Category Archives: Just about anything else

Teacher-centered teaching versus Student-centered teaching

What is the difference between teacher-centered teaching and student-centered teaching?

To some, they are the same. One argument goes like this. Whether it is teacher-centered teaching or student-centered teaching, the focus is about students’ learning. So therefore the teaching is student-centered regardless of whether it is teacher-centered teaching or student-centered teaching. Sounds right! right?

Well, here is the flaw in the argument. Here we are assuming that the outcome is the only thing that matters – that is, the students’ learning. The main difference between teacher-centered teaching and the student centered teaching is in the process of teaching – how we go about teaching. Student-centered teaching engages students  in the learning process whilst teacher-centered teaching is intended for mostly information transmission. So teacher-centered teaching may not engage the students that much during the learning process; students often passively listen and take notes in teacher-centered teaching.

The tables in the following hyperlink  summarizes the differences clearly.


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How can we engage passive students?

Here is a quick summary  of an article titled “From Passive to Active Learning: Helping Students Make the Shift.” by Marilla Svinicki, University of Texas at Austin. 

In this article, Marilla speculates why students may be resistant to active learning and suggests what we can do to help them get engaged in active learning. 

Here are the essentials from the article. 

1.     Why students may be resistant to active learning?

  • Students continue to use learning strategies that they had used  in high school or college such as listening to the instructor and taking notes.
  • This ‘out-dated ‘ learning strategies may not work for active learning- students may be taking note of everything that is being said instead of knowing what to focus on.
  • Students’ conception of learning is that learning is receiving information; they have not accepted the idea that knowledge is to be constructed
  • Students associate learning with memorizing and knowing facts.
  • Students have difficulty in handling situations with no right or wrong answer. Hence you often have requests for model answers.
  • Some students may be pressed for time and may be strategically minimizing effort on  their course work to cope with other pressing matters. 

2.    What can we do?

  • It is worth taking time to explain to students why it is important for them to participate actively (not just for the grades).
  • We should ensure that the activities are relevant to the course objectives and not just something to do.
  • We need to make the learning objectives clear to the students.
  • To overcome students’ belief that there is only one right answer, we could expose students gradually to complex situations.
  • When using more complex problems, we could provide sufficient modeling of the process ( Note: modeling process is different from giving the model answer).
  • We should encourage students to participate in discussions and share their view points.
  • We should try and create an open learning environment where students feel safe to make mistakes and learn

 Here are couple of things that Marilla had not mentioned but maybe worth considering.

  • In wanting our students to engage in active learning, we are assuming that all our students actually know what is active learning.  This assumption needs to be tested in the classroom and if necessary,  we may need to help students understand what is active learning to begin with. 
  • We could engage students in discussions on their conceptions of learning and help them see the importance of constructivist learning (and hence the need to participate).
  • We should encourage students to reflect on their learning strategies.
  • We need to provide a conclusion/summary of learning so the students know if they have understood what needs to be.
  • We need to provide prompt and appropriate feedback, not just on the content but also on students’ learning strategies.

I had first published  this article as an e-Post at SIM univeristy.


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Teaching adult learners


This post is on adult learning. I have summarized an article by S. Joseph Levine from Michigan State University on The Challenge of Helping Adults learn. You can get the pdf artcle by googling.

In this article, Levine outlines the characteristics of adult learners and suggests teaching strategies to support adult learners.  

1.  What are the characteristics of adult learners?

The adult learner

  • Is primarily independent/self-directed
  • Is motivated from within himself/herself
  • Is most likely to be interested in topics that relate to his/her developmental stages of life
  • Is most interested in information and ideas that solve problems they are presently faced with
  • Is most interested in information that can be immediately applied
  • Has considerable experience to draw upon

2.  What can we do as instructors?

To teach adult learners, it is important that the teaching strategies are adapted to suit the adult learner characteristics listed above. The first step would be to understand the adult learners. Then, we need to tailor learner-centered activities.

To understand our learners, we should first be approachable and we should make efforts to get to know the adult learners – for instance, what they do, what motivates them and what interests them. 

To tailor learner-centered activities, we could

  • Encourage or where possible, organize learners in groups based on their work experience/interest, get everyone  to contribute some ideas, get  learners to elaborate how their unique experiences have helped in providing solutions to the problem
  •  Choose examples/problems which adult learners can potentially apply in their work
  • Alternatively, get adult learners in teams to suggest examples/problems and encourage them to work on that
  • Ask adult learners how they will be using what they have learnt
  • Encourage adult learners by recognizing what adult learners value; motivate them by reminding them their reasons to pursue the module/degree

In sum, the tactic to teaching adult learners would be to “relate to the adult learners, draw them into the learning process, help them to stay motivated and help them to work collaboratively”.

I had first published  this article as on an e-Post at SIM univeristy.


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