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For Teachers Updated April 6, 2018

Which is Best: Teacher-Centered or Student-Centered Education?

By The Room 241 Team December 31, 2012

This post has been updated as of December 2017.

As a teacher considering how you want to approach your means of instruction, you (of course) want to employ a method that is beneficial for all of your students. You want them to enjoy the learning process, and for your classroom to be orderly and controlled.

In your research, you’ve probably come across a debate that has been at the forefront of educators’ minds when they think about instruction: what’s better, teacher-centered or student-centered education?

To simplify the two approaches and help you determine which is best for you, we defined both teacher-centered education and student-centered education and rounded up what has been proposed as pros and cons of each.

Teacher-centered education

In teacher-centered education, students put all of their focus on the teacher. You talk, and the students exclusively listen. During activities, students work alone, and collaboration is discouraged.

Pros

  • When education is teacher-centered, the classroom remains orderly. Students are quiet, and you retain full control of the classroom and its activities.
  • Because students learn on their own, they learn independence and make their own decisions.
  • Because you direct all classroom activities, you don’t have to worry that students will miss an important topic.

Cons

  • When students work alone, they don’t learn to collaborate with other students, and their communication skills may suffer.
  • Teacher-centered instruction can be boring for students. Their minds may wander, and they may miss important facts.
  • Teacher-centered instruction doesn’t allow students to express themselves, ask questions, and direct their own learning.

Student-centered instruction

When a classroom operates with student-centered instruction, students and instructors share the focus. Instead of listening to the teacher exclusively, students and teachers interact equally. Group work is encouraged, and students learn to collaborate and communicate with one another.

Pros

  • Students learn important communicative and collaborative skills through group work.
  • Students learn to direct their own learning, ask questions, and complete tasks independently.
  • Students are more interested in learning activities when they can interact with one another and participate actively.

Cons

  • Because students are talking, classrooms may often be noisy or chaotic.
  • Teachers may have to attempt to manage all students’ activities at once, which can be difficult when students are working on different stages of the same project.
  • Because the teacher doesn’t always deliver instruction to all students at once, some students may miss important facts.
  • Some students prefer to work alone, so group work can become problematic.

Making a decision

In recent years, more teachers have moved toward a student-centered approach. However, some students maintain that teacher-centered education is the more effective strategy. In most cases, it is best for teachers to use a combination of approaches to ensure that all student needs are met. You know your classroom better than anyone, so decide what works best for you and your students.

In Concordia’s online MEd programs, we are all about collaboration. We believe that a mix of the two approaches can create a well-balanced educational atmosphere, and that all voices have a right to be heard. Life is way more interesting when you’re talking with someone, rather than to someone, right?

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