Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Age of Creative Insecurity: Student-Centered Learning

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Age of Creative Insecurity: Student-Centered Learning

Article excerpt

"Education, like fresh rolls, goes stale. And in today's Knowledge Society, the problem is not getting new in. formation: it is developing new ways to learn, and to apply new knowledge." 1

"EDUCATION" is an integral part of the American social process and tends to reflect society's basic characteristics. The success ethic is one of the most important of these characteristics. Very early in a student's life, the teacher is established as an authority figure.2 The teacher's power to influence the direction and possible outcome of a student's future has an impact at once reassuring and forbidding. Constant reinforcement of the teacher's importance leads, more often than not, to an unquestioning attitude on the part of the student. Students quickly realize that by pleasing the teacher, i.e., by doing the assigned work, they will receive good grades-a token of the teacher's pleasure and a welcome relief to their parents. Predictability in academic performance is rewarded.

What then do we have? A social institution which has substituted means for ends. Grades are paramount, and education is only secondary. In this climate success becomes equated with conformity. Creative energies are stifled and our educational system becomes an agency for social control. Success based on the banal practicalities of yesterday deadens the spirit. "To gain the independence, freedom and security required for creativity, the normal individual has to reject this concept of success." 3

Our graduate students are caught in an out-of-synch phase. Bits and pieces of the old system of education have been replaced by innovative and often far-reaching programs, but the old philosophy remains. No new guiding spirit of sufficient strength to supplant the old ethic has yet been invoked. In 1967, Marshall McLuhan predicted that .. the very first casualty of the present-day school system may very well be the business of teacher-led instruction as we now know it. . . . Education will be more concerned with training the senses and perception than with stuffing brains." 4 Nevertheless, grades, the teacher as authority figure, and the success ethic remain as constant reminders of a system more concerned with the source of a statement than with its content.

Doubts concerning the efficacy of traditional teaching methods have led to experimentation with other techniques. Frequently, emphasis is placed on student-centered teaching rather than instructor-centered methods. The assumption is that university learning based on the lecture method with questions and discussion is (1) "insufficiently experimental," (2) "too authoritarian," (3) "too passive in the role in which it places students," (4) "too detached from students' on-going lives, their hopes and involvements, the points where their psychic energy is most involved," and .( S) "too impersonal." II In "Participative Management in the College Classroom" R. H. Killmann cites several studies which support the hypothesis that student-centered teaching is more effective in stimulating critical thinking among students.8

Student-centered teaching results when students are allowed (1) to set classroom objectives, (2) to establish means of arriving at .these objectives, and (3) to evaluate progress toward attainment of these objectives. Before students can assume this novel role it is usually necessary to unfreeze traditional forms of response. Reducing the formal classroom structure, or "unstructuring," is part of the change process. Methods to reduce the structure of the classroom environment have been developed in order to facilitate the generation of student involvement or participation in the education process. Within this pattern the instructor assists student activity but does not direct it. Participation will, in theory, increase student motivation and classroom performance will improve.

This article is a study of participation in the classroom. It focuses on a course in library management and the effect the process of unstructuring has on efforts to encourage student-centered learning. …

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