The evolution of teaching philosophy intrigues me. I started with the traditional “sage on the stage” philosophy where the professor shares his/her great knowledge and the student is left to make sense of this knowledge outside the classroom. As a student, I found this authoritative approach frustrating because of the lack of direction. As instructor, I improved how I was taught by adding more direction, but I still predominantly use this approach to teaching.
Learning-centered teaching puts the teaching onto the students. The instructor acts more as coach or guide, rather than dictating the subject matter to students. The goal is one of engagement and active learning activities form the basis of classroom activity. This is a handy chart to compare teacher-centered vs. learner-centered teaching. Learner-centered teaching is considered more advanced that the traditional method. Maryellen Weimer describes 5 characteristics of learner-centered instruction. I have been trying to be more learner-centered in my classroom, but found that a very careful balance needs to be maintained. Students resent being thrown into the deep-end and expect some level of instruction. At the same time, students acknowledge that they learn more if they are the responsible for their learning.
Meaning-centered education and meaning-centered learning appears to be a recent progression beyond learner-centered instruction. In this educational philosophy the goal is to have students place the new knowledge in a context that means something to them. This approach appeals to me as the motivation for student-learning is built into this philosophy. Integration of new ideas into our current knowledge is how the brain deals with new knowledge, thus meaning-centered learning will be intuitive to students. Finally, the approach emphasizes learning for life. The goal is not just to master course content, but to integrate this learning into who the student is as a person now and who the student wants to be in the future. Since I teach students that want to be nurses, I can see this approach having an impact on their lives long after they leave my classroom. This is important because the course material forms a foundation for their professional practice.
The Institute for Meaning-Centered Education appears to be in its infancy. I’m looking forward to seeing how this educational philosophy develops and how I may incorporate it into my classroom.