Saturday, November 12, 2016

Student-Centered vs. Teacher Centered Class

Learning a foreign language, especially English, is an unquenchable desire for many people. English is the lingua franca and needed for landing an outstanding job or obtaining a place in good universities. Therefore, many people enroll in English courses in private language schools all over the world. As English teachers, we need to make sure our classes are motivating and interesting, and above all more student-centered to enable our learners to use the language in a more productive way. This post outlines the difference between a student-centered class and teacher-centered class.

In a student-centered class, learners have ample opportunities to use the language and to speak more than the teacher does in a teacher-centered class. Learners are usually engaged in pair and group work activities to use the target language communicatively and productively. Activities are conducted in different interaction patterns and students communicate with more than on partner. In such a way of learning, they build good relations with their classmates and learn the language socially and productively. Moreover, the teacher often tries to speak as less as she can. For example, to lead students to a discussion, she shows them a picture or generates a situation and asks one or two students to comment; then she asks them to work in pairs or groups to talk about the picture or the situation before the teacher conducts/facilitates a whole class feedback. On the other hand, in a teacher-centered class, the teacher is the only reference for the students. She lectures and gives long explanations. The most prominent interaction pattern is teacher-students (T-Ss). So if a class has 20 students, each one has less than 3 minutes to talk per hour. In this case, learners would learn the language but they would not be able to practice it in a communicative way. 

Another reason why a student-centered class is better than a teacher–centered one is the way errors are dealt with. Since the teacher’s aim is to give and facilitate opportunities to students to use the language in class and work out the language rules themselves, errors are looked at as part of learning, not as a downside/drawback of learning. For instance, when students are doing a guided practice free exercise that improves their fluency, the teacher does not give errors much importance. Rather, she monitors the students and writes down a few mistakes that she would shed light on after the task is completed without mentioning the names of those who have made them. The aim here is to teach not to test the students. In a teacher-centered class, on the other hand, the teacher usually corrects every mistake and students try to avoid making mistakes as much as possible. Accuracy is given more importance in a teacher-centered class where many students are reluctant to participate for fear of making mistakes. For this reason, a student-centered class has a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere for learning. 

Finally, a student-centered class encourages students’ autonomy and independence, unlike the teacher-centered class in which students depend heavily on the teacher. When students work together in different interaction patterns and are allowed to use their dictionaries in some tasks, they become more independent students. Learners try to complete the tasks with little help and guidance from the teacher and that would foster their learning and boost their confidence as language learners. When students work together, they help each other and even weak students can speak to and get help from their groups or partners, and consequently they become more productive. In contrast, learners in a teacher-centered class depend a lot on the teacher and they are afraid or interact with native and non-native speakers outside the classroom. Being independent of the teacher is a privilege in learning another language because acquiring a language happens more incidentally where no one is there for you. 

In conclusion, in a student-centered class, students learn faster and become more independent learners than in a teacher-centered class as they usually learn the language communicatively. They also have more fun when they interact with each other and form a good friendship which might last for a long time. A student-centered class is what people need to learn a language effectively and appropriately. 

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