Student-Centred Learning

The Flip: End of a Love Affair

In her updated article, Shelly Wright describes why she gradually let her flipped classroom give way to a different classroom form which she says is even more student-focused.

How Her Class Was, Flipped

She describes the flipped classroom that she tried but moved away from as one in which the students would be tasked with listening to or observing the lectures for homework (via videos, for example), so that she would have more time for “hands-on” learning-type activities in the classroom the next day.  She had wanted to try this arrangement, she explains, because she had felt that she unable to do as many hands-on activities with her class because of the large amount of time she needed to get through all of the course content.  In practice, however, she came to feel like she was playing a kind of shell game, and just “juggling the traditional lecture” rather than “moving forward into a new learning paradigm.”

How Her Class is Now, Even More Student-Centred

Her classroom has evolved, apparently quite smoothly, into one in which the students are expected to take much greater responsibility for their own learning, and her own role has become that of a learning coach; she helps the students to learn, to reflect on their learning, to develop skills in finding and evaluating sources, and to work together with their peers.  She explains the objectives to the class at the start of the course and sets goals for them, and then monitors and facilitates their progress as they proceed to learn what they need to know at their own pace.  A significant side-benefit of her new classroom format is that there is no longer a need to give homework, since everything gets done in class.

My Comments, Observations

The problem that Shelly first turned to “the flip” to try to address is one that most, if not all, teachers share; we only have so many hours allotted to us in which to conduct our classes, but there is so much content to be covered and it takes a fast pace to get through all of it in sufficient detail.  Shifting the lectures to the students’ time outside of class is not really an option, especially in the construction trades when the course is not a “core” subject and you know that the non-academically inclined students have enough homework without you adding to it.  Moreover, many students would argue that time is money and, therefore, the instructors are supposed to teach them what they’re supposed to know… and there would be complaints to Apprenticeship.

That aside, we do know, too, that the students in construction trades tend to like to learn by doing, so if it were possible we as their instructors would sorely like to accommodate their preference and give them more hands-on activities in the classroom.  But how to do it?  How does the instructor cover all the necessary content, not give homework, and make opportunities for hands-on learning in the classroom, all at once?

Shelly seems to be on to an idea which might be adaptable to teaching the construction trades, and it’s actually similar to something I have been doing with in my Level 3 classes math and science classes.  I find that by Level 3 the apprentices have become quite independent, and if the objectives are explained to them they can work quite effectively through a series of projects at their own pace, with the instructor standing by to provide advice and guidance when needed.

The biggest problem I have in turning over the classroom to student-led learning is a physical one which results from the inflexibility of the classrooms themselves.  The classrooms are almost always tiny and so tightly packed with students and furniture that it prevents any movement of the students around the room and makes it nearly impossible for an instructor to move around to see how individuals are progressing.  And that is a problem for just about any teaching style… but it’s what we have to work with in rooms that were designed for yesteryear’s classes.

I welcome your comments and ideas.

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3 thoughts on “Student-Centred Learning”

  1. I find this an intriguing topic. I love the idea of creating student-centered classrooms no matter how that may look. I do have a ton of questions (and a lack of experience) regarding the flipped classroom approach. One concern is how does a student who has issues with executive functioning, which is common with students with ADHD for example, function in an environment that is student-centered? I definitely can see many benefits to the format, but one road block that may make it difficult for some of these students is the inability to organize the functions required to be the directors of their own movies.

    A second point I have is this: The point you made about classrooms being designed for yesteryear’s classes is poignant. Such a valid point. And with education being under-funded on almost every front, the need to make the spaces in which students learn more progressive, is extremely challenging. It seems to me that even the most creative educators would struggle with this hurdle.

    I will be interested to see what others have to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In “The Flip” style of learning in the classroom has physically restricted teacher movement in the class, but has great positive affects in that students have developed an inner drive to learn.

    In the statement “there is no longer a need to give homework”, do you mean that they still have homework but it may not seem like it anymore because they are now using a different avenue?

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  3. This was a great article you chose to read and blog on! I agree with the concerns and problems that the author sees with the flipped classroom model–especially the issue of pushing the lecture portion of learning onto homework pile. I also agree with and feel your frustration with the layout of many college classrooms. I teach one class in a studio, where moving around in easy–for myself and for students. My other class is in a lecture studio, where it’s tough to move about the students. Are there any opportunities in your classes for groups of students to tackle a problem and then share their approach and solutions with the rest of the class? Is there a partial step toward student-led learning that you can take, given the restrictions of the physical classroom layout?

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