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Some teachers allow students to decide classroom policies

Some faculty members are using a new teaching approach that rejects lecturing and embraces student involvement.

Called the Learning Centered Approach, Karen Meyers described it as the teacher not being the “sage on the stage,” but instead, the “guide on the side.”

“In a teacher-centered approach, I decide what aspects I want to teach, regardless of where students are and what they know,” said Meyers, assistant director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. “The Learning Centered Approach tries to find out what students know and where they are, so information can be pitched in the best way for them.”

The approach can be used through a variety of strategies in the classroom, Meyers said.

Some teachers are beginning to use it in different ways. For example, some let their students decide classroom policies such as attendance and cell phone usage.

Other teachers use it instead of lectures and multiple choice tests, getting students’ responses to the material through clickers and having students work together in groups, among other things.

Stephen Langendorfer, professor in the school of Human Movement, Sport and Leisure Studies, uses the approach in his classes through online quizzes with the purpose of teaching the student, not testing them; focusing on learning outcomes and putting the responsibility on the student to “actively construct their own knowledge.”

“Students don’t like it because it puts more responsibility on them, instructors don’t like it because there’s more time you have to put into it,” he said. “Everyone sort of likes it because it puts the focus back on the learner.”

Langendorfer said he uses the approach because he wants his students “to be problem solvers and critical thinkers and creative thinkers as well.”

“The instructor-centered paradigm is assuming learning is a process of copying,” he said. “The learner perspective comes from other directions … you have to learn, I can’t learn you.”

Sophomore Reauna Wrighten said she thinks the approach could help students.

“I think it helps me by having to engage in something,” she said. “I remember it more when we have activities. I’m a hands on person so doing something makes me remember it better.”

Instructors can’t do the same quality of teaching by talking at students, “you have to give them something else,” Langendorfer said.

“Every teacher I know knows implicitly that just because I’ve taught it doesn’t mean students have learned it,” he said.

Freshman Molly Davis is an early childhood education major and said her classes are mostly lectures this semester, but she prefers being in a group for activities.

“I think I’ll teach more with groups, especially with little kids, because it’s how they learn best is by being hands-on,” Davis said.

As far as teachers being the “guide on the side” as Meyers said, Davis said she thinks it would be helpful sometimes.

“But sometimes it’s nice that the teacher is telling you what you need to know and other times being in a group and learning from others is good,” she said.

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