I have to confess that I was skeptical of “learner-centered” teaching when I began the semester. I imagined unproductive classrooms where nothing was really learned. I heard rumors that the over-arching philosophy of the class was “the student is ALWAYS right.”
It seems that I was wrong.
First, I’ve come to see the hypocrisy of my orignal position. My wife and I have long planned to homeschool our children. Why? We’ve seen the inability of the current mainstream education system – public or private – to reach many kids. Teaching to tests. Standardization. One-size-fits-all. All are aspects of industrialized education rather than true learning. We want our children to be allowed to explore in their interests, as they are ready, without the artificial constraint of the school system. We want them to take responsibility for learning from an early age. We want them to experience learning by doing and service. I somehow separated these beliefs about primary and secondary education from my thinking on higher ed. As the semester progressed, it became obvious that my philosophy of education must be coherent. Similar problems exist at all levels of education. I have the responsibility to address these problems in the university and change my practices just as I have responsibility to provide my children with an education tailored to their needs.
Second, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the tone of GRAD 5114. The needs, cares, and thoughts of the student are held in higher regard by the methods presented in this class compared to those in many traditional pedagogies. At the same time, the students’ responsibility for their learning and actions are also emphasized more. Rather than regarding students as automatons in which to ‘download’ knowledge, we must help our students grow as intelligent agents of their own education. Learner-centered teaching is not about pandering to spoiled brats and making everybody feeling warm and fuzzy. It is rather a journey toward teaching our students to be responsible and capable adults of the next generation.