Thoughts on Chapters One and Two

Chapter One: Lessons on Learning

Weimer opens her first chapter with “What I have come to believe about learner-centered teaching grew out of a serendipitous confluence of events and experiences” (2002, p. 1). How can we, as college educators, help our students shift from surface learning to deep learning? The first chapter provides a literature review and introduces us to the five key practices:

  • changes in the balance of power
  • changes in the function of course content
  • changes in the role of the teacher
  • changes in who is responsible for learning
  • changes in the purpose and process of evaluation

Questions

  • Do you now teach in the way that you were taught? Or have you adapted your teaching style over time?
  • Weimer says, “College should be the time when and the place where students develop prowess as learners” (2002, p. 5). What are some ways that we can do this?

Chapter Two: The Balance of Power

Bill Peirce, Coordinator of Reasoning across the Curriculum at Prince George’s Community College, summarizes Weimer’s chapter on the balance of power in the classroom: “Chapter Two examines the effects of too much teacher control and its adverse effects on student motivation, confidence, and enthusiasm for learning. Students are more likely to become self-regulated learners when some of the conditions of their learning are more in their control. Weimer does not advocate abandoning our professional responsibility and letting students determine course content or whether they will do assignments; instead she recommends that teachers establish parameters within which their students will select options. Increasing the decisions students can make about assignments and activities more fully engages them in the course and its content. Among Weimer’s suggestions are providing a variety of assignments to demonstrate learning the course outcomes (students choose a combination), negotiating policies about class participation, and letting students choose which material the teacher will review in class the period before a major test.”

Questions

  • Which of the strategies mentioned in this chapter have you tried? What was your level of success?
  • What led to syllabi becoming so directive? Is it, as Weimer suggests some faculty members believe, because students “lack intellectual maturity, do not have good study skills, are not well prepared, do not like the content area, take courses to get grades, and do not care about learning” (2002, p. 25)?
  • How does my syllabus compare to those discussed as exemplars?
  • How much freedom can students handle?
    • The example on page 43 about the student who did not keep track of his own grades throughout the term and was surprised when he failed was a great one. Has something like this happened to you? What can we do to help students understand why tracking their own progress is to their distinct advantage?
  • What are your thoughts on faculty members who entertain their students?

References

Peirce, B. (n.d.). Review and summary of Learner-centered teaching by Maryellen Weimer. Retrieved Feb. 6, 2008, from http://academic.pgcc.edu/~wpeirce/MCCCTR/weimer.htm.

Weimer, M. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.


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