At the moment I am trying to work out what these terms have in common – on the assumption that there is something!! So, for the moment a search to find some definitions. An article that does provide a brief summary of the essentials of being ‘student centered’ is interesting for me in that is suggests that some teachers are more likely to teach in this way than others. One question is, if you do – are you a better teacher than if you don’t (have a student centered focus)? Perhaps assumptions about student learning can be wrong – ie. do (adult) students want to take responsibility for their learning? If they don’t, why not? What can be done about it? Does it matter? Another question is how significant is the environment? eg. if you set up the class so that the desks are in a circle rather than in rows how much difference does this make to the interaction – and in particular for students taking responsiblity for their own learning? The article referred to above noted that there was a difference – those with the intention to ensure students could link course content to their own experiences were more likely to set up their desks in an informal way. It was interesting to note that the intention to be student centered did not necessarily result in different learning environments when compared to those teachers who did not have this intention. See the Wikipedia for a list of characteristcs of student centered learning.
So, to go to the idea of being client centered what definitions are there? The Wikipedia provides a discussion of the key characterstics. The focus here is on Carl Rogers as the key theorist, the term used in ‘person -centered’ and oddly enough to locate this information the spelling had to be ‘centred’ even though in the discussion it was spelt as’centered’. Now for a few more thoughts. As cited in Matthew Ryan’s web site: “That CCT is effective has been amply demonstrated by decades of research. Furthermore, recent research has shown that the most significant variables in the effectiveness of therapy are aspects of the relationship and the therapist’s personal development – not the particular discipline they practise or techniques they employ.” There is another site that provides an article that was written by Carl Rogers and provides a very good explanation of the application of this approach to therapy. This refers to the centrality of the ‘life force’ that exists in every person and the importance of tapping into this to facilitate the client using thier own resources.
This might be a superficial comment and based on a few readings – but the information about being client-centered appears to stress the relationship between therapist and client whereas the teacher centered information stresses the teaching strategies. One obvious difference between the 2 situations is that one is focused on working with one person and the other relates to group processes. The common link is the basis of Carl Rogers work. However, one very good read on the topic of “Empathic Intelligence” (as the basis of student centered teaching) is written by Roslyn Arnold. It focuses on the attitude of the teacher as being the essential core. I do wonder how ’empathic’ you can be in a virtual community. Does this skill require face to face interactions in order that the nuances of body language and voice tone can be noticed? Further work by Roslyn highlights the importance of inter-subjective experiences in education. In relation to clinicians Moore writes an interesting article looking at various arguments in relation to empathic relationships in practice. Even better, there is a list of behaviours described as indicators of this type of relationship. These are from the Zen of Listening. Another interesting read on this topic is a workbook called the EI Advantage which among other things talks about the difference between cognitive and emotional empathy (p103). It states that in EI you are more likely to use cognitive empathy. p117-118 has a very interesting list of indicators of empathic listening.
I have now come across one article that describes a teaching process that brings together student centered approach with elearning. It is called ‘Student centered teaching meets new media’ It describes a course in a medical programme and provides a very good overview of teaching that meets the criteria of being client centered as well as being a critical overview of the realities of elearning. An article by Holmberg (I have already commented on under ‘learning communities’) refers to the need for empathy in distance based learning. This point is made towards the end.
In relation to the idea that being client centred in e-learning has its own challenges, the article called “Student-Centered Teaching Meets New Media: Concept and Case Study” addresses this topic. It is based on teaching medical students.