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The Learner-Centered Classroom

It’s not your grandfather’s style of teaching

By Terry Doyle, Ferris State University

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.”
—Arnold Bennett

Most faculty who adopt a learner-centered approach to teaching have the reasonable notion that this should be something students would support. After all, it gives students more control over their learning and more choices about what and how to learn, offers a variety of activities and assignments, more firsthand exploratory learning opportunities, and is more interactive.

Unfortunately, the reality is that often students become angry and upset when a professor introduces learner-centered methods. The hostility comes from the entrenched teacher-centered view of learning these students possess.

A learner-centered approach to teaching looks nothing like the previous school experiences of most students and requires significant changes in their learning roles and responsibilities. These changes require the students to do more first-hand learning, be more collaborative, take more control, and simply do more of the work than they did in a teacher-centered classroom.

If students are to be successful in this new learning environment, they will need you to help them understand why these new roles and responsibilities are the optimal way for them to learn.

They will also require our assistance to learn the skills they will need to become more independent researchers, writers, presenters, and evaluators of their own learning.

Meet Terry Doyle

Terry Doyle is a professor of reading and the senior instructor for faculty development at Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan, where he has taught for the past 31 years. Since 2000, he has presented more than 50 workshops on teaching and learning at national and regional conferences. In addition, he has worked with faculty on 30 different colleges and universities across the country on issues related to learner-centered teaching. He is the author of Helping Students Learn in a Learner Center Environment: A Guide to Facilitating Learning in Higher Education, (Stylus, 2008) and co-author of New Faculty Transition An Ideal Program, (New Forums Press, 2004). He is the coordinator of the New Faculty Transition Program at Ferris State and a member of the Ferris Faculty Association/MEA/NEA. He can be reached at

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