Learner Centered Approach

There is a growing consideration among teachers and instructors that to achieve the final goal of English Language Teaching and Learning, there should be a shift in the method used in the classroom. According to Weimer in Wright (2011), students should not be viewed as an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge but as seekers to be guided along with their intellectual developmental journey.

Furthermore, students will get more comprehension of the material if they are actively involved in the learning process. Stice in Smith (1998) states that learners remember ten percent of what they read, 26 percent of what they hear, 30 percent of what they see, 50 percent of what they see and hear, 70 percent of what they say, and 90 percent of what they say as they do something.

Therefore, learner-centered or student-centered approach in English teaching and learning needs to be socialized and applied in the classroom. Weimer (2002) states that classrooms at the college/university level are extremely instructor-centered and that this situation works against students becoming successful mature learners. She further explains that many instructors recognize this and try to make changes in the direction of more student-centeredness.

But how is Learner Centered approach implemented in the classroom?
What kind of activities should be given to the learners?

Here are some examples of activities that can be done according to the four language skills.
1. Speaking
In speaking class, to get the learner-centeredness is for example by getting the students interact with their friends as much as possible during the class rather than only by listening and imitating the instructor. The role of the instructor here is the facilitator, guide, and evaluator of the process.

The learners should be given a bigger portion on practicing the language through various speaking activities like:
– information gap
– describing a thing/a person/ a place
– reporting something (news, unusual occurrence)
– surveying friends about a certain topic
– debating about an issue in the society
– interviewing friends
– practicing public speaking (MC, news presenter, etc)
For example let the students engage with a topic (the topic should be relevant with the competency that wants to be achieved in the meeting), share and discuss the topic with their friends and finally present their opinion in the classroom.

2. Listening
The listening activities can be linked with the Speaking activities. Again, the thing that should be emphasized here is that the learner should be given bigger opportunity in practicing listening comprehension through many listening resources.
The instructor can ask the students to get their own listening resources by listening to the English News Service from the radio or television, you tube, or listening to English songs, and movies.They can be asked to try listening to TOEFL listening questions. In the end of any listening activities the instructor should give assessment activities to:
– examine the students’ comprehension of the listening material
– make the students recognize English sounds (including dialect)
– make them aware of slang, and pronunciation matters

3.Writing
In writing classroom, the students will have the chance to enhance their writing ability through various writing exercises. The instructor is the guide and feedback provider during the writing process. Peer-editing, cooperative writing (several students cooperate to produce a single writing), diary writing, are some of the method that can be used in the classroom. Besides, they should be introduced too to some examples of academic writing, for example paper and thesis (the simple one).

4.Reading
In reading both the instructor and the students can explore the reading material resources. The students can freely choose their own reading sources as long as it still has relation with the topic that is being discussed. The instructor can freely give instruction on assessing the students’ reading comprehension for example :
– skimming, scanning skill
– reading to find main idea and specific information
– answering some questions about the reading comprehension
– summarizing an article
– retelling an article (spoken/written)
– vocabulary exercises.
– giving reflection of an article
The most important thing in implementing the learner-centered approach is that teachers should minimize their instructing role in the classroom. They should avoid explaining too much or dominating the classroom. The students should be given the chance to ‘learn in their own way’.

Wright, Gloria Brown. 2011. Student-Centered Learning in Higher Education. Central Connecticut State University: International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 2011, Volume 23, Number 3, 92-97. (accessed from http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/ on December 20, 2013)

Smith, Ann Stalheim. 1998. Focusing on Active, Meaningful Learning. Kansas State University : IDEA Paper No. 34 year 1998. (accessed from http://www.theideacenter.org/sites/default/files/Idea_Paper_34.pdf‎ on January 2, 2014)

Mascolo, Michael F. 2009. Beyond student-centered and teacher-centered pedagogy: Teaching and learning as guided participation. Merrimack College: Pedagoy and the Human Sciences Journal 1, No. 1, 2009, pp. 3-27. (accessed from Academia.edu, on December 12, 2013).

Batam, January 13th 2014

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