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How do geography teachers perceive and realize student-centered teaching? Clemens Wieser European Geography Association for students and young Geographers
Framework of this talk • This presentation will illustrate selected findings and conclusions of my master thesis project. • The project focuses on the border of pedagogy and didactics of geography. • Research took place in Austria. Student-centered teaching... ...refers to a concept still prominent in German-speaking pedagogical discourse. ...was adopted by didactics of geography. ...can be considered a desideratum in general secondary school curricular goals in Austria.
Is there a distinct definition of student-centered teaching? Word by word meaning: “Making the student the center of thinking about how to teach.” Definitions in pedagogy: “Student-centered teaching focuses on the student. Decision-making, organization, and content are largely determined by the student’s needs and perceptions. Even assessment may be influenced or determined by the student. The instructor acts as coach and facilitator. In many respects, the goal of this type of teaching is the development of the student’s cognitive abilities.” Piccinin 1997 Definitions in didactics of geography : “What matters is consciously realized student orientation. Processes of learning should affiliate to the experience of learners. Student orientation should point out how a young person is affected by a certain real-life event. A student-oriented learning process tries to make students understand how a certain matter dealt with in a geography lesson is connected to their current and future life.” Vielhaber 2002, p.15 There is no distinct definition. But there is a problem that can be linked to “student orientation”: Teaching that takes place without regarding students needs and interests seems to be an unsustainable notion in secondary school education. At the same time, even proponents of student-centered teaching point out that such an approach is insufficiently backed up by a theory of learning (cf. Meyer 1993, p.203-204; Jank/Meyer 2006, p.310; Schmidt-Wulffen 2008, p.10).
The teacher’s perspective • “I don’t know [what student-orientation means]. Frankly speaking, I really don’t know. Cause, this is buzzword that has been out there for a long long time. Until now, no one could give me a plausible answer. Student-orientation can stand for a lot of things. It always depends on the perspective, or how you see it.” • Secondary School geography teacher, Vienna
Reconstructing the problem Reseacher’s view Teacher’s view Student-centered teaching as unidentified action Student-centered teaching as fuzzy desideratum
What teachers think about student-centered teaching “What comes to my mind first when I think about the term... Well, it’s another, not very popular term: Frontal teaching. It’s really relaxing for me to just tell some things - things that I know about and students don’t. I also experienced that students really like that.” “Student orientation how I understand it refers to fetching the students from where they currently are, from their experiences, or from their interests. On the other hand, they should participate in the process of planning and shaping coursework.” “When I work student-centered, I usually try to catch the interest of students by telling stories and making references to topics currently on the news. I try to tell them: “Ok, look: This can be really useful for you.” For example, if they don’t care about demography, I try to tell them: “This is important. Take a look at the divorce rate, for instance, ...” “The only way I want to think about learning is by thinking about how learning works for my students. They should be allowed learn self-reliantly. It’s all neat and nice that they learn about geography. But, in fact, learning to understand things self-reliantly is the most crucial goal. Basically, it’s a notion of enlightenment that is applied on school subjects.” “Generelly speaking, to prepare topics for geography classes with more regard for my students. I try not to lecture them - instead, I am trying to give input and see how much my students already know about a matter.” “Student-orientation to me means that students are working on matters themselves, and that they are able to focus on their own interest within a matter.”
Student orientation as a fuzzy concept • student orientation • student orientation • student orientation • student orientation • student orientation • = student orientation • student orientation • student orientation There seems to be no link between the term “student orientation” and a specific real-world phenomenon or action in classrooms.
A closer look at the problem • The term student orientation seems to be used politically within a didactical discourse. The term tries to establish a new notion of how the learning subject should be treated in learning/teaching-environments. • Term does not refer to a specific phenomenon of real-life classrooms => strategies for action for teachers in classrooms cannot be provided. • Nevertheless: Several proponents of the concept suggest that “student centered teaching” can be performed to a specific way of action and a phenomenon.
Realizing a new culture of learning Student-centered teaching premises strategies for action phenomena
What are teachers doing when they try to carry out a new culture of learning?
Detail: Facilitating the processing of information • Discussing the center-periphery scheme in class: • Asking about characteristics of the villages students grew up in • Compare it to students characterization of local center: • What about... • Shops? Public transport? Schools? Leisure activities?
Outlook • Doing empirical research allows to identify phenomena of classroom actions • Comprehension of phenomena and strategies for action is possible for both teachers and researchers => collaborate development of geography teachings is possible. • More accurate division between phenomena in classrooms => more accurate division between learning psychology, pedagogy, and didactics of geography
References • Jank, W., Meyer, H. (2006,9), Didaktische Modelle, Berlin. • Meyer, H. (1993,12), Leitfaden zur Unterrichtsvorbereitung, Berlin. • Piccinin, S. (1997), Making Our Teaching More Student-Centered, http://www.uottawa.ca/academic/cut/options/Dec_97/Student_centered.htm • Schmidt-Wulffen, W. (in press), Motivation und Unterrichtserfolg durch Schülermitplanung! Ein Leitfaden für gesellschaftswissenschaftliche Fächer von der Grundschule bis zur Sek-II, Baltmannsweiler. • Vielhaber, C. (2002), Kritische Fachdidaktik G(eographie) und W(irtschaftskunde): Der Schulpraxis zugewandt, in GW-Unterricht, vol.86/2002, Vienna.