Learning-centred environments are helping to change the way we look at our learning spaces. From the way learning environments influence teaching to how they affect student success, the future of learning environments is changing.
What is learning-centred learning?
Learning-centred learning (sometimes referred to as student-centred learning) is a relatively new approach to teaching and learning. Learning-centred learning allows students to choose what to study and how they will study.
Unlike teaching-centred classrooms (where a teacher decides the material and method of learning), a learning-centred environment is designed to consider the skillset, attitudes, interests, knowledge, social and cultural values, and beliefs that a learner brings to a learning environment.
By giving students responsibility for their learning, students can develop independence and learner autonomy. It also places focus on developing skills and practices to encourage and facilitate lifelong learning, alongside individual problem-solving.
By applying previous knowledge and experience to their current learning, this can have a positive impact on how students understand and process information. While this approach is becoming more widely popular, learning hasn’t always given students so much freedom.
A learning-centred approach differs compared to teacher-centred or instructor-centred learning. The teacher-centred approach to learning considers students as ‘unknowledgeable’ in a subject area where teachers (or experts) must impart knowledge and all relevant information to students for learning.
Nowadays, many schools are starting to move away from this traditional approach. Researchers and teachers are starting to realise the benefits that the learning-centred approach can have. They understand that letting students have more autonomy over their learning can help improve their educational success.
The impact of learner-centred learning
Traditional teacher-focused learning has started to gain criticism as it fails to consider students’ individual learning needs or skill development. Traditional methods of teaching also fail to effectively encourage students to learn and succeed.
Instead, student voice, flexibility, and an investment in learning are challenging the traditional methods of teaching. To encourage and improve learning success, modern teaching methods can encourage students to become focused, engaged and interested in their learning.
A learner-centred learning environment will exhibit these characteristics:
- A reliance on active learning over passive learning
- A greater emphasis on deeper and richer learning and understanding
- Increased student responsibility and accountability for learning
- A greater sense of learner autonomy
- Interdependence and mutual respect between students and teachers
- Flexible and adaptive learning
- Reflexive approach to teaching and learning
- Participation in the evaluation and reflection of students’ learning
These characteristics are also features of a highly effective learning space.
Creating successful student-centred environments
A successful student-centred environment will give the learner responsibility for their learning while also recognising that active participation and involvement are essential for learning success. Students are no longer seen as a collective but rather as individuals with different learning needs.
In this situation, a teacher becomes a facilitator to help students achieve their learning goals, as opposed to setting them. Teachers will become more a mentor to encourage and challenge their students as opposed to instructing them, allowing for better interaction with students.
Learning-centred environments will also focus on a much more positive academic relationship between students and teachers. In learning-centred environments, both student and teacher relationships should be equal, allowing for growth and development.
Another important, yet overlooked, element of learner-centred learning is the significance of collaboration. A key facet of student-centred learning for learning success is team projects and a community environment.
Collaborative and teamworking projects in learning-centred environments help students develop communication and teamworking skills. It also opens students up to different approaches, views and ideas relating to a particular task which enables a deeper understanding in the learning process.
How space can influence learner-centred learning
The learning space and how students interact with a space can also influence learner-centred learning. Learner-centred environments require learning spaces that are flexible and functional, while also considering the aesthetics of a space.
Physical spaces should:
- Not be limited to one subject or academic discipline
- Encourage and support peer learning and teamwork
- Be highly interactive
- Be more than a single room or place
Many modern learning environments will recognise that learning happens beyond the classroom. Learning can extend throughout an academic environment, including corridors and communal areas.
Teaching should move beyond the four walls of a classroom. Instead, learning can be improved and supported through design, using a complex of spaces that are interconnected and related. Designing successful learning environments will extend beyond traditional classroom spaces. Instead, an academic establishment will be seen as a collective learning space, which is both flexible and functional.
Not only does the physical layout and design of a room influence learner-centred learning but also how the space is interacted with. Using learning spaces in new and innovative ways can help improve learning and student success.
The importance of student-centred learning is fast changing the way we use our learning spaces. Giving students greater freedom and autonomy in their learning is not just a passing trend in education. Student voice is fast becoming a central component of a successful learning experience. While learning spaces are continually evolving and changing to adapt to the needs of a learner, learning-centred environments are the future for learning success.