When the students take on greater responsibility for their own learning and gain greater independence is known as the learner-centered approach to instruction. We often focus more on how we teach than on how our students learn. In learner-centered classroom we should be careful about what our students do to facilitate their won learning. Here both the teacher and the students must share the responsibility of learning. Student centered teaching lies at the core of any effective classroom. Any teaching method or any instructional material must be evaluated on its use of student centered principles if we want these methods, materials to teach students effectively. In this approach teachers’ planning, teaching and our assessment center round the needs and abilities of our students. The main idea behind the practice is that learning is most meaningful when topics are relevant to the students’ lives, needs and interests and when the students themselves are actively engaged in creating, understanding and connecting to knowledge. Students will have a higher motivation to learn when they feel they have a real stake in their own leaning. In a learner-centered classroom the students don’t just memorize information, but they are allowed to work with and use the information alone or with peers. The students are given choices and are included in the decision-making processes of the classroom. Learners are treated as co-creators in the learning process.
‘Most children in school are scared most of the time’, says John Holt in his book ‘How children fail’. “Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life that the quality of life depends on knowing that secret, that secrets can be known only in orderly succession, and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets.” Ivan Illich, says in his book “De-schooling society”. In the average class-room someone is talking for two-thirds of the time, two-thirds of the talk is teacher-talk, and two thirds of the teacher-talk is direct influence.” N.A. Flanders.
‘We need to see English as essentially an educative subject, linked to the cognitive development of learners, rather than as something isolated from the rest of the curriculum. Unfortunately, in many classrooms throughout the world, little true education talks place. Instead, there is rote-learning of material irrelevant to the learner’s interests. We need to be aware of the educational potential of English in such circumstance’-Alan C. McLean (English Teaching Forum Volume 50, Number 1, 2012). And the classrooms of Bangladesh in terms of English teaching say the same or show the worse picture. Still in Bangladesh school is a place of fear for most students. They are coerced by various means to produce answers that are acceptable to their teacher rather than to engage in practical thinking. The threat of withdrawal of love or approval is, in fact, often much more powerful than the threat of physical punishment. We need to end unnecessary coercion in class and minimize defensive learning. There is a clear need for the teacher to endeavor to get into the learner’s consciousness much more than he/she usually does at present. Not only in Bangladesh but also in many countries the typical teaching style is authoritarian. It is very threatening for most learners when it is assumed that the teacher is the custodian of the secret and source of all wisdom. It vital for the teacher to show that there are many things of which he/she is ignorant, he/she can make mistakes and he is not, superhuman. Only when the teacher’s authority recedes the learners can be thrown back on his own resources.
Teaching is not so much a process of cramming outside knowledge into the learner’s mind as if drawing out the knowledge that each of our students has within him. We should believe that learning is something only the learner can do. The teacher cannot learn for the pupil, he can only provide good conditions within which learning may take place. So, the teacher should be consciously more silent so that the learners may become more vocal. ‘Learning is most effective when the learner is the initiator of the learning process’- Bruner tells in his book ‘The relevance of education’.
Student centered teaching is adaptable to meet the needs of every student and it helps us design effective instruction for every member of the classroom, no matter with his or her diverse learning needs. It is felt that students’ needs receive consideration. It increases student motivation which is very essential in fruitful teaching learning situation. When students’ needs are considered in a class, they can retain more materials for longer periods. When students use the language, they retain it more than if they would simply hear it. They get practice in actively producing meaningful conversation and they take a more direct route to fluency than they would take. It removes the boredom of students as this kind of class is creative and new surprise attaches to it. Even beyond learning what they need to know, students benefit from a less academic side, effect of student-centered teaching-they learn how to feel good about themselves. As they take on new responsibilities and succeed with these responsibilities, they come to gain confidence in themselves as competent problem-solvers. Confidence brings higher achievement as different researches reveal.
MASUM BILLAH: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program and Vice-President, Bangladesh English Language Teachers’ Association (BELTA).