Providing learner-centered education means acknowleding the individual differences among learner group and providing instruction that focuses on supporting the learning process. Considering learners as agents of their own lives and learning yields for best research-based approach for supporting motivational and self-regulatory practices for students of all ages.
While it appears that most research is done in K-12 learning environments, it is important to remember that student-centeredness is not a practice belonging solely to formal and formative education, but an educational approach suitable for all education and training.
Defining Learner-Centered education
American Psychological Association (APA) defined learner-centered education in 1990 and revised it in 1997. (McCombs work). In 2015 these learner-centered principles were updated to the “Top 20 Principles from Psychology for pre-K to 12 Teaching and Learning”.
These Top 20 principles have been divided into 5 areas of psychological functioning:
- Cognition and learning: How do students think and learn?
- Motivation: What motivates students?
- Social context and emotional dimensions: Why are social context, interpersonal relations and emotional well-being important to student learning?
- Context and learning: How can the classroom best be managed?
- Assessment: How can teachers assess student progress?
I consider the APA to be the highest authority of educational psychology in the U.S. and a positive influence in the education world in general. Education is about looking both into the past and into the future, which is why it also has two opposite purposes: to ensure cultural progression and to prepare students for their unknown future.
Cultural progression is necessary for societies to have members who will know about the past (history) and the traditions (culture), but emphasizing the traditional ways of doing things may cause difficulties for students to learn for the future. Yet, not knowing the history could cause us to repeat the mistakes of the past generations. For anyone engaging in instruction this is just one of the many dichotomies of the teaching-learning situation. Finding balance is important because both past and future are necessary in understanding the process.
Modern educational theory and practice are built on the premise of education being the process for students to “develop their rational faculties so that they become capable of independent judgement”. This requires for students to engage in three-dimensional learning process and grow their skills, knowledge and understanding. The role of instructor is to support this growth.