Academic journal article Education

The Learner Centered High School: Prescription for Adolescents' Success

Academic journal article Education

The Learner Centered High School: Prescription for Adolescents' Success

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 1983 Ernest Boyer noted that it was difficult to find a coherent purpose in America's secondary schools. He attributed this lack of focus to the fact that these schools were called upon to provide the services of a variety of social institutions. The variety of demands placed upon secondary schools and their teachers was not only confusing but it detracted significantly from teachers' concentration on their primary task -- enhancing learning on the part of students. As the Southern Regional Education Board (1987) has stated, "Any assessment of educational progress must emphasize the primary importance of student learning. Other outcomes are important, but none more so than what students learn."

Things have not improved since the time of Boyer's observation. America's secondary schools are still deeply embedded in a morass of conflicting purposes, outdated organizational formats and administrative procedures and reform efforts that stultify administrators and teachers' efforts to creatively assist students learn. This article describes a conceptual framework for a secondary school that offers promise of a new approach to improving students' learning-The Learner-Centered High School.

Definition

   Learner-Centered education is defined by McCombs and Whisler (1997, p.9)
   as: the perspective that couples a focus on individual learners (their
   heredity, experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, talents, interests,
   capacities, and needs) with a focus on learning (the best available
   knowledge about learning and how it occurs and about teaching practices
   that are most effective in promoting the highest levels of motivation,
   learning, and achievement for all learners). This dual focus, then, informs
   and drives educational decision-making.

Learner-centered education in this perspective embodies the learner and learning in the programs, policies and teaching that support effective learning for all students in a school. Administrators are responsible for developing, maintaining and enhancing a school environment that promotes effective learning. They are also responsible for assuring teachers are knowledgeable about their students and how learning best occurs. Teachers are responsible for having classrooms that promote effective learning for all as well as being familiar with the instructional techniques that promote effective learning for all. School psychologists are concerned with improving both the conditions for learning (parent education, classroom environment, teacher attitude) as well as assisting each learner develop his/her fullest potential (see following article). The following five premises support these assertions.

1. Learners have distinctive perspectives or frames of reference, contributed to by their history, the environment, their interests and goals, their beliefs, their ways of thinking and the like. These must be attended to and respected if learners are to become more actively involved in the learning process and to ultimately become independent thinkers.

2. Learners have unique differences, including emotional states of mind, learning rates, learning styles, stages of development, abilities, talents, feelings of efficacy, and other needs. These must be taken into account if all learners are to learn more effectively and efficiently.

3. Learning is a process that occurs best when what is being learned is relevant and meaningful to the learner and when the learner is actively engaged in creating his or her own knowledge and understanding by connecting what is being learned with prior knowledge and experience

4. Learning occurs best in an environment that contains positive interpersonal relationships and interactions and in which the learner feels appreciated, acknowledged, respected, and validated.

5. Learning is seen as a fundamentally natural process; learners are viewed as naturally curious and basically interested in learning about and mastering their world. …

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