Can Effective Relationships Be Constructed Education Essay

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The old-style system of teaching, such as a lecture was established centuries ago before textbooks were mass produced and it is still being widely used today. This form of learning and teaching involves the teacher providing as much information as possible quickly whilst the students watch and listen. The students work individually on assignments, and cooperation is discouraged. The method was and is still one of the most effective and proficient ways of disseminating knowledge. Given the fact that a large number of students hardly participate in the lecture, this type of teaching often allows learners to be passive in the classroom. Learners not knowing how to participate in the lecture will end up relying on lecture notes/slides and memorising important parts of the curriculum in order to just pass the exam. Effective teaching and learning involves the teacher providing activities that support learners as they move forward, not just intellectually but also socially and emotionally, so that the learner is confident about the subject they are learning even after the support is removed.

In recent years, however, there has been much interest about effective teaching and learning in higher education. In particular they have been looking at the how best can they improve the relationship between learners and teachers and the learning styles of students. A number of researches in the field have shown that learners construct knowledge; what a learner understands from a new knowledge or experience depends critically on the knowledge they already have acquired (Spillane et al., 2002). Over time, this sense-making activity is made up of organising and reorganising ideas, embracing new ideas, and constant reshuffling and reorganising in efforts to connect ideas into coherent patterns (Stoll et al., 2003). Learners benefit from collaborative research either in small groups or online forums, and they may learn best from teaching each other (especially when you have international students who might be shy to speak in front of the class or lack the language skills) (Annis, 1983)

According to Habeshaw and Gibbs, 1989 learners tend do well when they take responsibility for what they are studying; because the teacher or school can always challenge them with the consequences of their decisions. If they make poor decisions they have no-one to blame but themselves as long as they had sufficient information and access to guidance. The most important issue here is that the learners are involved in the decision making process and do not just leave all the responsibility to the teacher. Weimer (2002) defined assessment as the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational practices. To assess students' learning, two key questions should be asked: what have the learners learned? and how effective is the learning process? (Weimer, 2002). The assessment, therefore, should address two elements: the result of learning objectives and the learning process, nevertheless research has shown that many learners in higher education rely on surface learning approach (memorising huge amounts of text, dates, formulae and algorithms) just so that they are able to pass the assessment. This can be improved if there is a good teacher and learner relationship and if good teaching learning practices are in place (Habeshaw and Gibbs, 1989)

Most course curriculums in higher education are simply impractical. They are very wide, they are too comprehensive and they are over-ambitious in terms of the level of understanding which students are required to achieve in the time available (Habeshaw and Gibbs, 1989). In academic courses such curriculums seem to be a result of either machismo or an attempt to dupe external assessors or authorising bodies about standards and quality of education being offered. In most cases however you find that teachers do not cover everything planned in their curriculum, and learners certainly do not study everything they only concentrate on parts that will be assessed in the final exams and will only do assignments that are going to assessed and contribute to the final grade. This result in form a of learning known as the "Achieving" approach, which can be briefly described as a very well-organised form of surface approach, and in inspired by achieving good marks (Ramsden, 1988).

Cross, 1999 found out that learners learn through making intellectual connections, social connections, and experiential connections. Since they make these connections differently, every learner has their individual way of learning, and they will learn best when there are several learning opportunities that give them a chance to learn in their own way. With this in mind we can see that a good relation between teachers and leaners is needed; and that effective teaching and learning is a sophisticated activity, and needs different approaches that are reliable with what we know about the way that learning happens (Ewell, 1997). This understanding has given rise to new powerful pedagogies such as project based teaching, inquiry based teaching, research based teaching, situation based teaching, problem based teaching and learner centered teaching. The learner centered teaching has been gaining prominence in recent years as a means by which learners and teachers in higher education can foster effective relationships it have repeatedly been shown to be superior to other forms of learning.

Literature Review

McCombs and Whisler (1997) defined learner centered teaching "As the perspective that couples a focus on individual learners (their heredity, experiences, upbringings, talents, interests, capacities, and needs) with a focus on learning (the best available knowledge about learning and how it occurs and about teaching practices that are most effective in promoting the highest levels of motivation, learning, and achievement for all learners.)" This dual focus, then, informs and drives educational decision-making. Unlike in the traditional approach of learning, this has governed most of the world's teaching for centuries, in which teachers are the center of learning, with the students following their leads. Learner centered teaching shifts the attention of activity from the teacher to the learners. This approach include active learning, in which students solve problems, answer questions, formulate questions of their own, discuss, explain, debate, or brainstorm during class; co-operative learning, in which students work in groups on assignments under conditions that assure both positive interdependence and individual accountability.

Learner centered teaching philosophies are less authoritarian, less concerned with the past and training the mind, and more focused on individual needs, contemporary relevance, and preparing students for a changing future (Sadker and Zittleman, 2006). Learner centered teaching concentrates primarily on individual students' learning. The teacher's role is to facilitate growth by developing the interests and needs of learners. As a guide for meaningful instruction a learner is judged by whether they achieve pre-set, developmentally adapted goals. Because people learn best when they hear, see, and manipulate variables, the method by which learning occurs is frequently experiential.

Learner centered teaching has its origins from the dawn of formal education it can be traced back to the Sumerians and the development of written language (around 3500 B.C.) and within 500 years, the Chinese had also established formal schools. Perhaps the first individual teacher to have a profound, direct effect on Learner centered teaching was the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551 B.C.-479 B.C.) and the Greek philosopher Socrates (469-399 B.C.). Confucius stressed character and good citizenship, and Socrates stressed the individual. Confucius believed that every person should strive for the continual development of self until excellence is achieved (Ozmon & Craver, 1999).

Nevertheless, there are numerous forms that a curriculum and process for effective teaching and learning might take and still be compatible with the definition of Learner centered teaching. Jones (1997) noted that several frameworks and teaching principles have been developed by researchers around the world in line with Learner centered teaching philosophy. The methods have been realistically applied in educational fields, such as finance and accounting (Adler et al., 2000), statistics for business and economics (Lockwood et al., 2007), psychology (Watters et al., 1998), as well distance learning (Duffy and Kirkley, 2004). Learner centered teaching have also been successfully implemented to reform the education system Thailand (Khemmani, 2006).

Sadker and Zittleman (2006) point out that the three main philosophies at the center of learner centered teaching process; these are progressivism, social reconstructionism, and existentialism they emphasise the points that teachers and learners should always work together on determining what should be learned and how best to learn it. The philosophy of progressivism places emphasis on the belief that individualism, growth, and change are fundamental to one's education (Dewey). The notion is that learners learn best from what they consider most crucial to their lives. The educational curriculum should therefore place the needs, experiences, interests, and abilities of students at the core of planning. Learners are actively learning through interact with one another and develop social qualities such as collaboration and open-mindedness for different points of view.

The philosophy of reconstructivism embraces the fact that previous knowledge forms the foundation by which new learning can be achieved (Piaget and Inhelder, 1969). Learners have unique differences, including emotional states of mind, learning rates, learning styles, stages of development, abilities, talents and varying levels of proficiency. Von Glasersfeld (year) described constructivism as: "A learning process which allows a student to experience an environment first-hand, thereby giving the student reliable, trust-worthy knowledge". The student is required to act upon the environment to both acquire and test new knowledge. A reconstructionist teacher creates lessons that both intellectually inform and emotionally stir students about the inequities that surround them (Vygotsky, 1986). The teacher's role would be an organiser supporting students in focusing their research questions, developing studying strategy, and ensuring that the data/information collected and analysed meet standards of objectivity. Throughout, the teacher would be instructing students on research techniques, statistical evaluation, writing skills, and public communication (Sadker and Zittleman, 2006).

Existentialism is a philosophy concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice and personal responsibility. Existentialism in the classroom is an influential tool for rejecting traditional ways of teaching. In the existentialist classroom, subject matter takes second place to helping the students understand and appreciate themselves as unique individuals (Sadker and Zittleman, 2006). The teacher's part is to assist learners define their own essence by exposing them to various paths they may take in life and by creating an environment in which they can freely choose their way. Existentialism, more than any other educational philosophies, affords students great latitude in their choice of subject matter and activity.


Empirically, researches on students' effective learning were firstly conducted in Sweden in 1976, then in Australia in 1979 and then in United Kingdom in 1983, (Biggs, 1999). Widespread research has been conducted on the different styles of learning held by learners. Two approaches to learning are categorized: surface approach and a deep approach (Ramsden, 1992, 1993; Martin, 1999). According to Ramsden (1993: 40), a deep approach 'means trying to make sense by relating parts of the material to the whole, using previous experience and knowledge to make sense of the new material. A learner centered culture stresses the relationship between teachers and students as an integral part of personalizing the learning experience and meeting the needs of each learner which results in deeper learning approach.

In order to be able to analyse how effective learner centered teaching is in building an effective relationship between teachers and learners we have to look also at the teacher centered approach. Teacher centered method assumes that learners are passive and they become active by reacting to stimuli in the environment. Therefore, the teacher's role is to create an environment which stimulates the desired behaviour. This role makes the teacher the focus of attention. By contrast, the learner centered approach assumes that learners are active and have unlimited potential for individual development. Weimer (2002) defines learner centered approaches by contrasting them with teacher centered approaches. To him, five key characteristics:

1. Learner-Centered Teaching engages students in the hard, messy work of learning. With the traditional teacher centered approach teachers do a lot of learning tasks for learners. They formulate and ask questions, they provide detailed solutions to problems, they suggest the examples, and they organise and review the content. On any given day, in most classes teachers are working much harder than learners. By doing so learners do not develop any of the critical learning skills since they are not practicing as a matter of fact in most classrooms the teacher gets far more practice than the students. In contrast to the learner centered teaching where students provide solutions to the central to the aims and objectives of the lesson.

2. Learner Centered Teaching includes clear skill instruction. Teacher centered approach often depend, at least inpart, on certain motivators, such as good grades, or other rewards, to motivate students' efforts to learn. Learner-centered teachers teach students how to think analytically, answer problems, analyse and evaluate evidence, generate hypotheses-all those learning skills vital to learning material in the discipline. They do not assume that leaners construct knowledge. Effective pedagogy promotes the active engagement of learners and foster independence and autonomy. This involves engaging students actively in their own learning, and ensuring that they obtain a repertoire of learning strategies and practices, develop positive learning dispositions, and build the confidence to become agents in their own learning. Research consistently confirms that learning skills develop faster if they are taught explicitly along with the content.

3. Learner Centered Teaching encourages students to reflect on what they are learning and how they are learning it. Learner entered teaching encourages reflection as a useful tool in the learning process. Learners assumptions about learning are challenged and they are encouraged to accept responsibility for decisions they make about learning; like how they prepare for assignments, when and how they do assigned reading. Learner centered teachers include assignment components in which students reflect, analyse and critique what they are learning and how they are learning it. The aim is to make learners aware of themselves as learners and to make learning skills something students want to develop. Effective education recognises the importance of prior or concurrent experience and learning. This includes building on prior learning but also taking account of the emerging concurrent learning in context, and the personal and cultural experiences of different groups of students as learners.

4. Learner-centered teaching motivates students by giving them some control over learning processes. In the tradition approach of teaching centered approach teachers make too many of the decisions about learning for students. They decide what learners should learn, how they learn it, the pace at which they learn, the conditions under which they learn and then teachers determine whether learners have learned. Learners are not in a position to decide what content should be included in the course. This process has a tendency of demotivating learners as they become dependent solely on what is provided by the teacher. Learner centered teachers search out ethically responsible ways to share power with students. They might give learners some choice about which assignments they complete. They might make classroom policies something students can discuss. They might let students set assignment deadlines within a given time window. They might ask students to help create assessment criteria although the assessment needs to be consistent with learning objectives. It should help to advance learning as well as determine whether learning has occurred.

5. Learner Centered Teaching encourages collaboration. s In teacher-directed instruction, the interaction is frequently under teacher control; teacher determines group membership, the nature of the interactions between the members, and even the role each member of the group plays. Teachers intervene in the group process when there are difficulties, and hold the group accountable for individual learning. On the other hand the learner centered learning approach sees classrooms whether online or face-to-face as a society of learners. Collaborative learning put emphasis on learners' self-control of their interactions, allowing them to make decisions about how they are going to tackle their work and with whom they will join forces. Learners should be encouraged to build relationships and communication with others to assist the mutual construction of knowledge and enhance the achievements of individuals and groups. As learners negotiate their relationships with each other, they must articulate their ideas, and engage in a disciplined social process of inquiry; these activities are in keeping with constructivist principles and the goals of learner centered teaching. Learner centered teaching recognises that students do learn from and with each other as consistently confirmed by research. Learner-centered teachers work to develop structures that promote shared commitments to learning. They see learning individually and collectively as the most important goal of any educational experience.

The use of student-centred learning appears to be reflective of today's society where choice and democracy are important concepts, is it an effective approach to learning and building a strong relationship between the teachers and learners. The five characteristics of learner centered teaching have shown us that in order to have an effective relationship between teachers and learners teachers need listen to students, as individuals as well as groups talk to learners about the relationship that exist between them and their relationships with each other. Teachers and learners should discuss ground-rules for the conduct of relationships in class; during seminars or tutorials. Teachers should encourage learners to think of themselves as partners in their learning by posing questions of their own rather than simply answer those posed for them by the teacher.

The teacher on their part should take time to get to know individuals in their own right put time aside for learners to find out about each other; create opportunities for sharing personal 'stories and journeys' and relating them to the curriculum. Help learners link the content of the curriculum to their existing knowledge and experiences. Take a genuine interest in the lives, feelings, preoccupations and views of learners, beyond the subject or module. The teacher should ask open questions, such as enquiring what learners really think and feel about subject, giving them time for reflection and listening intently to the answers. They should also ensure that all learners are included and involved in ways that suit their learning needs and encourage relationships characterised by trust, mutual respect and challenge.

Both parties must see the relationships, with each other, as a prime responsibility and hallmark of good effective teaching and make a feature of co-operation and teamwork, to build trust and enable all students to develop learning relationships .


The role of a teacher is to look after students' welfare in the dynamic process of teaching and learning; a teacher should give a greater sense of equality and professional maturity to every student, value student's self-worth as a human being rather than only judge the quality of students by their academic achievement. Through interaction with students and a genuine concern for students and help with their personal troubles, each student's own potential as a

human being should be recognized and developed. As a teacher your duty is that of a learners' facilitator in their learning endeavour. You should treat each learner as an individual, providing for individual differences and needs and teach in appropriate ways. In the learners' learning process, a teacher's role is to improve student's self-directed responsible learning and inspire students to strive for the highest possible learning outcomes.