Learner-Centered Instruction in Pre-Service Teacher Education: Does It Make a Real Difference in Learners' Language Performance?

By Al-Humaidi, Salma; Al Barwani, Thuwayba A. et al. | International Journal of Education, October 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Learner-Centered Instruction in Pre-Service Teacher Education: Does It Make a Real Difference in Learners' Language Performance?


Al-Humaidi, Salma, Al Barwani, Thuwayba A., Al Mekhlafi, Abdo, International Journal of Education


Abstract

The current study investigated the effect of implementing learner centered methodologies in a teacher education program. More specifically, it looked at the impact of exposing prospective teachers to learner centered methodologies through an EFL methods course. In turn, the effects of this approach on their school students' performance in English language skills (reading, writing, and speaking) were examined. The study used a quasi-experimental design where the performance of a group of school students using learner centered methodology (experimental group) was compared to the performance of another group of school students using non-learner centered approaches (control group). The study further examined whether significant differences existed between the performance of the two groups that can be attributed to gender and the school environment. Moreover, the study looked into students' attitudes towards language in a learner-centered environment. The instruments used in this study are the National test designed by the Ministry of Education and an attitude questionnaire that was adapted from the learner-centered methodology program document of the Ministry of Education. Major findings reveal significant differences in the performance of students in the two types of schools in favor of learner-centered schools. Despite the differences between the two groups on all measures, students' language performance of both learner centered and non-learner centered schools was found to be lower than the Ministry of Education specified minimum score.

Keywords: Learner-centered, Pre-service, Teacher education, Language performance

1. Introduction

Teaching and learning methods, approaches and techniques are constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of teachers and students alike. Thirst for improvement and attempts to keep pace with any new developments in the discipline have created a healthy competition among area specialists who constantly strive to avoid the dreaded sobriquet of traditionalist. This has resulted in a number of attempts to try out and implement a plethora of new methods and techniques with widely varying degrees of success. A good many of these attempts have fallen short of their terminal goals. Some educators who try to adopt new pedagogical approaches because they are current or fashionable and are often unable to voice their concerns due to their lack of expertise in applying these new ideas. This can and does sometimes lead to their being labeled backwards or less-than-proficient in their fields even by those who only claim to know it all. Moreover, even when these new trends are applicable and sound in nature, it is still questionable how much they contribute in any practical manner to student improvement. This is especially true if, at the end of the day, such newfangled approaches are sought after and applied for the sake of appearances and/or for the bolstering of one's reputation as a cutting-edge educator. Unfortunately, the field of English language teaching is not immune to this condition.

2. Theoretical Framework

In response to the need for school improvement, the ongoing research in education is focusing on exploring various approaches, methods, and techniques based on sound theoretical grounds. These methods of instruction, for the most part, cluster around either teacher-led or learner-centered (or student-centered) approaches. Learner-centered approaches in ELT take a number of forms though they are fundamentally similar in nature. They all stem from the notion of 'learning by doing' rather than being led by the teacher. The most prominent of these are active learning and service learning approaches. In the literature on teaching and learning, the term 'student-centered learning' is widely used (Young, 2000:72). Other terms used in the literature linked to this are 'experiential learning' (Burnard, 1999), 'flexible learning' (Taylor, 2000), and 'self-directed learning' (O'Neill and McMahon, 2005:27). …

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