Most learner-centered educators, whatever
their content, are constantly on the lookout for new ways to engage their
students in active-learning. While creating and maintaining a
learner-centered classroom sounds great, finding the time to research ways of
modifying existing practices can be a bit overwhelming. Below you will
find my reviews of a quartet of web sites that offer such strategies, as well as
providing some of the theories and research that support learner-centered
approaches to education. Of course, if you haven’t already discovered
the abundant and free learner-centered resources at this web site, click HERE.
This website is a useful introduction to and
reminder why learner-centered approaches to education are becoming so
wide-spread. This site introduces what active-learning is and why it works in
the classroom. Skeptics may be especially interested in the six video
links on the left hand side of the home page. These short videos address
common concerns such as “My students don’t want active learning,”
“Active Learning takes too much time,” and “My students won’t work
together in groups.” Videos present scenes from a classroom where instructors
of different disciplines try learner-centered strategies, fail in their attempt,
regroup, and try again with success. Although the scenes are staged and
the student actors are the same from scenario to scenario, the messages about
learner-centered education are clearly defined in each video.
Notable on this site is the link to “Basic Active Learning Strategies.” This link offers 23 quick ideas that “can be adapted to almost any discussion or lecture setting.” For example, one strategy is called “Note Check.” Students pair up with a partner or small group and compare the notes they have taken in class. They clarify content that was covered in class as well as asking and answering questions with each other. An instructor may choose to focus the discussion by asking students to solve a problem or requesting a short summary of the notes. This activity involves students in their learning and the other 22 quick ideas are equally as practical and simple.
Further examination of this site finds
Twelve Active Learning Strategies for use with a PowerPoint Lecture. My
son once referred to PowerPoint lectures at his college as “Death by
PowerPoint.” Apparently he had been viewing too many of them without
much stimulation or active-learning. Suggestions for spicing up a
PowerPoint lecture include building in pauses in the presentation to give
students a moment to review notes at key points in the lecture to ensure
understanding of the material.
Dr. Richard M. Felder has spent much of his
career researching learner-centered teaching. His website houses articles,
links, studies, and stories about him and his students. Almost all of the
information is related to learner-centered education. Collectively, it’s
quite an amazing site. Each link you click on comes right back to the
importance of putting students in the center of their education no matter what
the subject matter. Dr. Felder, who keynoted the On Course National
Conference in 2009, is Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at
I think what makes this site unique is the
fact that Dr. Felder taught Chemical Engineering, not the subject matter that
first comes to mind when you think about learner-centered education. The
site includes educational articles he has written on topics such as personality
types, active and cooperative learning, and even an extensive longitudinal study
related to retention of students who studied Chemical Engineering in an active,
cooperative classroom vs. a traditional classroom. He includes learning
styles in his research and mentions the importance of being aware of each
student’s personal learning style. Notable are articles about students
who fall into different categories such as thinkers and feelers and introverts
and extraverts. These students are in the same classes and are stimulated
differently. Each article gives ideas for delivering course content and
providing feedback that will be received well by those who fall into different
Richard Felder is obviously an educator who
has dedicated much time to the research behind learner-centered teaching.
His website is a testimony to this passion.
Next is a website from
My final site--from
The site presents short, informative
paragraphs that give brief overviews of various learner-centered web resources,
all of which are easy to navigate. Included are links to Carnegie
Mellon’s Eberly Center (with a large archive of instructional strategies),
Faculty Focus (a free e-newsletter concerning “best practices on the academic
issues at the forefront of higher education”), The Teaching Professor Blog (a
participatory blog provided by Maryellen Weimer, Penn State
Professor Emeritus of Teaching), MERLOT Pedagogy Portal (offering a huge
selection of teacher resources), and Google Scholar (a search engine for
educators, where if you type in “learner-centered” you get 29,100 hits).
Webmaster Greg Kaminski has brought together a collection of resources for
educators with various needs: those just beginning to explore what a learner
centered classroom looks like, those more experienced who are searching for
additional strategies, and those who are interested in contributing to the
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Learner-centered teaching shifts the role of
the instructor from knowledge provider to facilitator of student learning.
Students who practice working collaboratively and have learned to question what
is given to them are prepared to enter the real world. I hope that, like me, you
find in the sites reviewed here many ideas that will help you become an even
more effective learner-centered educator.
--Annette Johnson, Bay College, MI
Click HERE to submit a review of your favorite web site for learner-centered educators.
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