Teachers' Evaluation of Student-Centered Learning Environments

Article excerpt

Introduction

The concept of student-centered education has led to perceptual changes in relation to education, learning and teaching. In student-centered teaching, at the stages of decision making, planning, application, and evaluation during the teaching-learning process learners participate in the process willingly, showing interest with determination. It can be said that student-centered teaching has brought about the change in questions from "What should we teach?", "How should we teach?", "With what should we teach?" to a perspective where "What would s/he like to learn?", "What will s/he do to learn?", "What would assist him/her in his/her learning?", "To what extent did s/he learn?" In other words, in student-centered teaching learners actively participate in the decision making process about what to learn, how to learn, and what kind of help is required, and how to decide how much is learned (Bery, Sharp, 1999; Lea, Sttenhanson & Tray; Hartly, 1987; Sharma, Millar & Seth, 1999; cited in: Acat, 2005).

For over 100 years, philosophers such as John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, Ferriere, Rousseau, Freinet, Howard Gardner, Gianni Rodari, Bruno Ciari, Maria Montessori and others have reported on the benefits of experiential, hands-on, student-centered learning. Involving learner in decision making and using student interest to drive curriculum and projects supports a growing body of evidence that concurs with these revolutionary philosophers. Learning is not only about knowledge making. Children need to be active learners within the context of culture, community, and past experiences. Teachers who adhere to student-centered classrooms are influenced strongly by constructivism, naturalistic, social constructivism, existentialism, humanism, and progressive philosophies.

Student-centered learning, or student centeredness, is a model which puts the student in the center of the learning process. Student-centered learning is a model in which students play an active role in their own learning styles and learning strategies. While learning, internal motivation is of vital importance. Individual systemizing is more important than standardized systems. Student-centered learning improves learning to learn and learning how to improve skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving and reflective thinking. Students apply and display different styles. Student-centered learning differs from teacher-centered learning in which it is characterized by the more active role of the learner when compared to the teacher.

Student-centered learning helps students to get their own goals for learning, and determine resources and activities guiding them to meet those goals (Jonassen, 2000). Because students pursue their own goals, all of their activities are meaningful to them. Student-centered learning which is based on experiential learning helps knowledge and skills to be grasped more extensively and permananetly (Lont, 1999). Since both students and teachers participate in learning process, teachers are perceived to be a member of teaching environment and students to be the persons whose individual learning needs should be addressed. Thus, teachers by using more recent teaching methods involve students in learning process more actively. This improves and expands teachers' roles, which in turn contributes to team spirit and and the culture of working together. The properties of student-centered teaching program that was prepared by the Mid-continent Regional Educatinoal Laboratory are as follows (McCombs & Whisler, 1997; cited in: Unver & Demirel, 2004):

* emphasizes tasks that attract students' various interests,

* organizes content and activities around the subjects that are meaningful to the students,

* contains clear opportunities that let all students develop their own learning skills and progress to the next level of learning,

* contains activities that help students understand and improve their own viewpoints,

* allows for global, interdisciplinary, and complemetary activities,

* supports challenging learning activities even if the learners find them difficult, and

* emphasizes activities that encourage students to work with other students in cooperation. …