Teaching in student-centred learning environments

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 33 : Reshaping Higher Education

July, 2010, 654 pages
Published by
M. Devlin, J. Nagy and A. Lichtenberg
0 908557 80 9

Student-centred learning has become a familiar supposition in contemporary higher education. Teachers who adopt this approach plan for students to be more active and interactive during class, rather than conduct an instructional mode that leaves students predominantly passive in their classroom learning experience. The term can sometimes imply a lesser role for the teacher as they reduce their dominance in the classroom; however the reality is that teachers remain crucially central to the act of learning. The notion of student-centred learning needs to be clarified as an approach to learning that promotes greater student activity, interaction, collaboration and initiative, but as directed and guided by the teacher. Parallel to this pedagogical shift is the emergence of a new generation of learning environments: classrooms purpose-designed to enable student- centred learning. This paper reports on the role of teachers in the Learning Lab at the University of Melbourne, conducted as part of the author’s PhD research. The Learning Lab was designed for a wide range of teaching and learning activities, within an educational framework of collaborative learning in groups of four or eight students. A series of classroom observations and interviews with tutorial teachers were conducted to reveal the positive and negative consequences of teaching in a new generation learning environment. The issues highlighted warrant further consideration when planning to teach in collaborative learning spaces.

Keywords: new generation learning environments, student-centred learning, effective teaching