Working Towards Learner Centred Teaching

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Inspired by my readings and insights from my fellow students, I decided to take on the challenge of trying to shift a curriculum focused, 6 hour workshop for health care providers laden with hours of content heavy, power points to a more learner centred program. Below is a graph that compares the differences between the 2 educational methods.

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Graph taken from TeacherVision (2016) page 2 

Given that the predesigned program I was to teach had been developed by a provincial body strictly with the intention of teaching a national standard to health care providers, I knew I had my work cut out for me. To help me focus on what I could change I discovered that Weimer, as cited in Barkley (2010) proposed 5 key areas that could be changed to promote learner centred teaching. These include (Barkley, 2010, p 88):

  • the balance of power;
  • function of content;
  • role of the teacher;
  • responsibility for learning;
  • purpose and process of evaluation.

Barkley (2010) went on to identify a five step process, developed by Blumberg, that could be applied to the above mentioned dimensions. These are (Barkley, 2010, p 88):

  • understand each dimension and its component;
  • think about ways to transform a course in relation to each dimension;
  • identify the current status of your course for each component;
  • choose the components you want to transform;
  • create a plan for the components you want to transform.


Here’s a summary of how I understood the 5 key areas and its components applied to this course:

the balance of power                                                 instructor
function of content                                                    teach a standard
role of the teacher                                                       read out power points
responsibility for learning                                        instructor
purpose and process of evaluation                        2 tests to evaluate rote knowledge

As the function of the content was fixed I decided to focus my energies on shifting the balance of power, my role, and the purpose and process of evaluation.

To shift the balance of power I thought I would list the topics that needed to be covered and have the students select what order and how we would cover the material. To facilitate this I would use the K- W- L method  to help them determine their learning needs and provide a focus for learning for each of the topics.

To allow choice with the process of evaluation I would offer them the opportunity to go through the exam individually or use it as a collaborative learning experience.

To foster a deepening of the learning I would utilize questions from Bloom’s Taxonomy and apply the principles of Socratic questioning.

Allowing for more time to be spent on case studies would also mean that the students would be utilizing Bloom’s higher order thinking of evaluation which would help solidify the learning and employ the use critical thinking skills required for application of the material in the health care setting.

So how did it turn out you ask?

The students looked interested when I outlined how I hoped to make the day more meaningful to them by providing a more tailored and collaborative learning experience. No one, however, wanted to choose a topic to start and even though 3 of the 5 students had taken the course previously a couple of years ago and were practicing using the information in the clinical setting there was an initial reluctance to share what they knew. So to get the ball rolling I decided to pick a topic that required hands on skills and had them teach me how to perform the skill. I incorporated Bloom’s taxonomy questions and Socratic questioning to get them to dive deeper into the why they did what they did. When I noticed that there was reluctance in being the one to take the risk of answering questions I pulled up the powerpoint slide that fit with the question being discussed. This seemed to help a lot in providing the foundation for group discussions.

The case studies were a very popular. I used the TAPN system to keep up motivation and focus.

Not surprisingly the students chose to have the exam done collaboratively. They engaged in some good discussions about the exam questions and implications for practice and were very positive about the experience.

Evaluations at the end of the day were quite enthusiastic. The favourite parts were the group discussions and case studies.

My evaluation of the day was that the students needed time to ease into a learner focused delivery. I also appreciated the need for scaffolding  as we worked toward a more learner driven workshop.

In the future I will take the time in start the day with an ice breaker activity so that they are feeling more comfortable with each other and with me as the instructor. As much of the day was discussion based it would have been challenging for the introverted, haptic or kinesthetic learning style student. I will have to think of activities that would accommodate their needs like having the students write onto a card their answers to the K – W- L questions instead of relying on verbal transmission.

I also think I need to incorporate more humour into the course.

I think that just might need to be my next area of exploration.

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Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques – A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

TeacherVision (2016) Learner-Centered vs. Curriculum-Centered Teachers: Which Type Are You? Retrieved from:


4 thoughts on “Working Towards Learner Centred Teaching

  1. Melissa

    This is so fantastic in so many ways! It’s really neat to read about how you were able to incorporate what we have been discussing and learning about in 3250 into your own classroom. Thanks for sharing your experiences! 🙂


  2. Pingback: The Teaching Perspectives Inventory – teachingadventuressite

  3. Pingback: Teaching So They Learn: Brookfield’s Core Assumption #1 – teachingadventuressite

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