Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Recommendations for creating a more student-centered classroom

Posted 16 Jul 2014 / 0

Bulletin of the Ecological Society of AmericaKeys to a Successful Student-Centered Classroom: Three Recommendations

This is a really nice guide for anyone who wants to do a large-scale course conversion to a student-centered learning approach. These recommendations are sound and valuable, although they may seem overly-obvious to anyone who has been practicing this kind of teaching for a long time. I learned many of these techniques over a decade ago during my middle school teaching days; it is amazing to me how resistant and slow higher education has been to adopt this proven approach. I think that it is telling that the authors confess that switching to a student-centered approach is time-intensive: this suggests to me that the resistance to becoming a more effective instructor frequently relates to a faculty member’s own sense of how much time should be allocated to teaching efforts. Administrators need to support and reward course development activities if we want to see more instructors switch to these instructional methods.

I thought that it was interesting that these authors reported student push-back to the adoption of these teaching methods. I guess that it is not all that surprising that students accustomed to very passively attending (or perhaps even not attending) lecture-based courses would bristle at being asked to do more during each class session. This suggests that the prevailing teaching method at a given educational institution is likely to cast a long shadow on other teaching approaches; students will explain about being lectured at if they are used to being engaged, and they will resist attempts to engage them if they are used to being a passive audience. Again, institutional support and context matters.

I sometimes get students who complain that my course is too much like a high school course, and I know that the fact that I put them into groups contributes to this sentiment. As this paper suggests, I think this indicates that I need to work on making the interactions in my course more effective.

A Minor Post, Assessment Methods, Ecological Society of America, Ecology Education, Higher Education, Teaching, Teaching Tools

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