Ok so I agree that I have a definite bias when it comes to this topic and the answer. For a large portion of my life I was a confirmed traditionalist. Teacher centered education was the only way to learn what I needed to in order to succeed in life. Teachers had all the answers to all my questions. To listen to them one would think that they knew EVERYTHING there was to know about everything. I was wrong on both accounts. I guess my change process began when I was given my Grade 12 Diploma in 1966? (wow) and encouraged never to return to my school again. I wasn’t exactly sure about what had happened there but I knew that I was so happy to not go back to that experience again. It was boring, uninteresting and none of the stuff they were trying desperately to teach me made any sense. It had no relevance to me whatsoever.
Fast forward to 1990 and I was involved in College life and loving the opportunity. I had found a career choice that I was excited about and gifted with instructors who understood what I needed (how I learned) and encouraged me to do it my way. What a great experience. This was the kick start to many years of researching education and why the current pedagogy works for some and not for others.
Fast forward once again and it is now 2015 and a colleague of mine and I began to think about how WE would do it differently if we could change how education was presented. What followed were discussions about the differences and the pros/cons of a student centered education and a teacher centered education. Then we took the topic out into the public and we found ourselves in heated discussions with those who were dyed in the wool traditionalists as I once was.
What is clear to us now is that a change is coming. Of this there can be no doubt. The only thing left to decide is the “when.” Perhaps my mini comparison will sway some of the fence sitters. For the sake of saving my fingers I will let SC=Student Centered and TC=Teacher Centered. The question will be: What are the benefits of a SC education.
- Learning How To Collaborate–Being able to share thoughts and ideas and to work with others in order to seek common solutions to assigned problems or develop new products and methods is vital these days. One of the strong points of SC educations is it usually requires group work, discussing ideas with a common goal in mind and being able to consider other points of view. TC focuses on working as an individual and then providing a solution.
- Participating in active learning. Learning should be fun and exciting. This is what maintains a learners interest and keeps them coming back to learn more. TC is a passive approach to learning. It is learning in a vacuum where, for most learners, the process is not very stimulating. It gets done because it needs to be done but the passion that is generated in SC learners is seldom there for the TC learners.
- Hearing all the voices. By their design SC educations encourage all the learners to have a voice in what goes on in the classroom. Whether by open debate or providing a report on a piece of work followed by a Q&A session kids have an opportunity to learn from their peers-to hear other thoughts and ideas. In a TC classroom the only voice that is generally heard is that of the teacher. He/she is the one with all the answers and only their point of view or information is the one to be considered. It is widely accepted that kids will learn more effectively from each other than they do from the one voice at the head of the room.
- SC educations are “inquiry” based. TC are “knowledge” based. Part of the goal of education should be to teach our children how to learn. Once they know how to learn knowledge becomes a by product of that skill. Asking questions and seeking answers is more important than trying to remember prepared scripts that require nothing but memory.
- SC educations allow the learner to learn and progress at their own speed. Not all kids will grasp concepts and understand processes at the same rate or time. SC approach allows the learner to say when he/she is ready to move on to the next learning requirement. In a TC style education the teacher is often the one who decides what happens to the learner who might be a bit slower on the uptake. Often moved on to the next challenge the learner may not be ready to take on the task of learning further information while not having a good solid grasp or idea of the work to be done and so he/she doesn’t do well. It is a set up for “failure” not to mention anger, depression or stress.
Alvin Tofler said, “The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.”
There are so many other reasons why a student centered approach to education makes so much more sense but you need to figure that our for yourself. I will be writing more about this stuff in the weeks to come so stay tuned if your kids education and their well being are of interest to you.
Anyways, that’s how I see things.
All the best, Jim
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