Student-centred Learning - Criticisms of Student-centered Learning

Criticisms of Student-centered Learning

Although the evidence supports the student-centered learning, there are criticisms to consider when implementing (Barraket, 2005). Barraket studied the effects of implementing student-centered learning on Masters level students in a research method course. Techniques such as case study, problem based learning, group work, role-play and simulation was utilized (Barraket, 2005). One challenge of student-centered learning in higher education was in designing the course material as students were coming to the course from diverse background, disciplines and as a result had differing levels of knowledge on the course material. It was suggested that before implementing student-centered learning, a common groundwork has to be built around the subject matter in order to facilitate all student learning. Another challenge that was identified was in the development of the course material itself to move from solely lecture format to implementing activities to facilitate the student-centered approach. This becomes increasingly challenging when the course is very technical (Barraket, 2005). Freestone (2012) identified that the challenge stems from managing the range of activities from individual to group work and the classroom environment. Barraket (2005) states that the focus of student-centered learning on the students being active learners, however, the notion of active learner needs to be defined both from the viewpoint of the teacher and of the student. Because we all learn in different ways, active learning may mean one thing to one student and something different to another student and yet something else to the teacher. Furthermore, active learning is not always visible or observable (Barraket, 2005). In Barraket’s study (2005), one student commented that they were learning a lot, however, got very stressed during group work presentation to the point where she was considering missing class in order to avoid the task. This line of thought is supported by Freestone (2012) who identifies that learning should be a partnership between the teacher and learner and is more accurately represented by the term “learner-led” instead of student-centered. Freestone (2012) states that the term student-centered promotes one method over another, however, the term, learner-led, implies a partnership between teacher. Prince (2004) states that there are no common definitions of all the facets of active learning, thus interpretations are different resulting in several problems. Active learning may impact several factors such as students achievement, knowledge, skill level, retention of material and attitude (Prince, 2004); It is difficult to measure these attributes, it is difficult to measure everything and difficult to measure everything simultaneously; thus results may be skewed or mixed. Furthermore, one attribute my produce contradictory results in comparison to another and thus is left up to the reader to infer the results;, for example student performance gets better, however, test scores decrease (Prince, 2004). Barraket’s study did not discount the important role that lectures played in developing the groundwork for student’s learning (2005). The lecture component played an integral role in developing an understanding of the course material and ensuring that all the students in the class had the same understanding of the course material. After laying the groundwork, student centered activities served to enhance the learning and application of the material and subsequently take the learning to a higher level by having a basis to build upon more or new knowledge (Barraket, 2005). Barraket (2005) concludes that a more holistic approach to teaching that involves a combination of traditional and student-centered learning is best to promote and enhance students learning. Bogdan (2011) also supports the idea of combining lecture with student-centered activities Student-centered approach is not clearly defined. What comprises a lesson as being student-centered? To one teacher, student-centered may mean allowing the student to ask questions during their lecture; however, to another teacher this may not be enough and their entire lesson may be student directed thus over burdening the student. This is demonstrated in the vast differentiation in teaching method displayed by Bogdan (2011) as opposed to Baraket (2005). Another consideration is time. Teachers have to adhere and meet a lot of requirements for administrators and adding the stress of implementing student-centered activities may be unachievable due to the constraints of time and budgets. Felder & Brent (2009) state that implementing activities do not take a significant amount of time and although initially it may be difficult, once the ideas are generated, it sets the stage when you are required to teach the material again. Furthermore, most method do not cost anything more than time.

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