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August 4, 2010 / Cameron Campbell

Student Centered Learning? Wha?

Ko te aha te kaupapa here o te Whare Wanaka o Aoraki?
Ko te akonga! Ko te akonga! Ko te akonga!
(thanks to Sally McKean of the Faculty of Environment, Society and Design for her help with this adaptation/translation)

Often when we talk to faculty, and certainly when educational tech/designer folk get together, one term that you hear often is “student centered learning”.

Often people misinterpret this to mean learning that thinks about the needs of the student first and the teacher/institution second. If this were true, any school that implemented a more student-centered approach would fall over and fail horribly.

No, when we say “student centered” we’re talking about making course-work more meaningful and deep and providing more context for the students.The idea is that students will take on board the subject matter in a deeper way if they engage with the course material in a more active way. Often “student centered learning” shows up as “activities based” or “experiential learning”. In my mind this dovetails nicely with emphasis here at Lincoln with real world and case-study based teaching.

Where FLI can help with this is by helping you, the teachers, provide the students with more activities and more meaningful ways to engage with the course material. Online discussion forums, quizzes, collaborative group work, online case-studies etc all are all good ways to get students to think more deeply about what they are learning.

Like all theories engagement with this one isn’t, in my view, an all or nothing thing, it’s a continuum that we can explore together.

Teacher-centred Learning Student-centred Learning
Low level of student choice High level of student choice
Student passive Student active
Power is primarily with teacher Power primarily with the student
(original graphic from:

Further reading


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