Learner-Centered TrainingEarly in his helpful compilation (pdf) of guidelines and tools for assessing learning, Eric Soulsby, special assistant to the vice-provost at the University of Connecticut, reproduces the contrasting paradigms for teacher-centered and learner-centered education published by Mary E. Huba and Jann E. Freed in 2000.1
Huba and Freed present eleven pairs of characteristics of the two paradigms. In the list below (slightly edited), the teacher-centered half of each pair is in italics, while the corresponding learner-centered half is in bold. Though Huba and Freed are thinking in terms of college students and professors, it does not take much effort to see how the characteristics of learner-centered education that they enumerate, apply with minor modifications to adult learning in the corporate setting.
Knowledge is transmitted from teacher to students.
Students construct knowledge through gathering and synthesizing information and integrating it with the general skills of inquiry, communication, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.
Students passively receive information.
Students are actively involved.
The emphasis is on acquisition of knowledge outside the context in which it will be used.
The emphasis is on using and communicating knowledge effectively to address enduring and emerging issues and problems in real-life contexts.
The teacher's role is to be the primary information giver and evaluator.
The teacher's role is to coach and facilitate. Teacher and students evaluate learning together.
Teaching and assessing are separate.
Teaching and assessing are intertwined.
Assessment is used to monitor learning.
Assessment is used to promote and diagnose learning. (The monitoring function of assessment does come into play when learners are preparing for certification in an area, such as technical support.)
The emphasis is on right answers.
The emphasis is on generating better questions and learning from errors.
Desired learning is assessed indirectly through the use of objectively scored tests.
Desired learning is assessed directly through demos, projects, day-to-day application, and the like.
The focus is on a single discipline.
An approach compatible with interdisciplinary work is used. For a business example, see this post about how the El Camino College Workplace Learning Resource Center is integrating basic skills instruction into mariners' training.
The learning culture is competitive and individualistic.
The learning culture is cooperative, collaborative, and supportive.
Only students are viewed as learners.
Teacher and students learn together. In the corporate setting, this is particularly apparent in training programs that involve learning through work on actual projects (action learning).
It is important to note how closely Huba and Freed's characteristics of learner-centered education align with what Ken Bain discovered in his research on the practices of highly effective college teachers.
1 "Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses: Shifting the Focus from Teaching to Learning," by Mary E. Huba and Jann E. Freed (Allyn & Bacon, 2000).