I have been reading Maryellen Weimer's Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. According to Weimer, traditional educational practices are Teacher-Centered, meaning that these practices benefit the teacher more than the student or learner. Weimer advocates for Learner-Centered Teaching, instruction practices that help students learn how to learn. In her book, Weimer promotes shifts in the following 5 areas of instruction:
- Balance of Power
- Function of Content
- Role of the Teacher
- Responsibility for Learning
- Purpose and Process of Evaluation
The shift that I found the scariest is the Balance of Power. According to Weimer, sharing power with students increases their motivation and involvement. I won’t go into her arguments, but they are convincing.
I decided to share power with students in my Information Literacy workshops by allowing them to set some of the goals for the workshop. To start the class, I ask students what their goals for the workshop are. This usually takes some prodding with additional questions like “What do you hope to learn?” or “Why did you come?” I type their goals into a Word document and save it. After class, I bring the document back up and ask them to raise their hands if they met goal 1, goal, 2, etc. I count how many raise their hands for each goal so that the document also serves as an assessment document.
Although the goals I previously defined still shape the majority of the workshop, I am able to focus on topics that students want to know about. For example, I usually do not spend much time talking about our Pay-for-Print system, but after a student stated that that was one of her goals, I made sure that we covered that topic. When a colleague of mine tried this same strategy, she learned that the majority of the students in her workshop had a goal different from what she envisioned. As a result, she was able to shift the focus and concentrate on their immediate need.
For the most part, student goals are broad, such as “learn how to do research,” and easily fit into the goals of the Information Literacy program. I have only had to reject a couple of goals because they differed too much from the workshop objective, such as the student in the Library Catalog workshop who wanted to know how to register for courses.