This week, for my Principles of Teaching course, we read about teacher professionalism. Like any other profession that requires a license, the teaching profession is governed by an organization that assures its members abide by a Code of Ethics. However, unlike other established professions like Nursing and Medicine which has full autonomy and characterized by a set of skills, competencies, and knowledge, the teaching profession, I came to understand, is also subject to government control and policing.
This Friday was also the deadline for our first assignment for the course – writing a reaction paper about an education-related article. I decided to write about classroom instruction which is usually divided into two paradigms: teacher-centered and student (or learner)-centered approach. This is what I thought of focusing about this week.
I admit that in the four years that I have been teaching, I have come across these two terms and have wondered what they actually mean or how I can adopt them in my classes. Reading through articles describing the two types of instruction invariably led me to two analogies.
If you are a fan of J. K. Rowling, you have probably heard about Professor Binns. Somehow, the term “teacher-centered” calls to mind an image of this History of Magic professor in the Harry Potter series. In the books, he is described as a ghost who conducted his classes with such lassitude. Professor Binns would go droning on and on about his subject, mindless of whether students are still listening or daydreaming. Once, when he was asked a question, he had seemed surprised at the intrusion, and was only too eager to go back to his lecture. This gives a picture of teacher-centered instruction at its most extreme where the instructor talks and students are expected to listen.
On the other end is student-centered instruction that encourages more active participation on the part of its students. It brings to mind lessons peppered with activities that stimulate student curiosity and learning by discovery. This approach makes me think about Kung Fu Panda and how Po discovered his abilities through the different tasks given to him by Master Shifu during his kung fu training.
It also brought to mind learning theories that I have learned about in my past courses (Constructivist, Behaviorist, and Social Learning theories, to name a few). The article I read for the assignment, Teacher-Centered, Learner-Centered or All of the Above (Weimer, 2013), suggested a combination of the two paradigms.
I believe that teaching has always been a combination of the two, though in varying degrees, depending on the topic to be discussed. I have come to realize that in my own lessons though, I am confined to a teacher-centered approach, despite my attempts to make my classroom encounters as student-centered as possible. One culprit I have come to identify for this imbalance in my teaching approach is the time. Often, the need to cover content for a given specific period ends up with me doing lectures most of the time.
However, reading through Weimer also assured me that teacher-centered activities are best-suited for mastery of basic skills (Weimer, 2013) which is important for my Grades 7 and 8 students. It is my approach in the higher grades that I need to reassess and revise if I am to help them develop critical and higher-order thinking skills.
Weimer, Maryellen (2013). Faculty Focus Teaching Professor Blog: Teacher-Centered, Learner-Centered or All of the Above. Retrieved 22 September 2015, from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/teacher-centered-learner-centered-or-all-of-the-above/