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  • 7 reasons to TEFL in Thailand April 28, 2010
    It’s hardly difficult to see Thailand’s appeal, claims Emma Foers, what with its gorgeous beaches, buzzing cities and fantastic food – but just in case you need a little persuading as to how amazing TEFLing there would be, check out these seven reasons to teach in Thailand: 1) Enthusiastic kids Don’t believe anyone who tells you that [...] […]
  • 3 easy steps to becoming a TEFL teacher April 22, 2010
    You may have heard a little rumour that, as a fluent English speaker, you can magically get paid to teach English in amazing places all over the world. It sounds a bit too good to be true, but in fact, Emma Foers suggests, it’s not! Teaching English abroad is as simple as 1, 2, 3… Step [...] […]
  • Keeping control of your TEFL class April 12, 2010
    There will be times in your TEFL career when you are really challenged in terms of student motivation and classroom management, notes Bruce Haxton. Students, especially children, can be temperamental – but one of the things you’ll quickly learn is that how you behave as a teacher largely dictates how your students behave. Here are [...] […]
  • 6 things to check before accepting your TEFL job March 15, 2010
    It’s tempting to get carried away with the excitement of going to a new country and being accepted for a job is a great feeling, notes Bruce Haxton, but before you start packing your suitcase, make sure you check out the conditions – they’ll make or break your experience of teaching abroad! Here are 6 [...] […]
  • What type of English can I teach? March 1, 2010
    In this article Chris Soames looks into your options as a native speaker. If you’re a British TEFL teacher, you’ll be asked the question ‘do you teach American English?’ more often than you’ll hot dinners. Your response should always be a firm, but polite, ‘no’. This is nothing to do with snobbishness or a belief that British [...] […]
  • Being Certified in TESOL or TEFL has Benefits February 23, 2010
    By Frank Collins TEFL and TESOL are acronyms for teaching English as a foreign language and teaching English to speakers of other languages. If you plan to teach English overseas then getting a TEFL or TESOL Certificate is a prime requirement. Subscribe to The ELT Times by Email Nowadays there is huge demand for TEFL and TESOL certified [...] […]
  • How are TEFL courses structured? January 28, 2010
    What to expect from your four-week TEFL course by Bruce Haxton. So you’re interested in Teaching English as a Foreign Language [TEFL] but you don’t know which course might be for you? Or maybe you’d just like to know more about what to expect on day one on a course you’ve already booked? Well, there are [...] […]
  • How to Fact Check January 25, 2010
    How to write more accurately and improve your grade, by Celia Webb Fact checking is an important part of writing an accurate article. Meticulous authors do research prior to committing their thoughts to paper. Not all authors are so careful. Editors and readers serve society and themselves well when they read with a judicious eye. Just [...] […]
  • 5 Simple Tips for TEFL Job Success January 19, 2010
    Want to know how to succeed in the TEFL job market? Bruce Haxton tells you how. So, you’re thinking about doing a TEFL course, and it won’t be too long before you’ve got your crisp new TEFL certificate in hand – but what are you going to do with it?! Get a teaching job abroad and [...] […]
  • Why People TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) January 12, 2010
    Ever wondered why we do it? Find out now in this article by Bruce Haxton. TEFL, on paper, is perfect: an exciting career, a chance to see the world, a life full of fresh faces, opportunities and experiences. But, in reality, life at home holds people back: jobs, cars, family, friends, house, age, personal circumstances… so [...] […]

Effective Learners and a Learner-Centered Classroom

By Douglas Brown

Each learner and each learning experience is unique; yet educators can identify patterns in the learning process. Designing effective learning requirements requires a clear understanding of, and attention to, both commonalities and differences in the learners and the learning.

Since ancient times, the learning process has been a subject of study for philosophers, educators, and scientists. This curiosity continues to drive forward the methodologies used in a classroom. One major change in educational philosophy brought on by this research is the shift in paradigm from a teacher-centered classroom to a learner-centered classroom. This shift makes the students (learners) more responsible for their education, forcing them to draw upon previously learned skills in order to learn new materiel. Gone, then, is the simple task of memorization; replaced with an active, educational process. How does a teacher create a learner-centered classroom? Simple; by following these eight suggestions (the first four given now, the second four given in my next installment), a teacher can not only create a learner-centered classroom, but also shift his/her classroom position from simple lecturer to a knowledge facilitator.

Step 1: Effective learners link new information to prior knowledge.

Meaningful and lasting learning is a cumulative process that connects previously learned material with new knowledge. Background knowledge creates a context and foundation for new material. Unsuccessful students often do not have the skills for linking previous learning to new information. They often lack essential retrieval strategies. Prior knowledge and experience remains inaccessible for these students.

The instructional challenge is to help students get in touch with what they already know. Learners need a repertoire of strategies to help them access this knowledge, as well as strategies for organizing new information into patterns that will help them make connections and integrate new understandings. Some strategies that can aid in this process include (but are not limited to):

1. Visualizations of past learning experiences.

2. Quick (five minute) reviews.

3. Brainstorming and grouping.

4. Venn Diagrams.

5. Semantic mapping.

6. Group or class discussions.

Step 2: Effective learners engage with process and context simultaneously.

Motivating students’ mental engagement is critical to successful education. Engaging instruction is student-centered, designed to instill a sense of wonderment, build self-esteem, and foster creativity. Open-ended experiences, with no “right or wrong” answers allow students to practice generating alternatives to simple memorization of facts, and choose actions and answers based on judgment and not just what they think the teacher wants to hear. In this way, context comes alive as knowledge and skills are applied in context actively and interactively.

When students are given a choice in the when, what, and how of learning, they are more likely to embrace learning goals and increase their commitment to learning tasks. This idea is particularly important to students who feel they have little control over many aspects of their lives. Teachers who provide flexibility will most often get a higher level of responsibility from their students. Methods to accomplish this include:

1. Choices in assignment time frames.

2. Various levels of difficulty for assignments.

3. Different formats for final products.

4. Different methods for task completion.

5. Options for either individual or peer work.

Step 3: Effective learners access and organize information.

The ability to organize information is fundamental to effective thinking and learning. Skilled learners are able to organize information by recognizing and developing patterns both “in and out of the box.”

Learning-focused teachers move from isolated skills lessons to learning strategies lessons, sending the message to students that information gains value when we understand it and apply it. In this way, students gain a tool kit for building, shaping, and connecting information. Teaching students various organizational tools (along with constantly modeling them) provides cues for thinking, frameworks for accessing and retaining information, and the transfer of learning to other settings. This tool kit can contain:

1. Venn diagrams.

2. Story maps.

3. Concept maps.

4. Graphically displayed patterns and connections.

5. Sequence charts.

Step 4: Effective learners require international and external mediation.

In a meditative learning environment, open-ended questions are the norm and both praise and criticism are limited. Students are encouraged to articulate “thinking in progress” as they experiment with both ideas and materials. The goal here is to transfer the external meditative voice of the teacher to the inner voice of the student. This self-talk and student-to-student talk guides the work on topics at hand and provides ways of focusing on and thinking about the materials at hand.

Meditative teachers and their learners mutually develop challenging goals and criteria for success for units and projects. Reflection and self-assessment along the way are critical components of such classrooms. To accomplish internal and external mediation, these tools help:

1. Journals (single-subject and general thought).

2. Learning logs.

The concept of learning and teaching has come a long way from the simple lecture. Teachers now need to take a proactive hand in aiding and developing the learning process as well as teaching students how to learn. Unfortunately, most standard four-week TEFL courses do not include this kind of information during their learning and certification process. It is my hope that these first four suggestions for creating a learning-centered classroom augment your prior knowledge gained through training and experience.

About the Author

Douglas Brown is a moderator and writer for, a free resource helping the ESL/EFL community in Asia and the Middle East for jobs, resumes, schools, resources, yellow pages, classifieds, information and lessons. Stop for Your Second Langauge Needs

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2 comments to Effective Learners and a Learner-Centered Classroom

  • sunisa


    Your article is very helpful for me. I am doing my master degree in Thailand. I just want to know when is your next installment on Effective Learners and a Learner-Centered Classroom is coming.

    Thank you.


  • Nice summary and some fairly useful ideas, thank you.

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