Learner-Centered Practice

Learner-Centered Practice

We invite you to explore the resources provided and suggest other resources and add to the discussion. We also invite you to share what you and your colleagues are doing to strengthen our community of practice.

Learner-centred teaching has been researched for nearly two decades. In 1995, Barr and Tagg talked about a shift from the “instruction paradigm” to the “learning paradigm.” Since then, our movement along this paradigm has challenged us to focus upon how the learning takes place rather than what we do as instructors.

The work of Maryellen Weimer emerged as central to many of these ideas and other researchers have built upon the premises of learner-centred teaching and its applications in practice.

Terry Doyle says “it is the one who does the work who does the learning” (2008). Learner-centred instructors providing meaningful and authentic opportunities to be engaged with content and practice (application). This leads to increased retention and student success.

Questions to Consider:

  • Are you working harder than your students? If so, who’s learning more?
  • What learning activities already engage students in application in your classroom?

The One Who Does the Work is the One Who Does the Learning

Learner-centred instructors teach students how to learn – explicitly, incrementally, and by integrating it within their courses. This includes teaching them how to think, problem-solve, develop and test hypotheses, and analyze arguments. These are fundamental to mastering content and developing skills, and most don’t pick up these skills automatically (Baldwin & Koh).

With these skills students are better prepared for future courses, employment, and life-long learning.

Questions to Consider:

  • What applications in your classes are skill-builders in these areas?

Learner-centred instructors invite students to think about not only what they are learning but how they are learning it. Incorporating reflection, analysis and critique into learning activities and assignments moves students to greater awareness of themselves as learners (Thompson, Licklider & Jungst).

Questions to Consider:

  • Do your assessments include opportunities for students to reflect, analyze and critique what they are learning and how they are learning it?

Students are motivated by having some control and decisions over the learning processes. Content, textbooks, and course outcomes are typically not decided by the students; learner-centred instructors provide opportunities for students to make decisions and choices about their learning.

Questions to Consider:

Who makes the decision about ________ ? (instructor? students? together?)

  • attendance policy
  • due dates for assignments
  • rubrics for evaluation of self or peers work
  • participation or professionalism marks
  • other?

Learner-centred instructors value collaborative learning. Research shows that learning occurs in collaborative environments with students learning from one another, students learning from instructors, instructors learning from students.

Questions to Consider:

  • How do you design collaborative activities that maximize the potential for learning in the classroom?

The CTL recommends the following books for any instructors beginning an investigation of learner-centred teaching and curriculum design:


Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice (2nd Edition)
Maryellen Weimer (2013)
This revised edition provides up-to-date practical applications and examples of the learner-centred approach to teaching from a variety of disciplines.Maryellen Weimer is a Penn State Professor Emeritus of Teaching and Learning. She has authored and edited eight books.

2nd Edition Available at RDC Library:

  • eBook
  • Main Collection LB 2331 W39 2013
  • Reserve Desk LB 2331 W39 2013

1st Edition Available at RDC Library:

  • PDF
  • Main Collection LB 2331 W39 2002

Leading the Learner-Centered Campus: An Administrator’s Framework for Improving Student Learning Outcomes
Roxanne Cullen and Michael Harris with a foreword by Maryellen Weimer (2010).
This book moves learner-centredness out of the classroom and into the wider institutional setting.

Available at RDC Library:

  • eBook
  • Main Collection LB 2341 H324 2010
  • Reserve Desk LB 2341 H324 2010

The Learner-Centered Curriculum: Design and Implementation
Roxanne Cullen, Michael Harris, and Reinhold R. Hill with a foreword by Maryellen Weimer (2012)
This book focuses on curriculum design for learner-centredness at both the institutional and instructional level.

Available at RDC Library:

  • Main Collection LB 2361.5 C85 2012
  • Reserve Desk LB 2361.5 C85 2012