Teacher-Centered Versus Learner-Centered Learning


A learner-centered environment facilitates a more collaborative way for students to learn. It’s the student who leads the learning. Guest post by Katie Varatta

What makes an effective learning experience for you? What empowers you to learn? Flexibility, interest in the topic, understanding the purpose or relevance. The answer to these questions could be any number of things depending on the preferences of the person. Then, the next question: Do you think your students share your experience?

These might be some of the first questions KnowledgeWorks coaches would ask to get educators to start envisioning what a learner-centered classroom might look like and why it is needed in personalized learning.

Although a foundational shift from a traditional classroom, a learner-centered approach does not eliminate the teacher. A learner-centered environment facilitates a more collaborative way for students to learn. The teacher models instructions and acts as a facilitator, providing feedback and answering questions when needed. It’s the student that chooses how they want to learn, why they want to learn that way and with who. Students answer each others’ questions and give each other feedback, using the instructor as a resource when needed.

This process is designed so that students can learn how they learn best. Taking into consideration what works for one may not work for another and at the end of the day it’s not about what was taught but what was learned.

A Look at the Differences Between Teacher-Centered and Learner-Centered Learning

Teacher-Centered Learner-Centered
Focus is on instructor Focus is on both students and instructor
Focus is on language forms and structures (what the instructor knows about the language) Focus is on language use in typical situations (how students will use the language)
Instructor talks; students listen Instructor models; students interact with instructor and one another
Students work alone Students work in pairs, in groups, or alone depending on the purpose of the activity
Instructor monitors and corrects every student utterance Students talk without constant instructor monitoring; instructor provides feedback/correction when questions arise
Instructor answers students’ questions about language Students answer each other’s questions, using instructor as an information resource
Instructor chooses topics Students have some choice of topics
Instructor evaluates student learning Students evaluate their own learning; instructor also evaluates
Classroom is quiet Classroom is often noisy and busy

Source: The National Capitol Language Resource Center (a project of the George Washington University)

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