THE BENEFITS OF USING LEARNER-CENTRED TEACHING

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CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW

INTRODUCTION

Creswell (2008:116) says that “a literature review is a written summary of articles, books, and other documents that describes the past and current state of knowledge about a topic, organizes a literature into topics, and documents a need for a proposed study”. The literature review in this study aims at finding out what has been researched on learner-centred teaching globally and in South Africa in particular.
This chapter focuses on a review of the literature related to the learner-centred approach as a teaching strategy. It begins with a detailed conceptualization of the concept of ‘learner centred teaching’ by looking at the definitions, purposes and other implications related to learner-centred teaching. It further explores the benefits and other related advantages drawn from learner-centred strategies. Thereafter, it examines the challenges and contextual factors which stifle the adoption of a learner-centred approach and other curriculum innovations introduced in the post democratic South Africa. This chapter will also look at educational theories associated with learner-centred pedagogy. Furthermore, it will look at the environmental factors that influence teaching and learning in the selected rural schools. Finally, the review of literature will identify gaps in the respective knowledge that exists today.

THE CONCEPTUALISATION AND THE DEFINITIONS OF LEARNER-CENTRED TEACHING

The researcher considers the conceptualization and definition of learner-centred teaching as both convoluted and somehow argumentative. This is due to the fact that learner-centredness complies with various approaches that encompass an active role of learners in their learning. Hence, Min Liu (2003:57) says: “A variety of approaches fit beneath the umbrella of student-centred-learning”. A common thread which runs through learner-centred teaching is the emphasis on a variety of different types of methods that shift the role of the instructors from givers of information to facilitating student learning.
These methods may include everything from listening practices that help students to absorb what they hear to short writing exercises in which students react to the material, to complex group exercises in which students apply course material to real life situations and/or to new problems. While listening and taking notes are considered as the cornerstones of traditional teacher-centred learning, Alemu (2010:14) argues that, “In this approach students may also be actively involved by means of discovering, processing, and applying information”. However, Starke (2007:4) says that “Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in class and listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers”.
However, the focus of this study is to evaluate learner-centred teaching as part of curriculum delivery. Therefore, the actual focus is to determine and evaluate how teachers in the selected schools attempt to implement learner-centred teaching. The researcher’s argument is that the methods used to teach learners determine how they learn. Therefore, the techniques through which learners absorb knowledge are informed by how they are directed. Sunzuma, et. al. (2012:147) argues that, “Besides providing appropriate problem-rich situations, teachers must encourage students to find their own solutions”.
The researcher’s determination is that teachers should always provide a variety of opportunities that will cater for learners’ diversity, an appropriate blend of teaching and that learning resource materials should be provided. This resonates with Manqele (2012) when asserting that the constantly changing curriculum in South Africa suggests that the provision of educational resources should match the demands of every approach required for the implementation of the newly introduced curriculum.
Abbott, Guisbond, Levy and Sommerfeld (2012:1) say: “the term student-centred learning refers to a wide variety of educational programmes, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students”. This, according to the researcher, creates a room of confusion in terms of identifying what approaches are genuinely learner-centred and those which are not. This confusion is exemplified by terms like active learning, student engagement and other strategies that involve students and mention learning being tagged as learner-centred. Although learner-centred teaching and efforts to involve students have a kind of bread and butter relationship, they are not the same thing. In the interest of more definitional precision, Weimer (2012) proposed the following five characteristics of learner-centred teaching:

  • Learner-centred teaching engages students in the hard, messy work of learning;
  • Includes explicit skill instruction;
  • Encourages students to reflect on what they are learning and how they are learning it;
  • Motivates students by giving them some control over learning processes; and
  • Encourages collaboration.
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In contrast, Gibbs (1997) offered a useful definition of learner-centred learning. He states that learner-centred learning gives learners greater autonomy and control over choice of subject matter, learning methods and pace of study. This definition unties the aspect of learner-centred pedagogy that promotes a freedom of choice. This implies that learners’ preferences in a learner-centred pedagogy should always be considered. Furthermore, this actually explains how the new South African democracy opted for learner-centred pedagogy in order to support and sustain its new-found freedom.
Another perspective of a learner-centred education focuses on individual learners’ heredity, experiences, perspectives, background, talents, interests, capabilities and needs. Therefore, it is all-inclusive as it aims to empower all learners irrespective of their differences. The researcher maintains that one basic benefit of learner-centred education is that it caters for the personal needs, abilities, and learning styles of individual learners. Therefore, learners cannot just listen and take notes as in a teacher-centred learning; instead they should participate in a variety of class activities, and interact with one another. This ensures that learners are involved in higher-order thinking skills like analysing, synthesizing, and evaluating. This type of learning enables learners to reflect on their learning and their learning processes.
However, given the implied indistinctness, ambiguity and possible confusion linked to the definition of learner-centred education, this study is accommodative of various labels that were related to the expectations linked to the changes sought by the paradigm shift in South African education. Hence, Carlile and Jordan (2000), in Al-Mekhlafi and Nagaratnam (2012) maintain that there seems to be, however, no single theoretical basis for student-centred learning in the literature. It appears to relate primarily to the ‘constructivist’ view of learning in the importance it places on activity, discovery and independent learning. Emes, Cleveland- Innes and Martha (2003:11) conclude that “definitions are based on practice and ways of teaching in the classroom and focus on the conditions under which learner-centredness occurs”.

The basic definitions

Despite these definitional complications, Mascolo (2009:16) articulated that “although there is some lack of consensus about the meanings of these terms, and although these modes of learning overlap, it is possible to offer some basic definitions”. The following are some of the basic definitions he worked out:
Problem-based or inquiry learning: consists of learning activities in which groups of students collaborate in an attempt to solve particular problems. Problem solving requires a variety of different sub-skills that can be coordinated through goal-directed collaboration among students. Problem-based learning is often used in classes that lend themselves to laboratory or small group work, but has also been adapted for large classrooms (Oliver, 2007).
Experiential learning: refers to a mode of learning in which students construct knowledge and skills through direct action, experience and reflection (Estes, 2004). From this view, the role of an educator is to provide the experiences from which,learning can occur through active reflection. Experiential learning has its origins in Dewey’s (1938) inquiry-based approach to learning. Although experiential learning is often practised in applied community settings, such as internships, community service and field work, it can also be used in classroom settings (Wurdinger, 2005)
Participative learning: involves providing students with the opportunity to play an active role in the structure and content of courses and learning activities. In collaboration with a teacher, students may be involved in the design of course syllabi, identifying course assignments, creating student assessment devices, and even grading (Simkin, 2005; Wingfield & Black, 2005).
Collaborative learning: denotes a goal-directed learning that occurs in s m a l l g r o u p s of students (O’Donnell, Hmelo Silver & Erkens, 2005). These forms of learning are sometimes called peer-assisted learning, group learning, peer-tutoring, and other terms.
Cooperative learning: is a special form of collaborative learning that is generally defined in opposition to competitive or individualistic learning (Johnson & Johnson, 1990). Competitive learning occurs when individuals or groups must work in opposition to each other; individual learning simply consists of learning by one’s self, often in a competitive context. In contrast, cooperative learning is deliberately organised through an interdependent structure in which group members must rely upon one another to perform particular learning tasks. An important tenet of cooperative learning is the notion of intentional design (Barkley, Cross & Major, 2005).
In conclusion, the researcher opted to draw a simple explanation by alluding to Min Liu (2003) who characterised student-centred approaches as defined by contrasting them with traditional instructional approaches which are characterised by greater teacher direction. Key differences between the two approaches include goals, roles, motivational orientations, assessments, and student interactions. In addition, the researcher notes that the difference between the two approaches lies on how learners construct information. In teacher-centred learning learners are not actively involved in knowledge construction while in a learner-centred learning learners are directly involved in the construction of knowledge.

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CHAPTER 1 ORIENTATION OF THE STUDY
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.3 RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.4 MOTIVATION
1.5 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
1.6 RESEARCH APPROACH
1.7 REASONS FOR USING QUALITATIVE RESEARCH APPROACH
1.8 RESEARCH DESIGN
1.9 DATA COLLECTION
1.10 DATA ANALYSIS
1.11 SAMPLING
1.12 DIVISION OF CHAPTERS
1.13 DEFINITION OF TERMS AND CONCEPTS
1.14 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 THE CONCEPTUALISATION AND THE DEFINITIONS OF LEARNER-CENTRED TEACHING
2.3 THE THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS OF LEARNER-CENTRED TEACHING PRACTICE
2.4 THE BENEFITS OF USING LEARNER-CENTRED TEACHING
2.5 THE CONTEXTUAL FACTORS THAT AFFECT POSITIVE LEARNING
2.6 THE ROLE OF RESOURCES IN IMPLEMENTING A LEARNER-CENTRED TEACHING APPROACH
2.7 THE CHALLENGES WHICH CONFRONTED EDUCATIONAL INNOVATIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA
2.8 APARTHEID EDUCATION’S FOOTPRINTS AS RESTRICTIVE FACTORS TOWARDS THE IMPLEMENTATION OF LEARNER- CENTRED TEACHING
2.9 THE POST-APARTHEID CURRICULUM CHANGES IN SOUTH AFRICA
2.10 FACTORS THAT STIFLED THE ADOPTION OF LEARNER- CENTRED TEACHING
2.11 THE ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS THAT AFFECT EFFECTIVE TEACHING IN SELECTED SCHOOLS
2.12 THE IMPACT OF ENGAGEMENT
2.13 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 RESEARCH DESIGN
3.3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.4 POPULATION AND SAMPLING
3.5 DATA COLLECTION
3.6 DATA ANALYSIS
3.7 RELIABILITY, VALIDITY AND TRUSTWORTHINESS OF THE STUDY
3.8 THE PILOT STUDY
3.9 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4 DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
4.3 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5 THE SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 THE SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
5.3 RECOMMENDATIONS
5.4 CONCLUSION
5.5 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
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