Instructor-Centered versus Learner-Centered

Instructor-Centered versus Learner-Centered


Traditional Instructor-centered Learning

In a traditional instructor-centered approach to learning, instructors are information providers, and learners are passive recipients of information.  The instructor talks and the participants listen.  

In this approach, participants are viewed simply as empty vessels who passively receive knowledge from their instructors.  The instructor is the center of knowledge and in charge of learning.  Participants put all of their focus on the instructor. 

This type of learning environment does not allow participants to express themselves, ask questions, and embrace the content.  Learners tend to be more competitive and individualistic because they have less opportunity to discuss the information or interact.  During activities, the participants work alone, and collaboration is discouraged.  If questions are raised by participants, they are answered directly by the instructor without any learner’s involvement.  


Learner-centered Learning

A learner-centered approach is about shifting the focus of instruction from the instructor to the learner.  This shift offers the best experience for the learner because it has them engage with the instructor, the content, and other learners. 

Rather than designing the course from the instructor’s perspective, learner-centered is designed from the learner’s perspective.  This approach puts participant’s interests first, acknowledging their needs as central to the learning experience.  The learner is not simply a passive participant who receives the information, but rather an active participant in the learning process.   They take ownership of the content, determine how it will be useful or relevant to them, and build the cognitive connections to allow the learning to be retained.  This is intended to help develop a meaningful connection between the learner and the material being presented.

This approach provides more opportunities for the learner to engage with the content allowing them to build more connections to improve knowledge transfer.

Instructor-Centered versus Learner-Centered

The key differences between the instructor-centered approached versus learner-centered approach:




Focus is on instructor

Focus is on the learner

Instructor is the sole leader

Leadership is shared

Instructor talks while learner passively listens

Learners interact with instructor and each other

Learners passively receive information

Learners are actively involved

Learner works alone

Learner often works in pairs or groups

Knowledge is transmitted from instructor to learner

Learners construct knowledge through gathering and analyzing information

The focus is on what the instructor knows about the content

The focus is on how the learners will use the content

Culture is competitive

Culture is cooperative, collaborative, and supportive

Instructor restrains conversation

Learners are encourage to engage, ask questions, debate, and share ideas

Room is quiet with little movement

Room is active and learner is periodically moving

Instructor makes the rules

Rules are developed by the instructor and participants in the form of social agreements

Assessment is used to monitor learning

Assessment is used to promote and diagnose learning

Emphasis is on right answers

Emphasis is on generating better questions and learning from errors

Instructor answers learner’s questions

Learners answer each other’s questions

Rewards are mostly extrinsic

Rewards are mostly intrinsic

Instructor chooses topics

Learner is included in determining topics



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