Week 2: Learner-centred teaching


5. Learner-centred education: What does it mean to be learner-centred?

5.1. Background to leaner-centred education

The concept of learner-centred education (LCE) is based on well-established theories of learning, starting with Socrates, who, in 400BC, proposed a vision for teaching based on questioning and inquiry rather than the transmission of information, and including Dewey (who championed experiential learning), Vygotsky and many others who highlight the importance of dialogue and collaboration to support learning.

Learner-centered education is underpinned by a set of values and beliefs which are consistent with the aspirations of inclusive education. These include:

Valuing all individuals and the experiences they bring to the classroom; Believing that all children can learn given the right support; Valuing a range of skills and competencies; Seeing yourself, the educator, as a facilitator of learning and a learner yourself.

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The reality of educational practice is that it is complex and nuanced. Aspects of practice are not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but are best conceptualised as a continuum (Schweisfurth, 2013), with educational practice being presented as ‘less learner-centred’ to ‘more learner-centred’:

less learner-centredmore learner-centred

Reflection point

Think about your own experience of education. To what extent was it learner-centred? What evidence do you have that your teachers held (or did not hold) the values set out above?

It is likely that a complex picture will have emerged – maybe you had authoritarian teachers, but were intrinsically motivated by an interest in and an obvious aptitude for a subject? Maybe you had teachers who treated you with respect and provided support with a curriculum which was largely irrelevant to your everyday life? Maybe it was decided that you had little aptitude for something in which you have since achieved highly? This complexity means that changing educational practice in the way set out in the policy statements above is a slow and individual process, which requires collaboration and support.