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Learner Centered Education

The necessity of using a learner centered approach in class.

It is customarily believed that knowledge is something that can be “dumped” or “downloaded” on students and that the responsibility for education is on the teacher. Alternatively, students have always assumed the role of passive listeners and are often considered as “blank slates” on which information is etched. However many current educational theories argue for a learner-centered education rather than for the traditional teacher-centered approach because research has shown that the learner-centered approach tend to develop students’ creativity, knowledge acquisition, development of personal and professional abilities and productivity more efficiently that the teacher-centered instruction.


Learner-centered education means putting students at the center of their own learning. Hence, the responsibility of learning is placed on the students while the teacher becomes the facilitator. In a learner-centered environment, students are actively engaged in creating, understanding and exercising control over their learning. Therefore, learner-centered education is grounded in a constructivist perspective where teachers center their planning, teaching and assessment according to the different capabilities of students. So, instead of the teachers being the sole instructors, they become collaborators with students in creating knowledge.

Origins of Learner-Centered education

Learner-centered education has a long history of development. Two of the first educators to put emphasis on the learner were Confucius and Socrates (5th to 4th centuries B.C.). Confucius stressed on character and good citizenship, and Socrates stressed the individual. Over two millennia passed before seventeenth century Englishman John Locke (1632-1704) introduced experiential education (the idea that one learns through experience) where he made use of the concept, “Tabula Rasa” or blank slate, proposing that at birth the mind is a blank slate, and the only way to fill it is through having experiences, feeling these experiences, and reflecting on them. The Swiss-born philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) in his book ‘Emile’ recommended a type of education that at the time was unknown, an education that was natural, child-centered, and experience-based. His intent was to protect the children from a corrupting society and permit them to develop naturally. Another two hundred years passed before European educators Pestalozzi, Hegel, Herbart, and Froebel designed and popularized experience-based, learner-centered curricula. A century later, nineteenth century educator Colonel Francis Parker brought this method to America where he demonstrated learner-centered techniques to the teachers. By replacing drill with inquiry activities, Parker replaced memorization of facts with understanding. Twentieth century Russian sociologist Lev Vygotsky, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, and American philosopher and educator John Dewey, who believed the only way a child would develop to its potential was in a social setting, shaped the existing learner-centered education into a program called constructivism. This evolution of education shows that learner-centered education has been developing for over five thousand years, and continues to take on different shapes.

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