่าด้วยโครงสร้างหัวใจ
วิจารณ์กลอนของ Yeats                                                     ท่องกลอนของ Yeats
มหาวิทยาลัยกลาสโก (2004) ได้กำหนดว่ามีสี่วิธีหลักๆ ในการปฏิบัติ student-centered learning ในมหาวิทยาลัยของตน วิธีที่ 1 คือทำให้นักศึกษา active มากขึ้นในการแสวงหาความรู้และทักษะซึ่งรวมถึงแบบฝึกหัดในห้องเรียน งานภาคสนาม การใช้ซอฟท์แวร์ CAL (computer assisted learning) ฯลฯ วิธีที่ 2 คือ การทำให้นักศึกษาตระหนักมากขึ้นว่ากำลังทำอะไรและทำไปทำไม วิธีที่ 3 คือการมีปฏิกิริยาโต้ตอบกัน เช่น การติวและการแลกเปลี่ยนความคิดเห็นในกลุ่มเล็กๆ วิธีสุดท้ายคือ การโฟกัสไปที่ทักษะที่ถ่ายทอดกันได้ วิธีสุดท้ายนี้ไม่ได้ถูกนิยามในคำว่า student-centered learning แต่มองเลยความต้องการของหลักสูตรไปที่ประโยชน์อื่นๆ ที่อาจได้เมื่อเขาเริ่มทำงานรับจ้างแล้ว ตารางที่ 3 แสดงตัวอย่าง student-centered learning/teaching methods และรวมถึงข้อคิดสำหรับอาจารย์ทั้งภายใน (more teacher-centered) และภายนอกวิธีการปาฐกถา
ตารางที่ 3 ตัวอย่าง student centered learning/teaching methods
ภายนอกวิธีใช้ปาฐกถา                                                       ภายในวิธีใช้ปาฐกถา
โครงการอิสระ                                                                     การแลกเปลี่ยนความคิดเห็นสั้นๆ สองต่อสอง
การแลกเปลี่ยนความคิดเห้นเป็นกลุ่ม                             การแลกเปลี่ยนความคิดเห็นสั้นๆ สองต่อสองค่อยๆ ขยายเป็นกลุ่มใหญ่ๆ
นักศึกษาให้คำปรึกษากันเอง                                            การผสมผสานนักศึกษาโดยการกำหนดตัวอักษรหรือตัวเลข
การโต้วาที                                                                             การให้นักศึกษาพูดทีละคน
การศึกษานอกสถานที่                                                        การทดสอบ
การเขี่ยนไดอารี่ สมุดบันทึก                                             นักศึกษาแสดงผลงานในห้องเรียน
Computer assisted learning                                             แสดงบทบาท
มีการเลือกวิชา/โครงการ                                                   แสดงโปสเตอร์
เขียนบทความหนังสือพิมพ์                                              นักศึกษาวาด mind maps ในห้องเรียน
Black ได้ชี้ให้เห็นความลำบากในการประเมินผล เช่น a) เน้นการให้คะแนนและเกรดมากเกินไป ในขณะที่การให้คำแนะนำและการเรียนรู้เน้นน้อยเกินไป b) มีการเปรียบเทียบนักเรียนระหว่างกันมากเกินไป ซึ่งเป็นการเน้นการแข่งขันแทนที่จะเน้นการปรับปรุงส่วนตัว เขาอธิบายว่าคอนเซพท์การประเมินตัวเองเป็นกิจกรรมจำเป็นที่จะช่วยให้นักเรียนรับผิดชอบการเรียนรู้ของตนเอง ซึ่งเป็นส่วนสำคัญของ student centered-learning. Foucault ได้อธิบายไว้ว่าระบบการสอบไล่เป็นเทคนิคคุมอำนาจ ซึ่งนักเรียนจะถูกควบคุมโดยระบบ micro-penalties (ลงโทษที่ละเล็กน้อย) การให้คะแนนตลอดเวลาเป็นการตรวจตราอย่างหนึ่ง การสอบไล่โดยการทำข้อเขียนยังปฏิบัติกันอยู่อย่างแพร่หลายในมหาวิทยาลัยและเป็นการประเมินโดยสรุป นั่นคือ การประเมินเพื่อพิพากษาหรือเพื่อพิสูจน์ว่าผ่านงานหรือไม่ การประเมินแบบ formative ที่ให้ผลป้อนกลับแก่นักศึกษาเกี่ยวกับการเรียนรู้ของเขาจะช่วยให้เขาเรียนได้ดีขึ้น ถ้าคุณสามารถพัฒนาการประเมินแบบ formative ในหลักสูตรของคุณ จะช่วยโฟกัสให้นักศึกษารู้ว่าจุดอ่อนเขาอยู่ที่ไหน ตัวอย่างการประเมินแบบ formative คือ การให้ฟีดแบ็คเมื่อตรวจข้อเขียนบทความ คะแนนที่ให้ระหว่างปีที่ไม่ไปรวมกับคะแนนสิ้นปี และคำถามปรนัยเพื่อใช้เป็นฟีดแบ็คเท่านั้น การเพิ่มการประเมินแบบ formative จะส่งเสริมการเรียนรู้แบบ student-centered มากขึ้นเท่านั้น
ตารางที่ 4 เสนอตัวอย่างการประเมินแบบ student-centered โดย Gibbs ดูรายละเอียดเพิ่มเติมที่
ตารางที่ 4 ตัวอย่างการประเมินแบบ student-centered (Gibbs)
ไดอารี่ ล็อค และสมุดบันทึก
การประเมินโดยเพื่อนร่วมห้องหรือตนเองเป็นการคืนการควบคุมให้แก่นักเรียน ซึ่งเป็นการเน้นการเพิ่มความอิสระให้แก่ผู้เรียน ข้อตกลงการเรียนรู้และประเมินแบบเจรจาเป็นเป้าหมายที่นักเรียนกำหนดขึ้นเอง ขึ้นอยู่กับว่ามีช่องโหว่ความรู้ตรงไหน ซึ่งก็ต้องทำการเจรจากับครู ข้อตกลงอาจคลุมถึงวิธีที่นักเรียนอยากถูกประเมินเพื่อพิสูจน์ว่าได้บรรลุเป้าหมายแล้ว ซึ่งก็เป็นการเพิ่มทางเลือกว่าจะเรียนเกี่ยวกับอะไร และเป็นทางเลือกว่าจะถูกประเมินอย่างไร ทางเลือกเป็นศัพท์สำคัญคำหนึ่งที่เกี่ยวกับ student-centered learningคอนเซพท์การเจรจาว่าจะเรียนอะไรก็ตรงประเด็นที่ว่าได้มีการเปลี่ยนแปลงในความสำพันธ์ระหว่างครูและนักศึกษา
Gibbs ได้อธิบายว่าทางเลือกของนักเรียนในการถูกประเมินคือ จะใช้เกณฑ์และมาตรฐานใด จะมีการตัดสินอย่างไรและใครเป็นผู้ตัดสิน ในเชิงปฏิบัติ เราจะให้นักเรียนมีอิสระและส่วนร่วมในการตัดสินใจในเรื่องประเมินผลได้อย่างไร? Brown มีข้อเสนอที่จะให้นักเรียนมีส่วนร่วมในกระบวนการประเมินผลดังนี้:
ตารางที่ 5 กระบวนการประเมินผลและ student-centered learning
* การเลือกงานที่จะถูกประเมิน
* การมอบหมายงานที่จะประเมิน
* การแลกเปลี่ยนความคิดเห็นเกี่ยวกับเกณฑ์ที่ใช้ในการประเมิน
* การกำหนดเกณฑ์ที่ใช้ในการประเมิน
* ให้คำติชมงานตนเอง
* ให้คำติชมงานของเพื่อนร่วมห้อง
* เสนอเกรด/คะแนนให้ตนเอง
* เจรจาเกรด/คะแนนให้ตนเอง
* ให้เกรด/คะแนนตนเอง
* ให้เกรด/คะแนนเพื่อนร่วมห้อง
ข้อเสนอในตารางที่ 5 อาจดูเหมือนใหญ่หลวงเกินไปเมื่อเทียบกับปัจจุบัน คุณอาจขยับขึ้นบนเส้นภาวะต่อเนื่องของ student-centered learning ได้ ตัวอย่างการเปลี่ยนแปลงเล็กน้อยแต่มีความหมายคือ ให้มีการเลือกหัวข้อบทความที่ต้องส่งและคำถามสอบไล่ได้
ประสิทธิภาพและข้อติของ student-centered learning
การสอนแบบ student-centered learning สะท้อนถึงสังคมปัจจุบันที่มีการเลือกและประชาธิปตัยเป็นคอนเซพท์สำคัญ แต่มันเป็นวิธีสอนที่มีประสิทธิภาพหรือไม่? Lea ได้รวบรวมการวิชัยเรื่องนี้แล้วพบว่าเป็นวิธีที่มีประสิทธิภาพ มีการศึกษาระยะ 6 ปีในประเทศฟินแลนด์พบว่า เทียบกับวิธีดั้งเดิม วิธีใหม่นี้ทำให้นักเรียนพัฒนาวิธีเรียนรู้และเข้าใจได้ดีกว่า แต่เริ่มเรียนช้ากว่า Halls และ Saunders พบว่านักเรียนร่วมกิจกรรม ตั้งใจเรียน และได้คะแนนมากกว่าในหลักสูตร IT ปีแรก นอกจากนั้น 94% ของนักเรียนจะแนะนำวิธีนี้ให้แก่คนอื่นมากกว่าวิธีสอนแบบเดิม นักศึกษาในมหาวิทยาลัยอังกฤษกล่าวว่าการเรียนแบบ student-centered เป็นการให้เกียรตินักศึกษา มากกว่าแลน่าสนใจ ตื่นเต้นกว่า และทำให้มั่นใจมากขึ้น
แต่ Student-centered learning ก็มีคนวิจารณ์เหมือนกัน ซึ่งประเด็นที่ติมากที่สุดคือ การที่โฟกัสไปที่ผู้เรียนแต่ละคนมากไป นอกจากนี้ ยังมีความลำบากในการปฏิบัติอีกด้วย นั่นคือ ทรัพยากรที่ต้องใช้ ระบบความเชื่อถื่อของครูและนักเรียน และการที่นักศึกษาไม่คุ้นเคยกับศัพท์คำนี้
Simon อธิบายว่าในระบบโรงเรียน student-centered learning อาจไปโฟกัสเด็กแต่ละคนมากเกินไปและไม่สนองความต้องการของทั้งห้องเรียน Simon ชี้ให้เห็นว่า ถ้าเด็กทุกคนไม่เหมือนใครและแต่ละคนต้องการเรียนรู้แบบ เฉพาะตัว การสร้างวิธีสอนที่ใช้ได้โดยทัวไปก็จะทำไม่ได้ Edwards เน้นถึงอันตรายที่เกิดจาก student-centered learning สำหรับผู้ใหญ่ ซึ่งการให้อำนาจแก่นักเรียนพวกนี้อาจทำให้เขาทำตัวห่างเหิญออกจากเพื่อนร่วมห้อง ในทัศนะคติของการเรียนรู้แบบ socio-cultural จะเน้นความสำคัญของบริบทสังคมของการเรียนรู้และคุณค่าของ การแลกเปลี่ยนความคิดเห็นกับเพื่อน คอนเซพท์ของการเป็นผู้เรียนรู้แบบอิสระที่สามารถเลือกเส้นทางการเรียนรู้เองได้นั้น อาจทำให้การsociability หายไปจากกระบวนการเรียนรู้ถ้าไม่เน้นความสำคัญของเพื่อนๆ
O’Sullivan ได้อธิบายว่า student-centered learning เป็นวิธีการเรียนรู้ของตะวันตก ซึ่งบางทีอาจไม่สามารถถ่ายทอดให้ประเทศด้อยพัฒนาได้ เช่น นามิเบีย ซึ่งมีทรัยากรจำกัดและวัฒนะธรรมการเรียนรู้ไม่เหมือนกัน แล้วก็ยากที่จะเห็นว่า student-centered learning จะคุ้มทุนได้อย่างไรในห้องเรียนใหญ่ๆ ในมหาวิทยาลัยปัจจุบัน ได้มีการศึกษาเรื่องนี้ที่มหาวิทยาลัยกลาสโกว์ในปี 2004 และได้พบว่า student-centered learning จะมีมากกว่าในปีท้ายๆ อาจเป็นเพราะว่าห้องเล็กลง
ปัญหาอีกอย่างหนึ่งก็คือ ความเชื่อถือที่นักเรียนมีต่อการเรียนรู้ นักเรียนที่เคยประสบแต่ teacher-centered learning อาจปฏิเสธ student-centered learning ว่าเป็นวิธีที่น่ากลัว หรือไม่อนู่ในวิสัยทัศน์ของเขา Prosser และ Trigwell จะเน้นความแตกต่างในความเชื่อถือระหว่างนักเรียนกับอาจารย์ เขาพบว่าอาจารย์ที่เคยชินกับ teacher-centered learning มีความคิดว่านักเรียนควรยอมรับข้อมูลที่ถูกป้อนแทนที่จะพัฒนาและเปลี่ยนคอนเซพท์และความเข้าใจ และตรงกันข้ามสำหรับครูที่ชินกับ student-centered learning งานของ Perryเกี่ยวกับการพัฒนาของนักศึกษามหาวิทยาลัยเน้นให้เห็นว่าเขามักจะเปลี่ยนความคิดว่าความรู้มีแต่ผิดกับถูกไปสู่ความคิดว่าทุกคำตอบก็ถูกได้หมด งาน Perry นี้แสดงให้เห็นว่าแม้นักศึกษาระดับอุดมศึกษาก็สามารถเปลี่ยนความคิดเห็นเกี่ยวกับการ เรียนรู้ได้ ดังนั้นความคิดที่มีต่อ student-centered learning ก็อาจเปลี่ยนได้เช่นเดียวกัน Stevenson และ Sanderได้รายงานว่านักศึกษาแพทย์ปี 1 ไม่ค่อยไว้ใจการเรียนรู้แบบ student-centered learning
สุดท้าย นักเรียนอาจไม่คุ้นเคยกับคำว่า student-centered learning. Lea พบว่า ในการสำรวจนักศึกษาจิตวิทยา 48 คนที่มหาวิทยาลัยพลิมมัธเกี่ยวกับ student-centered learning 60%ไม่เคยได้ยินคำนี้ทั้งๆ เป็นนโยบายของมหาวิทยาลัย