#SGM15: Blog #2: A Student-centred approach

Didactical and psycho-pedagogy university module

Blog 2: A student-centred approach


Welcome to the second instalment of our online course for #SGM15. In this blog post we are going to discuss a student-centred approach to LTA (learning, teaching and assessment) – arguing that there are engaging practices that we can harness in our LTA that seed student curiosity and enquiry and help to promote positive learning.

We can help students to speak and ‘be with each other – thus helping to bond students together into friendship groups – that can develop into Communities of Practice fostering a positive learning environment and praxis (and obviate inappropriate behaviour). We can scaffold student reading and notemaking so that they do actually read (!) – and that they engage actively in making sense of their own learning. We can set students visual and digital challenges that help them decode and make meaning in this more multimodal age; we can flip the classroom to focus more on the processes of learning … and we can stimulate student engagement and curiosity by setting them real problems and projects that value their work and model purposive academic endeavour.

Specifically in this blog we are going to explore:

  • Understanding our students
  • Developing positive student qualities
  • Teaching styles
  • A student-centred approach
  • Flipping the Classroom
  • Research – Explore – Blog!
  • Resources (for students and staff).

Understanding our students

Who are our students? Are students today the same as you when you were a student? What might have changed for our students both before they enter our institutions – and once they leave? Why does any of this matter?

In the UK there has been rapid expansion of the HE sector:

  • We have moved from a situation where only 7% of the population engaged in HE to one where nearly 50% of the population to have access to HE.
  • This ‘Widening Participation’ (WP) agenda meant that a once free higher education, whilst still subsidised, now costs students £9,000 per annum in fees – plus living costs.
  • Many students, especially the WP students, have to work whilst they study.
  • A fee-paying student is possibly a ‘consumer-student’ who demands value for money whilst not perhaps understanding what might constitute value in an academic setting.
  • There has been a massive expansion of the Internet and Web 2.0 technologies – and students are no longer dependent on the University as gate keeper to information.
  • In the UK – the pre-University experiences of our students are swamped by narratives of assessment, measurement and control (SATs, League Tables, OFSTED).

All these changes can and have impacted on our students – on who they are – how they think and feel – and how they learn. Arguably the more we can understand our students and adapt our teaching for the people that they actually are – the better they will learn.

Activity: Answer these questions and reflect on the implications for your practice of your answers:

  1. In what ways are the experiences of Romanian students similar to or different from those of students in the UKHE context?
  2. On your own, or with a study partner – create a thumbnail sketch of the ‘typical’ Romanian HE student – the sorts of students that you regularly teach:
    1. What are their strengths? How do you harness their strengths when you design your teaching?
    2. What are their potential weaknesses? How do you scaffold your students’ learning such that their weaknesses are addressed without making those students feel deficit?
    3. How do you ensure that you start from where your students actually are?

Developing positive student qualities

By now you might be thinking that we are placing too much emphasis on you, the professor or the tutor – surely the students themselves must bring something positive to the encounter?

Currently there is again in the theoretical education community, discussion of the qualities that students themselves have to bring to a positive learning encounter – and most recently debate has centred on ‘care’: that the student has to care about their learning – they have to want to learn – they have to see the value of the educational encounter for themselves.

For a really interesting but informal debate, please follow these blog links on the purpose of education – the nature of caring – the problems with education: Dave Cormier (proponent of rhizomatic learning): http://davecormier.com/edblog/2014/12/30/theres-something-wrong-in-education-a-response-to-stephen-downes/ and http://davecormier.com/edblog/2015/01/05/trying-to-solve-for-the-problem-of-education-in-2015/ and a response by Simon Ensor Language lecturer and poet: http://tachesdesens.blogspot.fr/2015/01/the-amusing-problem-of-education.html

For a post on staff and caring see: http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/developing-growth-mindset-teachers-and-staff

Teaching styles

In the end – we cannot control the student nor the level of care they are bringing to the encounter! But we can acknowledge the wider socio-economic-political aspects of society and education: a really influential voice in the education debate globally is Ken Robinson. Robinson critiques traditional teaching methods as too rooted in nineteenth century models that stifle creativity in (staff and) students – and are fundamentally ill-suited to our place and time. See especially:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U (accessed 16th January 2015).

Below you will find guidance on activities and strategies that we have put into place across our University all designed to improve students’ engagement and success. Before reading through some of those – you might like to think about what sort of teacher you would define yourself as. Major theoretical influences on our own practice include:

  • Carl Rogers who said good learning is all about unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence
  • John Dewey who thought we needed education for democracy via democratic education
  • Freire who did not want to do education to people – he wanted to work with them
  • Ivan Illich who thought that we needed to ‘de-school’ society …and
  • John Holt who was so disillusioned with formal education that he thought no positive change could happen within formal academic settings
  • Less theoretical but equally convincing is Jim Davies who in his (2011) TED Talk, ‘Don’t waste student work’, suggests that rather than setting students the task of reading for reading’s sake or writing assignments designed for the re-gurgitation of ‘facts’, we require students to engage in unique and meaningful tasks: construct and share their own interactive revision resources or find and review a fresh article relevant for their studies – publish this to a class website.


Activity Research: the theorists named above. Think about what they stand for and how you might harness their ideas in your own practice.


A Student-centred approach

In our institution we see that our project is to empower our students for informed action (Freire 1997) both in and outwith the University. We argue that it is possible both within and alongside the curriculum to create student-centred approaches that leverage student attitudes and aptitudes and in the process create positive space for students to actively engage in their own learning and with each other. Moreover we argue that when such a positive and empowering approach is adopted, students become bonded into Communities of Practice and issues of ‘bad behaviour’ have been designed out.

All the resources on the/this #SGM15 website have been put together to seed your thinking about possible different ways to engage your students with your teaching and in their own learning – please have a look at the the resources cached here and think about if and how you might build them into your own LTA practice.

  • Activity: Explore: the resources cached on the website to find ideas that you would like to incorporate into your practice. Each of the sections (Developing a digital student; Developing notemaking and reflective learning; IBL & PBL: Problems and Projects; Promoting Discussion: Promoting Reading; Simulations and Role Plays; Visual and Creative Strategies; Writing in the Disciplines/Writing Across the Curriculum) include some practical ‘pick up and go’ suggestions with links to further reading and resources.

Flipping the classroom: Question- Enquiry- and Problem Based Learning

We have argued that traditional LTA methods are in danger of being non-effective not least because they cannot compete with the dynamic nature of the sources of information with which our students can and do engage. Moreover they tend to instil a passivity in our students where all the power for their learning resides with us, the tutors, and the only power the student has is to be docile – the passive good student; or resistant – the non-attender or the poorly behaved class member. There are many movements or tropes in education all designed to engage students more actively in their own learning processes – for example QBL, EBL, PBL and the flipped classroom or flipped learning. For a brief overview of the field, please see – and makes notes upon:

Flipped Classroom:


See also: http://ctl.utexas.edu/ctl/teaching/flipping-a-class

Flipped Learning:


Definition of flipped learning:


Object Based Learning – University Resources: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/learning-resources/object-based-learning

Problem Based Learning:


Resources to support PBL:


Enquiry Based Learning:


EBL and Research Based Learning:


Activity: Follow the links: in the ‘Flipping the Classroom’ section: make connections between your own practice as it is – and as you might like it to become.


Research – Explore – Blog

Now that you have researched, explored and followed:

  • How well do the resources/theories/approaches that you have discovered ‘fit’ with your current approaches to LTA? How do they differ? Which ones interest you?
  • What new strategies/approaches are you now planning to build into your own LTA practices? Give brief reasons for your answers.
  • Blog it!!


Students: To support students with engaging learning, we have developed the Study Hub http://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/epacks/studyhub/ – with advice and resources that they can harness to develop the efficacy of their own learning styles and study strategies. We have also launched the Study Chat FaceBook group and Twitter feed using the hashtag #studychat – and you are welcome to invite your students to use the resources on the Study Hub and to participate in the Social Media enabled conversations: https://www.facebook.com/LondonMetStudyChat and in Twitter: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23studychat&src=typd .


Staff: Association for Learning Development in Higher Education

We are founder members of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (www.aldinhe.ac.uk) and whilst ostensibly ALDinHE is for Learning Developers, we also like to think that ALL university academics who are interested in helping their students to study effectively are in fact Learning Developers. Thus we invite you to consider joining the Association and consider bringing your experiences of developing student learning and achievement to our annual conference. But we offer to all academics access to our online community of practice: www.jiscmail.ac.uk/ldhen and free online journal: http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/ojs/ – and also to use the peer-reviewed teaching resources that are emerging from our community http://www.learnhigher.ac.uk/

And finally:

  • Remember to BLOG your learning!
  • Remember to read at least THREE blog posts from your peers!




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