Not Effective? New Study Finds Little Objective Evidence Supporting Learner-Centered Teaching Methods

Student Learning Teaching

Learner-centered teaching methods focus on the needs and abilities of individual students, rather than following a predetermined curriculum. These methods often involve active participation from the student, such as problem-based learning or inquiry-based learning, and can be more effective in helping students retain and understand information.

A new study indicates that there is a lack of concrete evidence supporting the effectiveness of learner-centered teaching methods.

These methods, which are often promoted by organizations such as UNESCO and the World Bank, involve empowering students to take a more active role in decision-making and participation in their own education. Despite being widely adopted in many countries and receiving significant investment in terms of time, money, and resources, there is limited research on the implementation and outcomes of learner-centered pedagogy.

New research, by Dr. Nozomi Sakata, Dr. Leanne Cameron, and Dr. Nicholas Bremner show how the approach can have positive results, but there is currently little objective evidence to prove its effectiveness. Researchers have called for more larger scale, objective, rigorous research on its effectiveness over time.

Some studies report teachers’ and students’ feedback that the teaching style helped to boost motivation, confidence, and enhanced relationships. But there is little proof it is more effective than what teachers have been doing previously.

Dr. Bremner, from the University of Exeter, said: “Existing evidence has shown learner-centered pedagogy can have a positive impact, but not enough to justify such a massive policy emphasis worldwide. Much of the evidence is too thin and simplistic to recommend either schools either abandon it or embrace it. On the basis of current evidence, there is a real gap in hard data to prove or disprove the value of LCP, especially given its continued prominence in worldwide policy discourses.

“Many policies have been introduced with good intentions, but they could be implemented in a more thoughtful way which allows teachers to make sensible decisions about using different methods and approaches at different times.”

In the article, published in the International Journal of Educational Development, researchers conducted a review of 62 journal articles from 2001 to 2020 reporting the outcomes of LCP implementation in low- to middle-income countries around the world.

A total of 28 texts cited examples of teachers’ positive experiences of LCP and seven negative ones. However, only 9 out of the 62 studies contained objective evidence of improved academic learning outcomes.

A total of 26 out of the 62 texts cited examples of teachers’ or students’ perspectives of enhanced student learning, whilst 9 texts cited examples of little to no improvement in student learning.

Dr. Bremner said: “Larger scale experimental studies may be challenging from a methodological perspective and are likely to imply a large investment in time and resources. However, on the basis of current evidence, there is a real gap in hard data to prove or disprove the value of LCP, especially given its continued prominence in worldwide policy discourses.

“The more subjective research, for example, studies presenting perspectives of teachers and students, was more prevalent than objective research and did seem to lean towards positive experiences of LCP for non-academic outcomes such as student motivation and confidence, as well as enhanced relationships. Such outcomes may not always be the priority for educational policymakers, but many would argue they are extremely important.”

Reference: “The outcomes of learner-centred pedagogy: A systematic review” by Nicholas Bremner, Nozomi Sakata and Leanne Cameron, 25 July 2022, International Journal of Educational Development.
DOI: 10.1016/j.ijedudev.2022.102649

3 Comments on "Not Effective? New Study Finds Little Objective Evidence Supporting Learner-Centered Teaching Methods"

  1. Anyone who has actually done this type of work with students can see the difference. As usual, Since it has not been studied in depth because it would be messy to do, it is just being discounted.Do the research to prove it instead of just saying it would be too much work.

    • It has literally been studied in depth by the most preeminent scientists in the field of pedagogy and the results published in an elite journal. If you don’t like the findings, that’s your problem that probably stems from you being too close to this teaching method. But please stop telling the most qualified people to “do the research” because that makes you sound like a QAnon loon.

  2. With the exception of students with significant obstacles to learning, I think I would agree with this article. My experience in education is limited to having tutored most types of math when I was in university, and later I taught beginning software programming as an adjunct in a university. I think students benefit far more from diverse teaching methods (which can happen naturally by having different teachers) than by over-catering to the needs of the student. This is more like the real world, such as in jobs and careers, so I imagine it is better to prioritize helping the student adapt to real life differences, using learner-centered learning perhaps only sometimes. Personally, I think of learner-centered learning more like spoon feeding. It has its place to be sure, but it is through stronger challenges that students actually grow and learn to think more critically and robustly.

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