Teacher-Centred or Student-Centred Lesson – Which is Best?

Different Ways of Teaching / Methodology

Diary submitted by Damian L, Madrid

In recent years the student-centred approach has become more popular while the more traditional teacher-centred approach has lost some traction. However, there are still advocates and critics of both of these approaches, and thus, the decision normally comes down to the teacher’s or the academy’s own preferences as to which approach is best for them and their students. In this diary, I wish to discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of each approach so as to obtain a more profound understanding on the decision a teacher or an academy should arrive at, if indeed there is a clear answer to be found.

Firstly, let’s consider the teacher-centred approach. Here, the teacher is seen as the main authoritative figure and is the “sage on the stage” who gives lectures and direct instruction to his/her students. The students passively receive this knowledge with the end goal of positive results from tests and assessments. There are numerous advantages of such an approach. For example, advocates of the approach state that the class remains orderly with the students being quiet and the teacher having full control of the class and the activities. In this way, a teacher ensures that all topics will be covered by the students as he directs all the activities. Furthermore, the students are more likely to learn independence as they have to rely on their own skills and decisions. 

However, critics of the approach argue that because students are forced to work alone their communication skills suffer as they are not learning to collaborate with others. Moreover, the often all too scripted lessons can become constricting and boring, especially as there is little participation from the students, meaning they not only cannot express themselves and ask questions but they also aren’t given the opportunity to direct their own learning. Therefore, their minds may wander, and their learning may be negatively impacted. 

This therefore leads us onto the other more up and coming method – the student-centred approach. Here, the focus is both on the students and the teacher who acts more as a facilitator than an authoritative figure. Instead of students listening exclusively to the teacher, they are encouraged to interact with both the teacher and one another. The advantages of this more flexible approach are that students are encouraged to work in groups and thus, as opposed to the teacher-centred approach, students improve their collaborative skills. Furthermore, with the occasional aid of the teacher, students are not only able to direct their own learning but are also more captivated and invested in the learning activities as they are allowed to actively participate by interacting with one another. 

Nevertheless, the student-centred approach has its disadvantages. For example, there are often some students who prefer to work alone and therefore group work can become problematic. Moreover, this approach tends to lead to a noisier and more chaotic classroom which some critics say has a negative effect on some of the students learning. The fact that the teacher isn’t always delivering instruction to all of the students, means there may well be some in the class that miss an important piece of information. Furthermore, having lots of groups may lead to different group speeds and thus, the teacher can find it difficult to manage all the activities at once. 

To conclude, I believe that striking a balance between the two approaches is key to a more successful learning experience. However, it is important to note that leaning more one way than another is sometimes necessary depending your students.

Teacher-Centred or Student-Centred Lesson – Which is Best? tefl trainer blog

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