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Week 2: Learner-centred teaching

8. The justification for learner-centred education

The attitudes and values that underpin LCE are consistent with those that underpin inclusive education. This is why it is a popular policy choice. Now you have been introduced to the attitudes and values which underpin LCE, you will consider the justification for this policy choice as a way to support inclusive education and contribute to the vision set out in the Salamanca Statement. You are invited to access another one of the UNICEF Think Pieces (you encountered one last week on inclusive education).

The text is available here. The next two activities will consider different parts of this article.

Activity 2.5 The justification for LCE as a policy choice

Allow approximately 30 mins for this activity.

On page 2, Schweisfurth describes 3 ‘justificatory narratives’ to support LCE as a policy choice (Why has LCE been promoted as policy and practice?).

Write a sentence for each one in your study notebook, and place them in order of priority, with the most convincing argument at the top and the least convincing at the bottom. Which argument to you think is the most convincing and why?

Share your choice on the Week 2 forum, along with a sentence to explain why you made that choice.

Whichever ‘narrative’ you think justifies a policy of LCE, it is perhaps more helpful to reflect on real examples. In the example below, Kevin’s needs as a gifted learner were not met, with very unfortunate consequences.

Example from practice

Kevin was a gifted student. He grasped new ideas very easily but was sometimes quite disruptive. Teachers found him difficult to manage, as he always seemed to be ahead of them with the lesson content. After some trouble in the library and an investigation, it was discovered that Kevin had a large number of books at home, which he had gradually stolen from the school library.

He was immediately expelled from school.

He moved to the city and used his intelligence to undertake criminal activity. He became very prosperous but was eventually killed as a result of his lifestyle.

Reflection point

Can you think of an alternative scenario, which could have happened if Kevin’s needs as a gifted student had been better accommodated? What could his teachers have done to prevent him becoming bored?

Kevin was clearly a highly intelligent student and was bored at school. His teachers could have found out what he is interested in and used this information to challenge him intellectually. They could have posed interesting open questions for him to think about and research; provided newspaper or magazine articles on topical issues; and organised the classroom so that he could provide support for his peers. He could have become an asset in the school and taken on leadership roles. Challenging high achieving students is difficult and requires teachers to work together to help each other. It requires good subject knowledge and an ability to help students make connections between different topics and curriculum areas. Learner-centred education in practice

Having considered what LCE is, and why it is justified, in this section you will think about how learner-centred education manifests itself in learning and teaching.

In the article above, Schweisfurth lists seven principles to make current teacher-practice more learner-centred. She refers to these as ‘minimum criteria’. These principles can be applied to any level of the system and can be used as a tool to analyse teaching and learning.

These are:

  1. Lessons or training sessions which actively engage learners
  2. Mutual respect between teacher and learner (adult and child, or adult and adult)
  3. Lessons or training sessions which build on prior knowledge and understanding
  4. Opportunities for dialogue and considering open questions
  5. Learning that is relevant to children’s  (or professionals’) lives
  6. A curriculum which supports the development of a range of skills
  7. Assessment which gives credit for a range of skills

One way to use these principles is to convert each principle into a question which could be used to reflect on teaching. In the next activity you will think about how to use these principles. After that you will apply them to your own teaching.

For example, principle one could be: what evidence is there that the students were actively engaged, actively involved and motivated to learn’? For a teacher educator or in-service co-ordinator, working with adults, the question would be ‘what evidence is there that teachers were engaged, actively involved and willing to ask questions?’

Activity 2.6 Minimum criteria for LCE

Allow approximately 1 hour for this activity.

  1. Read pages 3, 4 and 5 of ‘Is learner-centred education best practice?’
  2. Use the 7 principles to compile a checklist that you could use in your context with your learners (whether they are school students, student teachers or teachers) to analyse learning and teaching in terms of ‘learner-centredness’. You can present your list as questions or as a checklist, and you can have more than 7 points if that is helpful, but no more than 10, so the list does not become too cumbersome to use.

    For example,

    1. What is the evidence that the lesson or training session actively engage learners?

    5. How did the teacher make the lesson relevant to learners’ lives?

    Write your questions in your study notebook and share two of them on the Week 2 forum, stating clearly your role and who your learners are – school students, student teachers or teachers. You will be returning to this list next week.

Activity 2.7 LCE in practice

Allow approximately 30 mins for this activity.

  1. Think of a lesson that you observed or taught in the recent past. Review the lesson using the minimum criteria. Make some notes on the ways in which it reflected LC attitudes and values, and how it might have been improved.
  2. Which of the criteria for LCE do you think are the most straightforward to implement? Which is the most challenging and why?