I teach Stained Glass I, which is based on copper-foil techniques, Stained Glass II, based on leaded stained glass techniques, and Glass Fusing. My learners age from 18 to 70 plus, with most 40 or above. When my learners first enter the classroom they tend to behave as if they were back in grade school, where the “teacher” is all knowledgeable. They expect the class to be teacher-centered without even realizing that there is another way.
Instructor-centered instruction is simply where the “teacher” has his or her learning plan and follows it a-to-z, and students are expected to follow. In McWilliam’s (2005), Unlearning Pedagogy, she states that as teachers “we prepare and review our curriculum documents to ensure coverage and relevance,” we also update our reference lists, review our assessments
tasks and criteria, and we provide feedback and praise (p. 1). Much of this is a necessary component of teaching at the college or university levels. After all, the quality of education must be maintained or our schools lose their accreditations, and my syllabus meets all expectations. Though the paperwork may be a necessary component for those who teach, it is not necessary to bring that component into the classroom in our teaching methods.
I personally do not teach in this manner and am happy to discover that I am a learner-centered instructor. I agree with McWilliam (2005) that everyone in the classroom should be learners all the time, and I realize I am what she calls a facilitator of learning (p. 2). I have escaped many of her deadly habits of instructor-centered instruction and my learners soon learn to enjoy the freedom of learning and creating in their own method because I refuse to lead them where I think they should go (p. 5). The first day of class we have a discussion and each student, and myself, speak about what they want to do with glass. This is the beginning of the student and I becoming “co-creators of value,” and I often become the “meddler in the middle” (p. 5). Then to my learners’ dismay they discover that whatever dream they shared is what they will be working on. It is okay in Stained Glass I for a new learner in my classroom to work on Stained Glass II leaded projects. I see no sense in wasting time working on a technique they do not plan to use.
My learners soon learn that my number one rule is “go for it,”
matter what “it” is, and except for safety issues there really are no other rules. I let my learners fail without shame or disappointment, and they come away from the experience excited to go onto the next project with knowledge gained from their failures, and I only step in if they become extremely frustrated (McWilliam, 2005, p. 8). I also let my learners know that my techniques are those I gathered from my teachers and ones that I created myself. They are encouraged to share techniques they have that differ or ideas that they come up with because what works for one learner may not work for another. They become very excited when the “teach” the “teacher” something new and it becomes information available on Blackboard for all learners who follow.
McWilliam (2005) summarizes what I believe to be true, “My point is not that we should be looking to return to a culture defined by the lofty arrogance and elitism of academics, but that one that respects students enough to challenge them by messing things up with and for them” (p. 9). Learner-centered instruction in my opinion is a better instructional method than instructor-centered instruction. I have seen learner-centered instruction even in classes as routine and basic as mathematics work very well, and it is this type of classroom setting that makes being a facilitator of learning so enjoyable and exciting (P. 2).
McWilliam, E. (2005). Unlearning pedagogy. Journal of Learning Design, 1(1), 1-11.