Student-Centred Teaching

At UNSW, we encourage you take a student-centred approach to teaching. With student-centred-teaching, what your students do is as important for their learning as what you as the teacher tell them.

Traditionally, research into learning and teaching in universities has focused on what the teacher does (discussing, for example, how to develop effective presentations or how to organise study materials), rather than on the learner's experience. But recent research into student learning indicates what Thomas Shuell expressed so well: "Without taking away from the important role played by the teacher, it is helpful to remember that what the student does is actually more important in determining what is learned than what the teacher does" (T.J. Shuell, "Cognitive Conceptions of Learning " (1986), 429 ).

In response to this research, educators have developed "learner-centred" or "student-centred" pedagogy, and UNSW encourages teachers to take a student-centred and active learning approach to designing, implementing and reviewing their courses.

Why does student-centred teaching work so well?

Student-centred teaching allows students to create knowledge, as opposed to passively receiving information, and encourages deep learning. A student-centred approach focuses primarily on what the student needs to do in order to learn, rather than on the course content or the transmission of information by the teacher.

How do I implement student-centred teaching?

To be student-centred in your teaching, you need to know the following about your students:

  • Who Are My Learners?
    Students are individuals. They differ from each other in many ways, including how they like to learn.
  • What Are They Learning?
    Your course outline will set out the desired learning outcomes of the course, which in turn will be aligned with UNSW graduate attributes. Where should you start when you write a course outline?
  • How Do They Learn?
    The answer depends on the students themselves, the nature of the content you're teaching and the learning activities you are devising to enable them to construct their own learning.

Further resources