MET:Creating a Learning-Centred Environment

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This page was authored by Zain Yousaf Ali (2014)

What is Learning-centered environment?


"Learner centered" is the perspective that couples a focus on individual learners - their heredity, experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, talents, interests, capacities, and needs - with a focus on leaning - the best available knowledge about learning and how it occurs and about teaching practices that are most effective in promoting the highest levels of motivation, learning, and achievement for all learners. This dual focus then informs and drives educational decision making. Learner-centered is a reflection in practice of the Learner-Centered Psychological Principles - in the programs, practices, policies, and people that support learning for all.

This definition of learner-centered is thus based on an understanding of the Learner-Centered Psychological Principles as a representation of the current knowledge base on learners and learning. The Principles apply to all learners, in and outside of school, young and old.

Learner-centered is also related to the beliefs, characteristics, dispositions, and practices of teachers - practices primarily created by the teacher. When teachers and their practices function from an understanding of the knowledge base delineated in the Principles, they

  1. include learners in decisions about how and what they learn and how that learning is assessed;
  2. value each learner's unique perspectives;
  3. respect and accommodate individual differences in learners' backgrounds, interests, abilities, and experiences; and
  4. treat learners as co-creators and partners in the teaching and learning process.

The Learner-Centered psychological principles (McCombs, B. 1997)

(Click the thumbnails to view the principles)

Learner-Centered Instruction and Methods

In Learner-Centered instruction, rather than lectures where the students are passive listeners to the information given to them by the teacher, the students are at the center of the education where they are encouraged to cooperate and collaborate. Students learn with the material at-hand, doing so will help them engage in real-world experiences and going beyond the mere cognitive and theoretical framework (Altay, 2013). In learner centered instruction the central objective is for students to address questions and arrive at their own solutions. There can many methods that can be based on the objectives of learner-centered instruction. These methods can be successfully implemented across different disciplines and ages (Aditomo, Goodyear, Bliuc, & Ellis, 2013).


In role-playing students engage in situations they may encounter in real life and carry out professional roles. Role-playing initiates personal change, challenge students’ existing beliefs and assumptions. Role-playing also initiates an examination in students' own position with regard to real-life situations, thus it promotes social action (Bonwell and Eison, 1991). Role-play is applied widely in the educational context across disciplines.

Case-Based Learning

In Case-based learning, students apply and exemplify theoretical knowledge on real-life situations, usually in groups (Aditomo, Goodyear, Bliuc, & Ellis, 2013). Working in real time, students may encounter conflicts and problems and they are expected to overcome these and create solutions with collaboration. In case-based learning students are self-directed to the culmination of the project, manage time and resources, which is a highly beneficial for professional practice (Altay, 2013).


Reflection involves students look back at the task and their relationship to it. Students evaluate their own positioning with respect to what has been achieved and learned. Through reflection students can make sense of the experience by considering the self, others and the situation. Student can make projections to the future, so what is learned can influence future practices. Reflection can be achieved through writing diaries, making posters , storytelling, or discussing with peers and teachers (Altay, 2013).

Why create this learning-centred environment? How do we know it works?

As an academic teaching hospital, like a number of other organizations we try to focus on the above principles as they provide evidence-based practice environment to our health-care providers. Our learning-centred environment:

  • provides opportunity for repetition, reflection, choice and feedback
  • is experiential, engaging, and interactive
  • realistic – tasks are authentic
  • allows for problem solving and collaboration
  • is built with knowledge of best practices

As a result, we see a powerful domino effect, and our learners

  • have increased intrinsic motivation, leading to an increase in their learning
  • have increased learning outcomes leading to increased performance outcomes
  • have long term retention that exceeds traditional instructor-led learning and evaluation methods; they are not just receiving information, they are actively involved in processing and reflecting on their learning
  • are better prepared and the benefits extend beyond the confines of the course

Where to create this learning-centred environment?

If we are thinking in a learning-centred fashion there are in fact two “where’s” to consider” Where, as in physically where is your course environment going to reside, an LMS or other solution that fits your learning-centred needs

You need a robust platform - a Learning Management System (LMS) that's not just an electronic filing cabinet of documents, videos and PowerPoint.
  • Open source LMS - no red tape restrictions, easy customization
  • Cost effective
  • Easy to learn and adapt
  • Fast implementation
  • Bulleted list item
  • Embodies most of the learner-centred features "out-of-the-box" such as:
  • asynchronous and synchronous discussion forums
  • wikis
  • glossaries
  • forums for group work
  • ability to incorporate almost any type of file
  • robust quiz structuring and reporting functionality
  • excellent analytics for learner feedback for future improvements to the course

“Where” our learners on a daily basis? Where are they spending their time and doing their learning? Where do they prefer or have the opportunity to do their learning?

  • on the train home from work
  • at the library
  • in their office
  • on the sideline’s at Johnny’s soccer practice

Utilizing the features of such a robust LMS such as Moodle; and rapid authoring tools such as Articulate Storyline®, our “where” was pretty much “anywhere” our users may be at any time.


With the Learning-centred environment and technology, the learners are better prepared for future. It involves (R.M. Felder and R. Brent, 2009):

  • active learning in which learners solve problems, answer questions, formulate questions of their own, discuss, explain, debate, or brainstorm during the course;
  • cooperative learning in which learners work in teams on problems and projects under conditions that assure both positive interdependence and individual accountability; and
  • inductive teaching and learning in which learners are first presented with challenges (questions or problems) and learn the course material in the context of addressing the challenges.

Stop Motion Animation

Stop Motion Animation


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