As a part of my lecture this week, I encountered the notion of a learning-centred classroom. This differs from current educational language which talks about shifting from a teacher -centred classroom to a student/learner-centred classroom. Well what about changing the language to a learning centred classroom?
It is a subtle shift in language, yet quite powerful.
A learning-centred classroom seems like a ‘well, isn’t that what the point of education is?’ kind of thought. Yet in a time of cramped curricula, ‘good’ educational opportunities and high accountability, it is all too easy for learning to take a back bench to curricula coverage, getting through the list, achieving results and ‘teaching’.
Well as we all know, teaching does not necessarily equal learning (nor does it necessarily preclude it). Results can be achieved, but that doesn’t necessarily mean learning has occurred. Students can look engaged but again, this doesn’t mean learning has happened.
So what prompted this thinking? I know you have been dying to ask. As usual, this does not come from me. I have included below an extract from a useful website which addresses this topic. The site can be accessed via this link: Link Alert!
“Many of the ways we have of talking about learning and education are based on the assumption that learning is something that individuals do. Furthermore, we often assume that learning ‘has a beginning and an end; that it is best separated from the rest of our activities; and that it is the result of teaching’ (Wenger 1998: 3). But how would things look if we took a different track? Supposing learning is social and comes largely from of our experience of participating in daily life? It was this thought that formed the basis of a significant rethinking of learning theory in the late 1980s and early 1990s by two researchers from very different disciplines – Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. Their model of situated learning proposed that learning involved a process of engagement in a ‘community of practice’.”
As I look back I can see myself as a practitioner who has had both a teacher-centred and then learner-centred classroom. I have certainly tried to promote learning (achieving both success and failure). But, can I definitively say I have had a ‘learning’ centred classroom? Can you?
I’m signing off now to do some more reading. Enjoy!
“The use of authentic tasks is also advocated to foster learning transfer in the belief that the collaboration among students helps them learn not only the concepts under discussion but also how these concepts are used in the workplace or in life (Jaworski, 1994 ). To accomplish an authentic task, students must interact through sharing what they are thinking, relating their ideas to past experiences, collaborating with their peers, actively constructing their own meaning, and incorporating the diverse perspectives of others,” (Woo & Reeves, 2007 p.20).
Although written in the context of web-based learning, this has implications for ‘contextualising’ learning in face-to-face learning as well. To foster the transfer of learning, not only is collaboration needed, but a truly authentic context, rather than a forced one. Woo and Reeves identified ten characteristics of authentic activities (from p.21):
- “1. Authentic activities have real-world relevance.
- 2. Authentic activities are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to complete the activity.
- 3. Authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time.
- 4. Authentic activities provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from different perspectives, using a variety of resources.
- 5. Authentic activities provide the opportunity to collaborate.
- 6. Authentic activities provide the opportunity to reflect.
- 7. Authentic activities can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and lead beyond domain-specific outcomes.
- 8. Authentic activities are seamlessly integrated with assessment.
- 9. Authentic activities create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something
- 10. Authentic activities allow competing solutions and diversity of outcomes.”
To summarise, authentic activities can take multiple paths, require flexibility, collaboration, and learner control. They require higher order thinking and certainly scaffolding to support students at their various stages of development. Authentic learning tasks are messy (and I would disagree that with point number nine that they create polished products – that isn’t necessarily learning.
Woo, Y., & Reeves, T. C. (2007). Meaningful interaction in web-based learning: A social constructivist interpretation. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(1), 15–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2006.10.005