University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Learner Centeredness Module

Introduction to this Learner Centeredness Module

Five people holding images of maps In this module, the concept of learner centeredness is introduced and modeled in a video-taped Learner Centered Workshop for STARTALK teacher leaders of critical languages. Based on research conducted in previous STARTALK workshops, three areas were identified by STARTALK teachers as challenging: creating a learner centered classroom, classroom management, and using the target language in the language classroom. This video focuses on the first two challenges and is intended to serve as one model of professional development for STARTALK teachers that illustrates the how and why of creating a learner centered classroom that minimizes classroom disruptions.

At the heart of a learner centered classroom lies the role of the teacher and the role of the learner. The teacher is the designer of the curriculum, a planner of lessons who actively and cognitively engages learners in the learning process. The teacher uses a backward design approach to lesson planning that begins with the learning targets in mind and creates a carefully structured set of learning tasks that ultimately allow the learner to achieve the learning goals and perform them independently. One of the major responsibilities of the teacher is to create a learning environment that optimizes learning by building an atmosphere of inquiry, respect, collaboration, low anxiety, fairness and active learning tasks. The learner’s role is to put forth effort and actively participate in the learning tasks. The learner is integral to the learning process as s/he examines and evaluates how well a learning goal has been achieved through self-assessment strategies that ultimately lead to self-regulation.

Reflection by both the teacher and the learner is an integral part of successfully creating a learner centered classroom environment. This workshop begins by having participants examine their own beliefs about teaching and learning and participating first hand in a series of learning approaches and strategies that model learner centered approaches. This is followed by a deconstruction of those learning experiences in order to view these tasks through one’s own experience and examine how these beliefs interface with personal teacher beliefs.

Book cover with young man An important aspect of this professional development experience was the preparation prior to the onset of the workshop. Teacher participants read a book entitled Entertaining an Elephant (William McBride) that served as a context for workshop activities and discussed the text via electronic discussion board prior to their arrival at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This particular text was purposefully chosen as it describes the learning process of a burned out veteran teacher who is suddenly faced with questions about the effectiveness of his own teaching and the process he goes through as he examines his beliefs about his teaching practices. His transformation from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset provides a meaningful springboard for STARTALK participants to discuss how this change in understanding of his teaching practices occurred. It illustrates well Maya Angelou’s quote that served as a leitmotif during the University of Nebraska-Lincoln 2015 Learner Centered Workshop: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Screenshot of text

This module demonstrates how learner centered strategies can be incorporated into a STARTALK program through professional development workshops. Individual teachers can view the video, or groups of STARTALK teachers can benefit from viewing the Learner Centered Workshop video together and using it as a springboard for discussion on how to create a learning environment that is focused on the learner.

Materials included in this module:

Instructional Resource(s): 

  • Student

Material Type(s): 

  • Instruction

TELL Domain(s): 

  • Environment
  • Planning
  • The Learning Experience
  • Learning Tools
  • Professionalism

STARTALK Principle(s): 

  • Learner Centered
  • Target Language