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  • TEACHERS' EVALUATION OFSTUDENT-CENTERED LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

    Assoc. DR. ZHAL UBUKUEskiehir Osmangazi University, Faculty of Education

    Eskiehir, Turkeyzcubukcu @ogu .edu.tr

    Problem Statement: The student-centered teaching is thearrangement of the teaching experience focusing on the stu-dents' responsibilities and activities in the learning processwhich takes into consideration the students' interests, demandsand needs. According to this approach, while teaching experi-ences are planned, different learning strategies and styles ofstudents are taken into account. A student who can reach infor-mation is more valuable than the one who memorizes it.The Aim of Study: The aim of this study is to determine teach-ers' evaluations of their own classes in terms of thestudent-centered learning environment dimensions of time, placeand infrastructure, psyco-social aspect.Methods: The research is descriptive in design. In this study, adata collection instrument was used that lends itself for teachersto evaluate their classes in terms of the dimensions of student-centered learning; namely time, place, infrastructure andpsycho-social.Findings: Teachers' evaluations of student-centered learningenvironments in relation to different variables highlight thatteaching area is an effective factor putting elementary schoolteaching at an advantage in terms of scores. Teachers, whenasked to evaluate the dimensions of student-centered learningenvironments, have given the highest score to psycho-socialdimension, followed by time, equipment and place dimensions.Conclusions and Discussion: Basen on the results of the study,the following suggestions are made. Teachers, while determin-ing on educational models and approaches in theirteaching-learning process, should ensure that it allows studentsto learn on their own. Within the school and class context, teach-ers should allocate time for activities that increasestudent-centered learning, individual and social activities likeextra-curricular activits, student club activities. Teachers shouldbe offered chances of in-service training so that they canimprove their skills and gain knowledge about student-centeredlearning with respect to their teaching areas.

    Keywords: Learning environment, student-centered education,student-centered teaching/learning, learning environment dimen-sions

    Introduction stages of decision making, planning, appli-The concept of student-centered edu- cation, and evaluation during the

    cation has led to perceptual changes in teaching-learning process learners partie-relation to education, learning and teach- ipate in the process willingly, showinging. In student-centered teaching, at the interest with determination. It can be said

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    that student-centered teaching has broughtabout the change in quesfions from "Whatshould we teach?", "How should weteach?", "With what should we teach?" toa perspective where "What would s/he liketo learn?", "What will s/he do to learn?","What would assist him/her in his/herlearning?", 'To what extent did s/he learn?"In other words, in student-centered teach-ing learners actively participate in thedecision making process about what tolearn, how to learn, and what kind of helpis required, and how to decide how muchis learned (Bery, Sharp, 1999; Lea, Stten-hanson & Tray; Hartly, 1987; Sharma,Millar & Seth, 1999; cited in: Acat, 2005).

    For over 100 years, philosophers suchas John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget,Jerome Bruner, Ferriere, Rousseau, Freinet,Howard Gardner, Gianni Rodari, BrunoCiari, Maria Montessori and others havereported on the benefits of experiential,hands-on, student-centered learning.Involving learner in decision making andusing student interest to drive curriculumand projects supports a growing body ofevidence that concurs with these revolu-tionary philosophers. Learning is not onlyabout knowledge making. Children need tobe acve learners within the context of cul-ture, community, and past experiences.Teachers who adhere to student-centeredclassrooms are influenced strongly byconstrucfivism, naturalisfic, social con-structivism, existenfiahsm, humanism, andprogressive philosophies.

    Student-centered learning, or studentcenteredness, is a model which puts thestudent in the center of the learning process.Student-centered learning is a model inwhich students play an active role in their

    own learning styles and learning strate-gies. While learning, internal motivation isof vital importance. Individual systemiz-ing is more important than standardizedsystems. Student-centered learningimproves learning to learn and learninghow to improve skills such as crifical think-ing, problem-solving and reflectivethinking. Students apply and display dif-ferent styles. Student-centered learningdiffers from teacher-centered learning inwhich it is characterized by the more activerole of the learner when compared to theteacher.

    Student-centered learning helps stu-dents to get their own goals for learning,and determine resources and activitiesguiding them to meet those goals(Jonassen, 2000). Because students pur-sue their own goals, all of their acfivifiesare meaningful to them. Student-centeredlearning which is based on experientiallearning helps knowledge and skills to begrasped more extensively and per-mananetly (Lont, 1999). Since bothstudents and teachers participate in learn-ing process, teachers are perceived to be amember of teaching environment and stu-dents to be the persons whose individuallearning needs should be addressed. Thus,teachers by using more recent teachingmethods involve students in learningprocess more actively. This improves andexpands teachers' roles, which in ttim con-tributes to team spirit and and the cultureof working together. The properties of stu-dent-centered teaching program that wasprepared by the Mid-continent RegionalEducatinoal Laboratory are as follows(McCombs & Whisler, 1997; cited in:Unver & Demirel, 2004):

  • Teachers'Evaluation... / 51

    emphasizes tasks that attract students'various interests,

    organizes content and activities aroundthe subjects that are meaningful to thestudents,

    contains clear opportunities that let allstudents develop their own learningskills and progress to the next level oflearning,

    contains activities that help studentsunderstand and improve their own view-points,

    allows for global, interdisciplinary, andcomplemetary activities,

    supports challenging learning activitieseven if the learners find them difficult,and

    emphasizes activities that encouragestudents to work with other students incooperation.

    Learning EnvironmentLearning is a dynamic process during

    which individuals make internal adjust-ments individually and develop necessaryskills. Thus, in order to enhance effectivessof learning, the learning itself should bethe starting point and other concepts, suchas instruction and curriculum or teachingtechniques, should be built on it. Learningis a process that takes place in mind. Indi-viduals do not merely mechanically reactto the internal and external stimuli withoutthinking. Yet, they develop their ownknowledge and patterns of perception ininteraction with stimuli that reaches theorganism. They form a net of structuresout of their interpretations, and they formmeanings regarding different dimensionsof their daily lives. Since knowledge is nota final product, and since it can be

    improved or changed they can perceive anevent differently and they can develop dif-ferent knowledge structures (Yaar, 1998;iman, 2003; imsek, 2004; Senemoglu,1997).

    In student-centered learning, the teachertakes a more active role in learning ratherthan being the person in the center ofknowledge. The student, rather than beingpassive, takes a role in the application,analysis, synthesis and evaluation process-es. In learning, the factor of place iseverywhere where learning takes place.The time factor shows differences withrespect to the learning activity. In addition,in student-centered learning, technologyis used in such a way that it realizes teacher-student and student-student interaction(Brge, 1998).

    Kolb (1984) argues that active learningis acquired by individuals by doing morethan thinking. According to Kolb, activelearning can develop by thinking about thedetails of thoughts, experiences, percep-tions, and emotions that come about duringexperiences. According to this, activelearning involves four stages of concreteexperience (gaining experience): observa-tion and reflection based on experience,forming abstract concepts, and new expe-riences. It is possible to participate in thiscycle at any stage and follow the cycle inits logical order. Active learning takes placeonly when these four stages are material-ized. Independently none of the stagesconstitutes active learning (Kili, 2010).

    Student-centered learning environmentsprovide interactive, complimentary activ-ities that enable individuals to address theirunique learning interests and needs, exam-ine content at multiple levels of complexity.

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    and deepen understanding (Hannafin,1992). The concept of a learning environ-ment is not new. Its roots can be traced toearly apprendceship. Socratic and similarmovements that have sought to immerseindividuals in authendc learning experi-ences, where the meaning of knowledgeand skills are realistically embedded(Dewey, 1993; Pask & Boyd, 1987; citedin: Land & Hannafin, 1996).

    Various learning environments can beclassified according to the manner in whichthey manifest their underlying foundadons.Hannafin and Land (1997) emphasize thateducational environments have psycho-logical, technological, cultural andpragmatic principles. All learning envi-ronments expHcitly refiect these underlyingmodels for foundations. Psychologic

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