Learner-centered teaching:  metaphors for teacher’s role


In learner-centered teaching the teacher is foremost a facilitator of learning. In contrast during traditional teaching the teaching is well … teacher-centered.

Teacher-centered teaching
In traditional classes teachers are the specialists who call the shots. They deliver the content, lead the discussions, preview and review material, offer examples, asks (and answer!) most of the questions, call on the students. The teacher works hardest in class.

How about students in traditional classes? Yes, they are there too. But often education is being done unto them. Rather than being active participants in the process, they passively observe what the teacher is doing.

Learner-centered teaching
In learner-centered classes the primary task of the teacher is facilitation or supporting the learning efforts of the students. Let’s try to get this clearer by using some metaphors for the new role of the teacher.

Compare the teacher to a gardener who enables flowers and fruits to accomplish. But they are not the ones who bloom and bear fruit. Teachers and gardeners create the conditions that foster growth and learning

Compare the teacher to a guide. They show the way but those who follow walk on their own. In climbing guides offer advice, point out the sights, ensure accidents are prevented. Together the guide/teacher and the students ascend to new and high peaks. The mountaineer-teacher learns to connect through “ropes” by using the contributions of the students.

Compare the teacher to a coach. A coach not only instructs the players; the coach also designs the practices, observes, corrects and provides feedback. The coach has to enter into the players’/students’ experience to provide good feedback.

Compare the teacher to a maestro before an orchestra. Each member of the orchestra has different levels of ability (instruments) and has practiced to varying degrees. The teacher conductor has fifty minutes to prepare the orchestra to make music with the score.

Compare the teacher with a midwife. They empower, they activate the mother/student, they know that learning requires active engagement between the subject and the “object matter”. They know when to hang back and be silent. They know when to push and when to pull. But they know that the real performance for delivery is done by someone else. The midwife is not giving birth. It is up to the mother/learner to master and deliver. The midwife is the resource, bringing experience, expertise, assurance and calmness.

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