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Student Centred Learning

I was away in the Canaries for a couple of weeks and developed pneumonia while there (I went with a bit of a cough, and it got worse). The medical care I received there was the inspiration for my blog post today.

I have lived all of my adult life in either Canada and the UK, both of which have had national health care systems (UK okay, Canada, much better). WHat shocked me about the health care I received in Tenerife (Canary Islands) was the focus of the care. The doctor in Tenerife acted like she actually cared about me as a person – she indicated on my daily visits that she had been thinking about me, and was concerned about my progress. I have developed good friendships with a number of the medical professionals I have seen in both Canada and the UK, but I have never been led to believe that the doctors I see at home are concerned about me as a person. They are there to treat an illness, and I happen to be the person currently carrying that illness. That doesn’t mean they aren’t kind and friendly, but the centre of their focus is almost completely on the treatment of some ailment, not on me as a human being.

What does this have to do with HE. I think we do the same thing with our students. We are concerned about everything except them and their learning (as people). Administrators worry about how well the system is holding together, lecturers worry about delivering a good lecture (or teaching event), and the students worry about getting good grades. Even the external stakeholders ignore the learning – parents worry about grades and job prospects, wile employers focus on institutional prestige, GPA and degree classification.

Who is concerned about learning? Who cares about the personal development that accompanies intense learning experiences? Assessments are largely focused on memory. Lectures are used because it is an easy way to teach and a passive way to learn. Large groups are the norm because we don’t have the resources to properly fund real learning opportunities. MOOCs are all the rage, in part because the give a whole new meaning to ‘large group’. We are teaching the material in education rather than helping our students learn. We need to refocus what we do on our learners and not on our instruction.

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