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Teacher/Student-centered Instruction vs. Student-centered Instruction

written by: Elizabeth Wistrom•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 1/29/2011

Teacher-centered authoritarian versus student-centered facilitator is like north versus south. They are polarized schools of thought on how best to educate students. Both are necessary - which is primary?

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    When it comes to authoritarian-type learning versus facilitated learning, most classrooms do not operate at one extreme or the other, but combine the two in some sort of mix. Therefore, it is important to understand the different teaching styles of teacher/student-centered vs student centered instruction and how they can impact online learning.

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    Example of Teacher-centered Authoritarian Instruction

    While it is harder to find colleges today that favor the teacher-driven instruction style, they do still exist. Professors lecture during actual classroom sessions while being video taped on DVD. You, the student, will receive these DVDs via the mail. Then, via the web, you can access the syllabus, view your assignments and any other necessary requirements. A director will guide you through the course, evaluate your work and assign the grades.

    There is a social component to this teacher-driven course. You can engage in discussion with others via a message board or online chat room. However, a group grade or peer evaluation is not factored in like it is in student-centered course work. The individual, not the collective, is paramount. Why? It’s a heavily top-down environment (more like the military). There is little wiggle room for allowing student autonomy. In such cases, this heavily knowledge-based method of instruction means that instructors are more apt to give the right answer than to simply ask the right questions.

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    Example of Student-centered Facilitator Instruction

    The trend for most online coursework today is facilitated, student-centered instruction. You can register and order your textbook online. You may download the course syllabus (containing the instructor’s name, fax #, and student help desk #; instructions on how to send an email or leave a voice mail message; posted office hours; and login instructions). The web site will provide course and faculty information, announcements, assignments, books, tools, and external links. Audio lecture series are provided for learning at your own pace - just click on the desired lecture title to begin. These lectures typically cover the assigned readings in an authoritative teacher style. In addition, however, you will be given sets of questions and asked to participate in conversation (virtual public forum) via a discussion board.

    There may be three parts to the class. For example:

    • Part I may ask you to respond to five sets of discussion questions left on the Discussion Board every two weeks by your professor. You may earn up to 10 points per set; up to four points each for a response to the discussion questions and 2 points each for a critique of a fellow student’s response or a reply to a fellow student’s critique. (50 points in all). (Group learning)
    • Part II could consist of three online exams timed at one hour each (50 points each). (Teacher-driven)
    • Part III could be an optional four to six page theme paper (1000-1500 words) (50 points) This could take the place of any one of the other assignments.(Teacher-driven)
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    Why is It Important to Know Both Schools of Thought?

    Both schools of thought are usually present within online learning. Before choosing an online learning program, it is important to understand the different teaching styles. This way, you can discover which type is dominant with the other supportive and what is the ratio mix. The former is more knowledge based, the latter learning-process based. Whether you choose teacher/student-centered vs. student-centered instruction, it is critical that you be in agreement with the principles postulated by the authoritative teacher or with the principles dictating the means used to produce the end result in collaborative learning.