Moving from Teacher-Centered to Student-Centered Teaching

Here’s some things I decided about why the WAY easier, old style of classroom teaching doesn’t work as a stand-alone method of instruction anymore. I could probably write a book about it… here are 300 words.

The old teacher-led teaching model, where the instructor selects all the content to be imparted to the student is outdated (see figure below); a narrow view of material is impossible when students have previously unheard of access to information through the internet.  Now the emphasis is on "student-centered" learning (a better term might be "teacher-coached" learning?) where content is chosen as a starting point and the instructor takes on the role of facilitator.  Other driving forces behind this change include outcome assessment requirements, student and employer expectations, pedagogical evolution, changing student populations and the rise of the internet. 

From Gallie and Joubert 2004

From Gallie and Joubert 2004

In the last several decades, public pressure led to more emphasis on customer satisfaction and in turn higher accreditation benchmarks.  Students demanded a guarantee of income return and politicians demanded learning outcome data.   Administration asked for that data from chairs and faculty who were ill-equipped to provide it or adapt their methods.  They in turn looked to educational research for answers. Pedagogical schools of thought, acknowledging the cognitive and social roles in learning, switched focus toward collaboration. Emphasis on collaboration began to outweigh other content-based learning objectives; employers complained about lack of student-centered critical thinking and self-motivation, and so the process evolves.

The "student-centered" model puts the responsibility for learning on the student.  Instead of listing what the course will cover, syllabi now list what learning objectives the student is expected to master.  To aid with this increased responsibility, students have support from classmates and other forms of media assist them as much as possible.

Despite the higher expense of online classes, most schools now offer some form of distance learning, as the flexible hours allow students already in the workforce a chance to improve their skills.  Because the students work on their own time, these courses also improve time management skills and self-motivation practices so valuable to employers.

As a final note, the internet has become an omnipresent, distracting, and confusing participant in every classroom, real or virtual. There is no way to avoid its influence (even Amish students may have access to library computers).  Most students are poorly prepared to "fact check", and a recent study by the PEW foundation suggests most adults can't distinguish opinion from fact.  It is imperative that students discover how to use the internet responsibly if they are to be the center of their own education.


 Here are references because I’ve been preaching about references. Here are some.

1. Gaille K and Joubert D Paradigm shift: From traditional to online education (2004)  Studies in Learning, Evaluation and Development 1(1), pp. 32-36.

2. Gill W (2007) Outcomes Assessment in the Accreditation Process retrieved from

3. Kimmell, SL et al (1998) Outcomes assessment programs: Historical perspective and state of the art. Issues in Accounting Education; Sarasota Vol. 13, Iss. 4,  851-868.

4. Personal Experience through committee work at Oakton Community College and University of Chicago

5. IES/NCES Fast Facts: Tuition costs of colleges and universities. 1985 - 2016  

6 From Public Good to Private Good (2014) The Chronicle of Higher Education retrieved from

7 Picciano, A. G. (2017). Theories and frameworks for online education: Seeking an integrated model. Online Learning, 21(3), 166-190.

8 Suskie, L. A. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. 2nd Ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

9. Newton D Why College Tuition is Actually Higher for Online Programs (2018) retrieved from

10. Wineburg, Sam and McGrew, Sarah and Breakstone, Joel and Ortega, Teresa. (2016). Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning. Stanford Digital Repository. Available at:

11.  Mitchell A et al. (2018) PEW Report:  Can Americans Tell Factual From Opinion Statements in the News? retrieved from