NZDipALN: Module 1 Content – Learner Centredness

Learner centredness

What is a learner centred approach?

Learner centred learning is an approach to education which focuses on the interests of the learners. It means that, in your role as facilitator, you put the learners’ interests, knowledge, experience, and learning styles first.


  • Teacher talks
  • Feels more like an information dump or a lecture
  • Cooperation discouraged
  • Learner is often passive
  • Individual work and assessment


  • Learners solve problems
  • Feels more like a conversation
  • Cooperation encouraged
  • Active learners
  • Can include group work and assessment

A learner centered approach often enables learners to take responsibility for their own learning. Rather than seeing the teacher or tutor as the main source of knowledge, learners actively work to construct their own knowledge.

A learner centered approach may help motivate your learners by giving them some control over what they are learning and how they are learning it. It may also promote active learning, especially by encouraging learners to think about what they are learning and how they are learning it. Other benefits may include

  • Increased communication.
  • Reduced disruptive behaviour.
  • Better learner-educator relationships.
  • Learners taking responsibility for their own learning.

So what does learner-centred teaching look like? Here’s five characteristics from Maryellen Welmer, author of Learner-Centered Teaching:

  1. Learner-centered teaching engages students in the hard, messy work of learning.
  2. Learner-centered teaching includes explicit skill instruction.
  3. Learner-centered teaching encourages students to reflect on what they are learning and how they are learning it.
  4. Learner-centered teaching motivates students by giving them some control over learning processes.
  5. Learner-centered teaching encourages collaboration.

Click the link to Dr Welmer’s article above if you want to read more.

Professional reading

Learner centredness underpins the Strengthening Literacy and Numeracy: Theoretical Framework that we have in Aotearoa New Zealand. Learners are more likely to engage in training that develops their literacy and numeracy skills if they can see some value in the learning that connects to their own larger goals.

Review the questions below then read the article

  1. Why do adults participate in education programmes?
  2. Why do adults develop literacy and numeracy skills?
  3. Why should educators embed literacy and numeracy into trades and vocational training courses?

Adults engage in learning for their own larger purposes. These purposes are associated with their roles in society as workers, family members and community members.

Research findings

Children attend school because of legal mandates and strong social and cultural forces that

view school as the “work of childhood” (Comings, Parrella, & Soricone, 2000, p. 1). In contrast, adults generally make an active choice to participate in educational programmes and they do so in order to achieve broad purposes in their lives.

We undertake cognitive tasks not merely as ends in themselves but as a means for

achieving larger objectives and goals that have meaning in the community (Scribner,


Adults seek to develop their literacy and numeracy skills in order to gain access to information, give voice to their opinions and ideas, take action to solve problems and create future opportunities in the form of further qualifications. Achieving the purposes they set for

themselves enables adults to effectively fulfil their roles in society as workers, family members and community members.

Adults are more likely to engage in learning programmes for sustained periods and achieve

success when it is clear to them how their learning is linked to their own particular purposes. Transparent learning programmes acknowledge and support learners by helping them to establish specific learning goals in line with their purposes. In addition, where learners are involved in monitoring their progress towards learning goals they are more likely to persist and achieve success in learning programmes.

Motivation is a key factor in engagement and achievement. Learners are motivated when they can see the value of learning for their own goals. Adults are more likely to be motivated to engage with literacy and numeracy learning when it is embedded within a vocational or leisure course which is their primary motivation.

Implications for practice

Adult learners are more likely to be engaged and achieve success when:

  • Learning programmes clearly articulate course content and outcomes to enable adults to be clear about how the learning links with their own particular purposes.

  • Course information is clear, unambiguous and accessible. Specific examples of content can be useful in communicating with potential learners.

  • Adult learners are involved in setting learning goals and monitoring their progress towards these.

  • Learning activities incorporate clearly specified outcomes.

Embedding literacy and numeracy learning within vocational courses will increase adults’

motivation for developing their knowledge and skills in literacy and numeracy.

References: Bingman & Stein, 2001; Coben, 2003; Comings, Parrella, & Soricone, 2000;

Gillespie, 2002; Gunnarsson, 1997; Roberts, et al., 2005; Scribner, 1988; Swain, et al., 2005

Journal task

Choose one aspect of our approach to strengthening literacy and numeracy from the table below. Write at least 100 words about how your thoughts on learner centredness underpin this aspect of how teach. Consider what you actually think and do about this.

learner c

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

Leave a Reply