Learner-centered learning environments are founded on the principal that learning is an active process. Learning is an interaction between the student and text, involving the activation of prior knowledge and relating new ideas to preexisting schemata. Based on this paradigm learner-centered environments engage the student both personally and intellectually and provide the best method for meeting the needs of all learners.
In teacher-centered learning environments, the more traditional and widespread approach, the teacher is viewed as the focal point and leader of learning. The teacher is the authority, leaving the students in the passive role as receivers of knowledge, rather than active constructors of that knowledge. That knowledge is finite and discrete.
In teacher-centered learning the lessons are instructionally driven, leaving the students unengaged intellectually and emotionally. These traditional methods include memorization, completing worksheets, reading a text and answering predetermined questions - demonstrating knowledge of the "right" answer. In this form of learning there is limited activation of prior knowledge, and therefore students struggle to create personally significant meaning. This is because in teacher-centered learning the background, values and interests of the learner are nonexistent. The student is passively filled in with information, rather than engaged in his own learning process. Learning environments are controlled, organized and with an emphasis on independent seatwork. Lessons, classwork and homework are results-driven. This unresponsive and static approach also fails to meet the needs of special needs populations, because lesson goals and objectives are standardized, meaning students must adapt to the methods oftentimes with some students unable to engage the teacher's attention to meet their needs.
One of the most significant challenges in teacher-centered learning is in assessment. Using traditional methods such as standardized tests rather than qualitative measures, teacher-centered learning places the emphasis on performance and repetition of facts. It leaves little room for students to construct their own meaning based on their own experiences, cultural background, values and interests. This causes a mismatch between goals and assessment. For this reason, many times students can appear to understand material in one format, yet in another appear unsuccessful during assessments because of the focus on success rather than on learning.
Characteristics of Learner-Centered Environments
In learner-centered environments the student becomes the actor in his own learning, and
therefore the teacher becomes the facilitator to that learning by designing learning
activities which actively engage the learner. This is based on the theory that all know-
ledge is organized in schemata - the underlying connections that allow new experiences
and information to be aligned with previous knowledge (Landry, 2002).
Activities: Engaging and Adaptive
As the designer of lessons rather than an authority, and with the understanding that
Students exhibit various strengths and weaknesses in learning styles and modalities, the
teacher's role is to create activities which are varied and engage these differences, rather