I am in the middle of Maryellen Weimer’s “Learner-Centered Teaching,” and I am beginning to wonder how I will ever lecture again. Every so often, I read a book with life-changing potential, and I’m beginning to think this is one such book. The subtitle — Five Key Changes to Practice — is most appropriate.
Here is Weimer’s definition of learner-centered from the Preface:
Being learner-centered focuses attention squarely on learning; what the student is learning, how the student is learning, the conditions under which the student is learning, whether the student is retaining and applying the learning, and how current learning positions the student for future learning.
She distinguishes learner-centered from student-centered, which she says, “implies a focus on student needs” and “gives rise to the idea of education as a product, with the student as customer.”
I’ll get back with posts about some of Weimer’s ideas, but I’d like to address the idea of student-centered and learner-centered from a different perspective, a Christian perspective. What should our attitude be towards students/learners as Christian educators?
First and foremost, we should love our students. We should see each one as a child of God. It is easy to focus on the “good” student and dismiss the student who shows no motivation. We see these students as little as two or three times a week. It’s easy to forget about them as individuals. We need to remember that Jesus didn’t do this. He knew the worth of each person. It might be interesting to do a study of how Jesus interacted with each of his disciples as teacher to learners (note that I’m being careless with my use of the terms student and learner in a way that Weimer warned against; this is intentional).
Growing out of that love for students, a second point is that we should pray for our students. I’ve thought about this for some time but have never really followed through. It’s time to start. This might include systematic prayer for a specific set of students on a rotating basis each morning or evening. It might also mean praying for students who have made appointments to see me immediately before the appointment.
None of this really addresses the actual practice of teaching (or maybe it expands the definition of teaching to include loving and praying for our students). I don’t think there are any pedagogical techniques that are unique to Christianity, but it may be that some of the techniques out there could be adopted and informed by our faith. Certainly, our faith calls us to be the best teachers we can be. That, in fact, is one of the reasons I’m spending part of this summer examining the quality of my teaching and the methods I use.
So, as I work to improve my teaching, I should work to improve my attitude towards my students, as an educator and as a Christian.