Learner-Centered Classrooms, Problem-Based Learning,
Construction of Understanding and Meaning by Students
To create an effective learning situation in the classroom, Combs
says that three characteristics are needed:
- The atmosphere should facilitate the exploration of meaning.
must feel safe and accepted. They need to understand both the risks
rewards of seeking new knowledge and understanding. The classroom
provide for involvement, interaction, and socialization, along with a
business-like approach to getting the job done.
- Learners must be given frequent opportunities to confront new
information and experiences in the search for meaning. However, these
opportunities need to be provided in ways that allow students to do
than just receive information. Students must be allowed to confront
challenges using their past experience without the dominance of a
teacher/giver of information.
- New meaning should be acquired through a process of personal
discovery. The methods used to encourage such personal discovery must
highly individualized and adapted to the learner's own style and pace
Problem-based learning is the type of classroom organization needed
support a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. Savoie
Hughes (1994), writing about a process that they used to design a
problem-based learning experience for their students, describe the
actions for creating such a process:
- Identify a problem suitable for the students.
- Connect the problem with the context of the students' world so
presents authentic opportunities.
- Organize the subject matter around the problem, not the
- Give students responsibility for defining their learning
and planning to solve he problem.
- Encourage collaboration by creating learning teams.
- Expect all students to demonstrate the results of their learning
through a product or performance.
In A Different Kind of Classroom (1992), Robert Marzano makes
assumptions about creating a learning-centered classroom:
- Instruction must reflect the best of what we know about how
- Learning involves a complex system of interactive processes that
includes five types of thinking - the five dimensions of learning.
- What we know about learning indicates that instruction focusing
large, interdisciplinary curricular themes is the most effective way
- The K-12 curriculum should include explicit teaching of
attitudes and perceptions and mental habits that facilitate learning.
- A comprehensive approach to instruction includes at least two
types of instruction: teacher-directed and student-directed.
- Assessment should focus on students' use of knowledge and complex
reasoning rather than their recall of low-level information.
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