In recent decades, student centered pedagogy has provided serious challenges to traditional “lecture-and-test” modes of education in colleges and universities. Advocates of student-centered pedagogy generally proceed from the constructivist position that maintains that learners construct their understandings through their actions and experiences on the world. Student-centered thinking has spawned a burgeoning interest in the use of a variety of different active learning methods in and out of the classroom. These include collaborative learning, experiential learning, problem-based learning, and a variety of other pedagogical methods. However, the theory and practice of student-centered pedagogy is not without its problems. “Student-centered” learning is often defined in contradistinction to “teacher-centered” pedagogy. The idea that students must be active in the construction of knowledge is often understood to imply a diminishing role for the teacher in the learning process. Teachers are called upon to relinquish singular claims to authority or power in the classroom. As a result, the role of the teacher becomes recast as one of “coach” or “facilitator.” In this paper, I argue that the student/teacher-centered dichotomy is built upon a false premise -- namely that it is possible to parse off the active role of the student from the socio-cultural activities of which the student and teacher are a part. An alternative approach is based upon the socio-cultural-constructivist idea that learning is a form of guided participation in socio-cultural activity. From this view, knowledge in any given discipline is the historical product of socio-cultural processes that have evolved over long periods of time. Such knowledge is preserved and communicated through the cultural vehicle of language. It follows that learning within any given discipline requires mastery of the language-based meanings that define disciplinary knowledge and practice. Such knowledge can only be acquired through active participation in language-mediated learning activities that are structured by more expert individuals. All learning is thus viewed as a form of doing. Pedagogy becomes a task of articulating learning goals and identifying the forms of doing that promote development toward those goals.
Mascolo, M. F. (2009). Beyond Student-Centered and Teacher-Centered Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning as Guided Participation. Pedagogy and the Human Sciences, 1 (1), 3-27. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.merrimack.edu/phs/vol1/iss1/6