Approaches: What is learner-centred?

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What is it?

Learner centred teaching is an approach that places the learner at the centre of the learning. This means that the learner or student is responsible for learning while the tutor is responsible for facilitating the learning. This is also known as student-centred learning.

This idea of the teacher as the “facilitator” means that the focus of teaching shifts from the teacher to the student. This type of teaching should put learners’ interests first.

Why is this important?

Taking a learner centred approach is important for adult teaching environment for many reasons. One is that it helps to develop learners who can learn and work on their own. This means that it enables life-long learning and independent problem-solving.

Another reason that it’s important is that by putting responsibility for learning in the hands of learners, we encourage them to be active and responsible participants in their own learning. Learner centred teaching is now seen as good practice internationally.

By contrast, traditional education is often “teacher centred”. This means that the teacher is in the “active” role while the learners are “passive”. Very few of us are good learners when we are in this kind of “passive” role in a teaching situation.

Many of our learners who have low adult literacy and numeracy skills struggle in teacher-centred environments. Anything that you can do to make learning more “active” for them is a good thing.

Here’s a quick comparison of what learner centred teaching might include versus a more traditional teacher-centred approach.



  • The focus is on both the learners and the tutor.
  • The focus is on the tutor who is the expert.
  • The focus is on how the learners will use the skills or content
  • The focus is on what the tutor knows about the skills or content.
  • Tutor models. Learners interact with tutor and each other.
  • Tutor talks. Learners listen.
  • Learners work in pairs, groups, or alone depending on the task.
  • Learners work alone.
  • Learners work without constant monitoring and correction. Tutor provides feedback or corrections as questions come up.
  • Tutor monitors and corrects.
  • Learners have some choice of topics.
  • Tutor chooses topics.
  • Learners evaluate their own learning. Tutor also evaluates.
  • Tutor evaluations student learning.
  • Learning environment (may not be a classroom) is often noisy and busy.
  • Learning environment (usually a classroom)  is quiet.

Author: Graeme Smith

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

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