Mar 17, 2009

student centred

This is a very important and very sensitive issue. I totally agree that where classrooms run on consensus things will work out more successfully and enjoyably. However ...... practical restrictions mean a teacher should think very carefully beforehand: it's not great to ask everyone's opinion on how things should be conducted and what the various roles are, only to have to say later that you are not allowed or not able to make the desired changes.

At our school we have regular 'forums' with each class as well as end-of-course questionnaires, so we can keep in touch with learners' feelings. We teach mainly adults so the kind of things we ask (and often the way we teach) is different from in a school-system context. Adults tend to know what they want (kids may not really understand why they are bothering learning) and are more concerned with moving towards a result rather than 'the experience of discovery'. The points of major interest in our situation tend to be about priorities, given that learning-time is very limited and that students don't want to spend years and years getting, for example, from A-D or from E-K. Does the pace of the course seem right? Is the balance between speaking and writing OK? Does the degree of correction suit? Is there anything we're not doing that you'd like us to do?
Having said that, at our school we offer a teaching programme that has clear guidelines, clear aims and is very 'transparent'. We know that it may not suit everyone so we don't promise that it's going to be right for everyone. Students try the course and can withdraw if they don't feel comfortable with the teaching approach. I know this is not what is usually meant by 'learner-centred' but in practical terms, in an adult teaching situation, it probably is.


George Machlan said...

OK, so I get that you are not a touchy-feely 90's kind of guy. You know "it's all about the journey" type of people and teachers. I think we both agree that the quality of the journey is important but the goal IS THE DESTINATION, especially if we are taking student's money and then want to extend his time/expense with hyperbole.

So how about posting a sample of one of your lessons on youtube so we can dissect and discuss your system in specifics?

SpeakyourMind said...

George - we could do with a week or so to talk things over. As far as I see things, it's not about being one thing or not being another. It's about being able to be as many things as possible and recognising what's the most appropriate aspect in any given situation. There is a place for touchy-feely - I can even do it myself - but I wouldn't make it 'the way' to go about teaching everyone. If touchy-feely allows the contact to be made, let's touch and feel. If the preference is for straight-faced, down-to-business, the teacher should respond accordingly. You need a 'method' and material that can be as 'inclusive' as possible and a teacher who doesn't assume that everyone likes the same things as they do.