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DR. IRENA MARINKO: STUDENT-CENTRED LEARNING IN SLOVENIA

natisni E-pošta

Abstract

This research was performed as a part of the Erasmus+ project Empowering teachers for a student-centred approach within which three higher education institutions investigated the student-centred and/or personalised approach in Slovenia, Lithuania and Poland, prepared a handbook of good practices for teachers and published several peer-reviewed articles on student-centred learning. The aims of this paper are to critically evaluate the latest research findings in student-centred learning and make an empirical research on how university teachers in Slovenia use this pedagogical approach, how they try to personalise learning, and what are the main challenges faced by teachers. The research methodology includes a survey of the contemporary literature on student-centred learning and an analysis of questionnaires completed by university lecturers. The introductory part emphasizes the importance of the Bologna system for the development of student-centred learning, discusses the characteristics and the most popular types of the student-centred learning, and the importance of giving feedback to students. The research shows that student-centred learning is introduced in different professional fields, in different geographical areas and that it can be practiced also in big classes. The empirical part of the research presents data analysis of the questionnaires answered by 100 teachers from Slovenia. The analysis shows that SCL, or some of its facets at least, are well known to teachers and that they are aware of the positive effects of student-centred learning on student attainment and motivation. Whilst teachers and students are acquainted with student-centred learning to a certain degree, they are in need of more guidance, knowledge and understanding regarding its application and practice.

Keywords: student-centred learning, research, teachers, high school education.

 

1 INTRODUCTION

Student-centred learning is the most important innovation that can be placed beside the communication technologies and the use of collaborative learning approaches and it is most typical in organisations that have integrative structures, emphasize diversity and that place an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork (Zhu and Engels, 2013).

This article has the aim to describe the student-centred learning in Slovenia in 2015 after the Bologna Process has been in force for a number of years and should have emphasized many elements of the student-centred approach in Slovenian university education. The Bologna Process namely states that student-centred learning (SCL) is an approach to education which aims at overcoming some of the problems inherent to more traditional forms of education by focusing on the learners and their needs rather than being centred round the teacher’s input (Lemos, Sandars, Alves and Costa, 2014). The student-centred approach has been strongly supported by the European Students’ Union (2010) that points out the importance of feedback in learners’ progress, students’ rights to decide about curriculum content, teaching and evaluation methods, participation in committees to evaluate the quality of the institution, the use of credits, stressing that prior learning should be recognised, emphasising the importance of group-work, the use of projects, different forms of assessment, simulation, research, IT, the collaboration of librarians and teachers, and innovative teaching methods.

Since the Bologna system has been used in university education for a number of years this might suggest that universities have introduced a number of new teaching and learning methods based on the student-centred approach. On the other side universities are big and rather rigid organisations that accept changes very slowly. Besides, student-centred approach requires from lecturers a lot of work and even personal changes which might hinder the process.  The research below gives an insight into how higher education institutions in Slovenia accepted student-centred approach.

2 CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CONTEMPORARY STUDENT-CENTRED LEARNING

The main characteristics of a student-centred approach are the considerations given to individual learners’ experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, interests, capacities and needs (Harkema and Schout, 2008). Within this approach teachers mainly focus upon what students should learn and emphasize why (Bransford, Vye & Bateman, 2002). Teachers take into account the existing knowledge of students (Bransford, Brown, Cocking, 2000; Protheroe, 2007), provide different opportunities for students to learn, often change teaching methods, help students who have difficulties and consider their background. Teachers discuss with students which study activities lead to good results, expose students to looking for alternatives and trying to find their own solutions. Examination questions refer to real-life situation and do not lead to categorising students with regard to their scores or grades. The basic conditions for an effective learning situation are the learning environment in which learners feel safe and accepted; numerous opportunities for students to confront new information, experiences, and personal discovery of new understandings that are all adapted to the individual students and their pace of learning (Mc Combs et al., 1997). According to Hattie and Timperley (2007) students should receive constructive and enough specific feedback, an explanation and that the language used in doing so should be non-evaluative, given in time and frequently and should help learners to plan further studies. Harden and Laidlaw (2013) emphasise that teachers who work on the basis of the student-centred approach should provide feedback to the student, engage the student in active learning, individualise the learning to the personal needs of the student and make the learning relevant. Students have individual needs regarding personal capabilities, motivation and what drives their learning goals and career aspirations, achieving mastery of the course learning outcomes on entry to the course, learning styles and the place of learning – on campus or at a distance - and the time of learning. Individualisation can be achieved in many ways: The teaching programme may be arranged so that students can choose to attend a lecture on a subject, view a podcast of the lecture, engage in collaborative problem-based learning with their peers or work independently using an online learning programme. Learning resources or learning opportunities can be adapted or prepared so that the students’ learning experience, as they work through the programme, is personalised to their individual needs. Also the curriculum can be designed so that it helps students’ individual requirements e.g. by including experiences in the early year of the course, by encouraging a problem-based approach, by the use of virtual problems related to the subject (Harden and Laidlaw, 2013, 31).

Mclean and Gibbs (2010) claim that the students should be included also at all levels of curriculum design, implementation and evaluation. As “clients”, students need to be part of the process of developing a learner-centred curriculum. The school should support student diversity and individual learning needs, the psychological and social aspects of student diversity, develop students’ self-learning skills, allow time for independent learning and pursing areas of interest, regularly review the core curriculum content, recognise that their education continues beyond graduation, provide ample opportunity for student professional development and not pay lip service to learner-centredness.

Çubukçu (2012) emphasises tasks that attract students' interests, organising content and activities around subjects that are meaningful to the students, determining clear opportunities that let all students develop their own learning, skills and progress to the next level of learning, organising activities that help students understand and improve their own viewpoints, developing global, interdisciplinary, and complementary activities, supporting challenging learning activities even if the learners find them difficult, and emphasising activities that encourage students to work with other students in cooperation. In student-centered learning environments it is essential that students take responsibility for learning and that they are directly involved in the discovery of knowledge, choosing the materials used so that they offer them a chance to activate their background knowledge and ensuring that the planned activities are based on problem solving (Cubukcu, 2012, 53). The time dimension should be evaluated in psychological terms. It is important that the students have enough time to construct the information cognitively and connect the new knowledge to real life. The students should have enough time for communication, for learning, synthesising, observing and applying new knowledge to social life, work, family and society. When talking about “location” of student-centred learning we should include all the places where students learn: school, library, museums, work place and home.

3 POPULAR TYPES OF THE STUDENT-CENTRED LEARNING

Among the most often mentioned types of student-centred learning are problem-based learning, project-led education, learning contracts, flexible learning, self-directed learning, inquiry learning, just-in-time checking, personalised learning etc.

Tarhan and Acar-Sesen (2013) describe problem-based learning (PBL) as an active learning approach which was first developed in medical education. Students receive information about PBL process, rules of working in cooperative groups, the objectives, the requirements roles, and the assessment strategies. The teacher acts as a facilitator who guides students' learning through the learning cycle. According to this cycle, also known as the PBL tutorial process, the students are presented with a problem, formulate and analyse the problem by identifying the relevant facts from the problem, and, finally, as students understand the problem better, they begin to generate hypotheses about possible solutions. During the self-directed learning process in PBL, students research the knowledge deficiencies and identify the concepts they need to learn more about in order to solve the problem. After each session is accomplished in the classroom environment, students collect data and information from the library materials and resources on the Internet and books. Students then share what they have learned, reconsider their hypotheses, and/or generate new hypotheses in light of their new knowledge. When completing the task, the students reflect on the abstract knowledge gained by oral presentation and begin to study a new problem through PBL.

Project-based learning involves students in complex projects that require problem-solving, research activities, decision making and realistic products or presentations (Thomas, 2000).

One of the ways of including students in the research work and/or student-centred learning is also using learning contracts. The learning contract ensures that students plan their learning experiences together with lecturers. Brecko (2004) says that the main advantages of the learning contract are that learning is of interest to the learner, it motivates him, the learner is free to choose the area of learning, learners can learn at their own pace, students are focused upon their learning, the learning contract respects differences in individuals and that it increases confidence and excitement in learning. Frank & Scharf (2013) find that learning contracts give opportunities for self-directed learning that fosters greater accountability, responsibility and commitment. The learning contract has proven to be among the best ways to stimulate active approaches to learning and to acquaint students with the research process because it makes students take an active role in defining and fulfilling their learning (Bone, 2014, 122).

Within flexible learning students may negotiate with their lecturers on matters such as choice of topic areas, use of support materials such as textbook and web resources, timetable and venues for meetings with their instructors and the nature and weighting of individual assessment tasks. Students have some autonomy over how, when, where and what to learn. In this way, flexible learning takes account of the individual needs of students and therefore implies a more ‘student-centred’ approach to learning (Guest, 2005, 287).

Silen and Uhlin (2008) pay special attention to self-directed learning as an essential part of problem-based learning, and, in a broader sense student-centred learning. Self-directed learning should not be considered just as self-study and/or students’ own concern. Self-directed learning means that students have to study from the corresponding sources of literature in order to to develop information literacy skills/competences. Information literacy is one of the most important factors for the development of problem-based learning. Silen and Uhlin suggest that it is necessary to give the students the freedom to search and make choices about what to read, but they also need challenges, support and feedback to develop information literacy. In this regard university teachers can get a great help from librarians who are experts on information literacy. They can support the students' views on the information that they need to start thinking about problem-based learning. Librarians are important not just as providers of information literacy but should be included in problem-based learning as people who could help teach students how to become life long learners.

Inquiry learning requires students’ active learning by exploring data and by seeking information (Plush, 2014). Inquiry learning usually starts with questions and not with lectures. Students work in teams and examine data or explore models. Plush mentions a number of researchers who believe that inquiry learning improves problem solving skills, understanding and motivation. There are also some opinions that inquiry learning has negative effects on the content coverage (but not on student grades).

Just-in-time teaching is a type of student-centred learning developed by Novak, Patterson, Gavrin and Christian for undergraduate physics courses. It involves the use of online activities in the form of short-answer and multiple-choice questions that students are required to complete just prior to attending a lecture (Plush, 2014).

The term personalised learning is very often used in connection with student-centred learning and frequently has the same meaning. According to Johnson (2004) the term personalised learning was first used by British politicians who stressed that personalised learning means really knowing the strengths and weaknesses of individual students, the necessity of developing the competence and confidence of each learner through teaching and learning that builds on individual needs, that every student should enjoy the study choice, that it requires a new school organisation, and that the community should support schools in this progress. Rich (2014) claims that the expression “a personalised approach” was introduced from the business world focused on providing the consumer with a very wide range of products.

According to Hambleton, Foster and Richardson (1998) the characteristics of the personalised system of instruction are:
1)    Students proceed through the course at their own pace.
2)    Students must show that they have mastered the preceeding course before going to the next.
3)    The teaching materials are largely text-based.
4)    There is tutorial support and individual assessment of each of the courses.
5)    Lectures should motivate students rather than deliver content-based courses.

There are many critics of personalised learning. Prain et al. (2013) discuss opinions of numerous authors who speak about the conceptual coherence of personalised learning but they still claim that personalised learning is a key strategy to improve student achievements.

There are several examples showing that personalised learning brings about good results. Choi and Ma (2014) describe a school in Hong Kong that managed to develop a personalised instruction strategy with student-selected vocabulary. To help students whose vocabulary was rather poor, a number of low-achieving teenagers in Hong Kong were told to design and make their own personalised curriculum. They had to select from their preferred sources five items per school day and then record and retain these items. The results of the research showed that this personalised strategy took into account the learners' differences, motivated responsible learning behaviour and led to satisfactory marks.

Another interesting example of personalised approach to education was made in Sweden. Eiken (2011) described personalised students' education by combining goal setting, weekly coaching, personalised scheduling and timing and a unique curriculum on the web-based learning portal. Students listened to lectures, attended workshops, seminars, work in laboratories etc. Parents, students and teachers/coaches met at the start of every term and defined an individual educational plan and long-term goal for each student. Students had weekly meetings with their coach to see if they had met their goals and to plan for the coming week. The author reported that students developed improved personal responsibility for their learning. Each of the teachers also acted as a coach for about 20 students in order to provide support when necessary. The timings were flexible which allowed students to attend a number of group lessons, presentations, to study individually or visit teacher-led workshops. However, timetables were defined during weekly coaching sessions. Students were monitored and assessed on continuous basis. Rather than belonging to a specific class, students belonged to a base group and spent time in various group formations. Some of their activities were compulsory and some voluntary. The curriculum was designed in steps and enabled students to progress on an individual basis without being tied to a class or grade. The curriculum, syllabus, steps, texts and assignments were on the web-based learning portal so that students could access assignments and resources whenever they wished via the Internet. The learning portal also gave insight to parents, and served as a repository for teachers' resources (presentations, planning tools, lessons etc.).

This chapter does not include all the types of student-centred learning but just those that are most often found in literature. Some authors use them as synonyms for student-centred learning, others as strategies or even speak about teaching methods. Besides, there is no clear differentiation among some terms, e.g. problem-based learning, inquiry learning, project-based learning etc. The problem of right definitions becomes even more complicated when we start thinking if personalised learning is a type of the student-centred learning or a special construct with no clear grounding. This paper does not intend to discuss or clarify the definitions of different types of student-centred learning but just describe the situation in Slovenia. Therefore we use the terms as mentioned above and have included personalised learning among other types of the student-centred learning. We speak about personalised learning as a type of student-centred learning which tries to bring new possibilities to adapt learning to individual students’ needs.
4 ASSESSMENT IN STUDENT-CENTRED LEARNING

Beside the learning process assessment is one of the most important points of the student-centred approach. According to Randall and Zundel (2012) assessment should be much more than grading. Assessment represents defining the criteria that can be observed, observing the performance, judging the performance, informing the students of the results and giving advice on how to improve. Scott claims that feedback should be timely, and as specific as possible (Scott, 2013) but mentions that feedback is difficult with mass education and that many teachers comment that students do not read the feedback.

Papinczak et al. suggest that students following a student-centred curriculum should be actively involved in the assessment process because this contributes to learning (Papinczak et al., 2012). He tried to engage students in the generation of their own examination questions. This required revision of key learning outcomes, of core subject material, and made students reflect on their learning. Assessment also contributed to the social context because it required collaboration and negotiation between individuals in a small group environment. Development of quality questions for inclusion in written examinations proved to be more difficult and time-consuming than many students had anticipated but it moderately reduced students' anxiety.

According to Maher (2004), learning about outcomes puts the student at the centre of the learning experience because this puts attention more directly on the activities and achievements of students rather than on the teaching of the curriculum content. On the other hand Brooks et al think that the impact of learning outcomes on students’ learning is still relatively unknown (Brooks et al, 2014, 724). The research they made, however, proves that eighty one per cent of respondents agreed (either agreed or strongly agreed) that learning outcomes are useful learning aids, with only approximately 7% disagreeing (Brooks et al, 2014).

Assessment is an important element of student-centred learning but it has not been developed to either the satisfaction of teachers or students. There are a lot of suggestions how assessment in the student-centred approach should be: flexible, integrative, contextualized, criteria referenced, formative; it should discuss strengths and weaknesses, explain mistakes and give advice on how to improve; be timely, as specific as possible etc. These recommendations are theoretically good but many of them cannot be used in practice when teachers have to assess hundreds of students. Student-generated questions are also most interesting but this kind of assessment seems to cause the same problems – it requires too much time (in this case from students and not from teachers). Everybody seems to have a lot of expectations but it is still not clear how to realize ideal assessment in practice. This segment of SCL certainly offers further possibilities for improvement.
5 LIMITS OF STUDENT-CENTRED LEARNING

Student-centred learning is developed in a number of study programmes - very often in different areas of medicine, business, chemistry, physics, mathematics etc. Medical education was among the first areas that tried to introduce the student-centred approach. Milanese, Gordon, and Pellatt (2013) discuss a number of learning situations in the field of clinical education. Rizescu et al (2009) suggest that that also the military high schools should be based on quality assurance, curricular compatibility, competences and conformity with the European labour market, optimal study conditions, materials, modern methods and equipment, student-centred systems, career counselling, student mobility etc. The fact is that the Bologna system of education requires many elements of the student-centred approach so student-centred learning should make its way to all the educational areas and to all the universities in EU.
 
Some authors stress that student-centred learning is a product of Western education systems and that Asian teachers and students have difficulties in accepting, adopting and developing it. But several studies show that it is possible to introduce student-centred learning also in countries that are not used to this approach. Pham and Renshaw (2013) describe how they tried to empower Asian teachers in adopting a student-centred approach. Frambach, Driessen, Chan, van der Vleuten (2012) investigated the cross-cultural applicability of Western-origin, problem-based learning and how education contexts and learning approaches differ across cultures. Their research found out that problem-based learning could be applied in different cultural contexts regardless of the cultural differences, challenges and difficulties. The study of Jocz, Zhai and Tan (2014) investigated if inquiry activities contributed to students' interest in science in the Singaporean context. Questionnaires and focus group interviews showed high interest in science class on the condition that the activities enabled the possibility of applications of science and peer discussion (Jocz et al, 2014). Manisha, Aniruddha, Bajaj (2012) found out that the majority of the students said that project-based learning increased their motivation to participate in class, to attend class and to do well on the course respectively and that project–based learning enhanced their communication skills and their retention of course content. Actually student-centred approach could prove even more important in Asia because there is evidence showing that Asian students are very much influenced by teachers’ appraisals (Niles, 1995).

A number of teachers think that it is only possible to introduce student-centred learning in small classes while classes with 100 to 1000 and more students cannot use this approach. However, Exeter et al. (2010) discuss the teachers' perspectives in very large classes and show that teaching methods used in small classes can also be used in large ones. Also in very large classes teachers have to motivate students, prepare a systematic and organised way of teaching and appropriate assessment tasks. In large classes it is more difficult for teachers to interact with students and more difficult for teachers to get to know them personally. Exeter's study shows that teachers (although teaching large classes) used a number of methods which are used also in small classes, such as problem-based learning, small-group discussions and strategies that enable students to ask questions, including individual or small-group based activities, in-class discussions and a well-structured course book. The teachers made the ‘key’ slides available the evening before each lecture, with space beside each slide for further note-taking. They included in-class quizzes and small-group exercises in lectures in an attempt to deepen the students’ learning and introduced an automated feedback system.
6 TEACHERS' AND STUDENTS' ACQUAINTANCE WITH STUDENT-CENTRED LEARNING

Student-centred learning has been in use for a long time and its influence should become stronger after the introduction of the Bologna system. However, it does not seem that all the teachers and students are acquainted with student-centred learning. They seem to know some terms like active participation in studies, they might know certain models like problem-based or project-based learning but not all the participants of education are aware that these elements belong to SCL.

New university teachers have troubles with student-centred learning (Plush, 2014, 3). At the beginning of their career, academics have very little experience, especially if they are employed more as experts than pedagogues. In many countries university lecturers have no formal teacher training, no professional examinations, and, consequently, no academic qualifications in the field – unlike teachers in other sectors. Very often young university teachers receive no training as regards the pedagogical approaches, teaching strategies, practical instructions, and the availability of learning technologies.

Besides being acquainted with pedagogical approaches, teaching strategies etc. university teachers should also believe in these approaches and especially in SCL. Jacobs et al. (2012) found the attitude of the teachers toward SCL so important that they even developed an instrument to measure concepts about learning and teaching in student-centred medical education (because several authors have noted that teachers’ beliefs influence their teaching approaches).

In the literature there are just a couple of cases when students speak about student-centred learning. Lea, Stephenson and Troy (2003) describe research which investigated the students’ opinions and knowledge about student-centred learning. Although the students who participated in the research claimed that they were unfamiliar with the term, they came up with various ideas about what student-centred approach might mean. Students expected that student-centred teaching activities would be active, interactive, contain group work, creative in nature, offer flexibility in the choice of modules, ensure continuous qualitative feedback, that students should have a say in learning outcomes, there should be respect for students, that students would be treated as adults and be given greater responsibility, that it would be an empowering process, more motivating and include constructive feedback. Students expected that their learning might be easier if they had a better timetable, more personal motivation, less anxiety before examinations, more guidance from lecturers, if lecturers were not so unapproachable, if there was more flexibility in module selection, more flexibility in relation to students’ work, and improved access to resources etc.

It seems that lecturers as well as students would need further acquaintance with SCL. Young lecturers who are starting with their pedagogical career certainly need knowledge about the student-centred approach. But it would be necessary that all the teachers accepted the student-centred approach and believed in it because teachers’ beliefs influence their teaching. On the other side students are even less acquainted with student-centred approach. It would be useful that also students learn some more about SCL and realize that they can expect from universities much more than they get at present.

7 RESEARCH OF THE STUDENT-CENTRED LEARNING IN SLOVENIA

The empirical research was performed with the intention to find out if university teachers in Slovenia know and use different methods which are characteristic for student-centred learning. U.K., U.S.A., Australia and several other countries have had many peer reviewed articles on student-centred learning while there are only few in Slovenia. On the other hand also Slovenian literature often speaks about active learning, problem-based learning, experiential learning etc. which are typical for student-centred approach and Slovenia introduced the Bologna system of education which emphasizes student-centred learning so SCL approach should be developed.

The main findings of the theoretical research suggest that teachers should consider individual experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, interests, capacities and needs of students; provide different opportunities for students to learn and to cooperate, often change teaching methods, discuss which activities bring good results, adapt learning to students’ pace. The feedback to students should be constructive, specific, contain explanation, use non-evaluative language, in-time and frequent. The curriculum should include considering experiences, problem-based learning, and new technologies. The European Students’ Union emphasizes also students’ rights to decide about the curriculum, teaching and evaluation methods, rights to decide in the committees on the quality of their institution, about credits, and to practically implement SCL approach by including PBL, group-work, projects, case methods, role plays, classroom workshops, distance eduction, different forms of assessment, simulation, research, IT, collaboration of librarians with teachers, etc. On this ground it was decided to ask the teachers about their organization of the learning process, giving feedback to students, including students’ interests in the curriculum, considering students’ rights and about the attitude of their universities toward student-centred learning.

The most important theme was the learning process so teachers were asked about the main advantages of student-centred learning, which teaching methods they used, how they tried to involve students who did not seem to be interested in student-centred learning, if they could support student diversity and individual learning needs, how they helped students who found teaching/learning activities difficult, which typical study materials they offered their students, if they could extend the study period, if they ever took students to libraries, museums, if they asked students to describe cases from their work place, how teachers showed that they valued students, and which were the most frequent problems that they faced when using the student-centred approach. The teachers were asked also to describe cases of good practice of student-centred learning.

Another important set of questions concerns the assessment. The teachers were asked to evaluate their assessment, how they provided for students’ word in the assessment, how they tried to reduce students’ anxiety before examinations, how long it took before students received feedback, if there were procedures for students to appeal decisions regarding their academic attainment or progression, and if they tried less often used ways of examination.

The questions related to the curriculum asked teachers if students were consulted on curriculum content, on the teaching and evaluation methods that were included in the curriculum, if students were consulted when learning outcomes in the curriculum were designed and on assessment methods included in the curriculum.

The last set of questions asked if the high schools had a regular professional development programme for teaching staff, if they thought that student-centred learning encouraged deep learning and academic engagement and if they believed that student-centred learning meant a link that would improve relationships between students and teachers (and why).

Some questions were closed and some open ended. Subcategories of the open ended questions were made with regard to the frequency of answers. The researchers had to be very careful with these questions because we had to sum up the answers with the same meaning that was sometimes expressed with different words.

The empirical part of the research presents data analysis of the questionnaires answered by 100 lecturers from 10 universities/faculties/colleges in Slovenia (IBS International Business School Ljubljana, University of Ljubljana, University of Maribor, University of Primorska, Faculty for Industrial Engineering, Gea College Ljubljana, Faculty for Organizational Studies in Novo mesto and in business colleges in Novo mesto, Postojna and Slovenj Gradec). The questionnaires were anonimous and sent around by Internet.  The empirical research was made in two parts, the first was conducted in 2015 and the second in 2016. Both questionnaires contained the same questions. When we first sent questionnaires to the management boards, deans and university teachers we expected that we would get more answers. However we received only 52 completed questionnaires. In 2016 we asked more universities (deans of universities and of their departments) if they could help us and we acquired more answers. The results of the research in 2016 are very similar to the results of the research made in 2015. The sample in Slovenia is still not very large although we contacted and asked for help almost all tertiary institutions (public and private ones). The small number of responses surprised us and made us wonder if Slovenian university teachers might really not be interested or acquainted with the student-centred learning.

We hoped that the teachers would have put down at least short descriptions of their best practices in student-centred learning but this question was answered just by names of individual best practices and not by descriptions. The reasons might be either lack of time or lack of knowledge. Both reasons are probable: the question which asks that the teachers should describe two cases of their or somebody else’s best practice really demands some thinking and some time. IBS Ljubljana later tried to invite teachers to participate in a competition for a prize but also this competition gave a rather small number of descriptions of the best practices. Besides not having enough time university teachers might also not have enough knowledge because the results of the empirical research show that a considerable number of teachers miss knowledge and skills about the student-centred learning.

The opinions of teachers are presented in the tables below. Descriptions of the tables are limited to the most frequent responses which have the highest statistical significance. Open questions are presented as collected responses.

I Questions related to the teaching/learning process

1 Which are according to your opinion the main advantages of the student-centred learning (1 – very important, 2 - important, 3 - moderately important, 4 - of little importance, 5 – unimportant):

 

Proposition

1

2

3

4

5

1.

Motivation of students

72

14

1

6

7

2.

Possibility that students learn at their own pace

27

40

21

8

3

3.

Being more focused upon learning

31

42

16

5

5

4.

Respecting different individuals

35

41

14

5

5

5.

Increase of confidence

38

40

12

6

4

6.

Partnership between teachers and students

45

28

15

10

2

7.

More responsibility and committment

48

33

8

5

6

8.

Other (please describe)

 

 

The majority of the teachers think that the main advantages of the student-centred learning are:
-    Increased motivation of students (72 % very important, 14 % important: 86 %)
-    More responsibility and commitment (48 % very important, 33 % important: 81 %)
-    Increase of confidence (38 % very important, 40 % important: 78 %), and
-    Respecting different individuals (35 % very important, 41 % important: 76 %).

However, the Slovenian teachers find all the propositions rather important.
 
2 Which of the below methods do you include in your teaching (1 - very frequently, 2 –
frequently, 3 – occasionally, 4 – rarely, 5 – never):

 

Proposition

1

2

3

4

5

1.

Problem-based learning

34

32

23

8

2

2.

Individual or small group based activities

39

36

9

11

4

3.

In-class discussions

42

37

13

3

5

4.

Classroom workshops

18

33

23

15

10

5.

Group presentations

16

30

24

15

13

6.

Projects

16

25

28

21

14

7.

Solving practical problems

50

26

10

8

6

8.

Cooperating in research activities

7

18

25

29

20

9.

Quizzes

6

12

20

29

31

10.

Use of the case method

26

29

23

15

5

11.

Use of role plays

22

18

17

20

21

12.

Collaborative paper assignments

8

23

18

24

23

13.

Web-conferencing environment in distance education

8

5

7

24

53

14.

Other (please describe):

 


Slovenian teachers include in their teaching especially:
-    In-class discussions (42 % very frequently and 37 % frequently: 79 %)
-    Solving practical problems (50 % very frequently and 26 % frequently: 76 %)
-    Individual or small group based activities (39 % very frequently and 36 % frequently: 75 %)
-    Problem – based learning (34 % very frequently and 32 % frequently: 66 %).

The also often include case studies, workshops and group presentations but they do not work with web-conferencing.

3 How do you try to involve students who do not seem to be interested in the student-centred learning? Please describe with a couple of words.

-    Different ways of motivating students 22 %
-    Additional explanations 4 %
-    Discussions 15 %
-    Including a lot of practical examples 10 %
-    Offering scores for examination 6 %
-    Selection of contemporary and interesting cases that arouse interest of students 23 %
-    Different ways of teaching 4 %
-    Presentation of importance of the study topics for their work 8 %
-    Presentation of benefits of student-centred learning 3 %
-    Linking of study topics with their values 1 %
-    Humour 3 %
-    5 minutes of sports 1 %
-    Inviting students to speak about their experiences regarding the theme 5 %
-    Work in small groups/teamwork 10 %
-    I tell students who do not want to work to go out 1 %
-    Connecting the topic with students' problems 3 %
-    By understanding students 2 %
-    By trying to find reasons why students are not interested 5 %

Slovenian teachers try to involve students who do not seem to be interested in the student-centred learning by:
-    Including contemporary cases that arouse interest of students (23),
-    Different ways of motivating students (22).
-    By discussions (15).

Beside these they use also a number of other ways like including a lot of practical examples 10, work in small groups etc.

4 Can you support student diversity and individual learning needs by (1 – yes, 2 – no, 3 – I don't know):

 

Proposition

1

2

3

1.

Offering students additional consultations/advice

94

3

1

2.

Offering students individual examination terms (beside the terms which are defined by the University calendar)

75

25

8

3.

Taking some time to speak with a student who has troubles personally/trying to tell him/her how to achieve better results

96

2

1

4.

Enabling students to accelerate their studies (= to finish their studies in 2 years instead of 3)

53

16

30

5.

Enabling students to prolong their studies (= to finish their studies in e years instead of 1 year)

48

19

32

6.

Helping foreign students who do not speak your national language

72

8

18

7.

Using special support measures that help students from disadvantaged backgrounds?

41

31

27

8.

Studying either on campus or at a distance

62

24

11

9.

Other (please put down):

 


Slovenian teachers support student diversity and individual learning needs mainly by:
-    Taking some time to speak with a student who has troubles personally/trying to tell him/her how to achieve better results (96 %)
-    Offering students additional consultations/advice (94 %), and
-    Offering students individual examination terms (beside the terms which are defined by the University calendar) 75 %
They also try to help foreign students who do not speak the national language (72 %), they enable students to study either on campus or at a distance (62 %) and accelerate their studies (= to finish their studies in 2 years instead of 3): 53 %.

5 How do you support students when they find teaching/learning activities difficult (1 - very frequently, 2 – frequently, 3 – occasionally, 4 – rarely, 5 – never)

 

Proposition

1

2

3

4

5

1.

I explain the topic again

55

30

10

4

0

2.

I tell them to read additional literature

27

37

26

5

4

3.

I have no time to repeat things

3

7

14

27

46

4.

I am looking for new study methods

26

40

25

5

1

5.

Other:

 

When students find teaching/learning activities difficult, Slovenian teachers support students by:
-    Explaining the topic again (55 % very frequently, 30 %  frequently: 85 %)
-    Looking for new study methods (26 %  very frequently, 40 %  frequently: 66 %)
-    Tell them to read additional literature (27 %  very frequently, 37 %  frequently: 64 %).

6 Which typical study materials do you introduce to support students? (1 - very frequently, 2 – frequently, 3 – occasionally, 4 – rarely, 5 – never)

 

Proposition

1

2

3

4

5

1.

Textbook

49

22

14

7

5

2.

Additional slides

46

23

20

4

5

3.

List of additional literature

43

24

14

13

3

4.

Research articles

27

30

22

8

10

5.

Popular scientific literature

18

25

28

17

8

6.

Statistics

16

20

24

24

12

7.

Other (please describe with a couple of words):

 

Slovenian teachers introduce mainly the following study materials with which they support students:
-    Textbooks (49 % very frequently, 22 %  frequently: 71 %)
-    Additional slides (46 %  very frequently, 23 %  frequently: 69 %)
-    Lists of addtional literature (43 %  very frequently, 24 %  frequently: 67 %).

It is surprising that university teachers do not use more research articles, popular scientific literature and statistics.

7 Do you ever ask students if they have enough time for studies? If you find that is not enough, what do you do?
-    I suggest that they come to a later/additional examination term 11
-    I explain the student which themes are the most important for the examination 6
-    I prepare a list of possible questions for examination 3
-    I repeat the most important parts of the syllabus 6
-    I suggest that they regularly come to lectures and listen intensively 4
-    I suggest a time plan 15
-    I tell students that they do not have much time and that it will be difficult to pass the exam 1
-    Additional help to produce seminary papers 1
-    I show them online teaching in an interesting way 1
-    I discuss their problems 2
-    I suggest different/effective methods for studying 14
-    I generalize and reduce the depth of the studies 1
-    I do not ask 10
-    I adapt lectures and examination terms 6
-    I have individual discussion with students 4
-    I suggesst different ways of effective study methods 3

Many Slovenian teachers ask students if they have enough time for studies (but 10 % claim that they do not). If they find that there is not enough time, the teachers:
-    suggest a time plan 15 %
-    suggest different/effective methods for studying 14 %
-    suggest that they come to a later/additional examination term 11 %
-    explain the student which themes are the most important for the examination 6 %
-    repeat the most important parts of the syllabus 6 %
-    suggest that students regularly come to lectures and listen intensively 4 %  and/or
-    adapt lectures and examinations terms 6 %.

8 Do you ever take students to:
-    Libraries: 12 %
-    Museums 8 %
-    Ask them to describe a case from their work place? 78 %
-    Other (please describe with a couple of words): 33 % (not specified)

Slovenian teachers include in their teaching cases from students' work place but rarely take students to the libraries or museums. Since every university has its own library this might mean that libraries are not much in use or that there is no cooperation between librarians and teachers.

9 How do you show that you value students? (please describe with a couple of words):
-    I praise students 11 %
-    I speak with them (ask them about their expectations, how they wish to cooperate, what problems they have etc.) 24 %
-    I offer information also beyond lectures 10 %
-    By my relationship and approach to students: I try to be kind 5 %
-    I help them 4  %
-    I show respect 19 %
-    I try to understand diversity and individual characteristics 5 %
-    I try to be fair 2 %
-    I am relaxed and show humour 5 %
-    I create a good team 2 %
-    Empathy towards each individual 3 %
-    Students can contact me personally, by mail or phone 8 %
-    I memorize their names 3 %
-    I am open for additional questions, consultations 7 %
-    By mimics and voice 2 %
-    I am interested in their work and life goals 3 %
-    By giving them additional activities and advice 6 %
-    I try to find new ways how to motivate people for foreign languages 1 %
-    I try to teach them as much as possible 2 %
-    I try to be tolerant, understanding, sensible towards each individual 2 %
-    By being positive 1 %
-    I encourage students 4 %

Slovenian teachers show that they value students especially so that they:
-    speak with them 24 %
-    show respect 19 %
-    praise students 11 %
-    offer information also beyond lectures 10 %

Beside these the teachers have a number of other ideas how to show that they appreciate students.

10 Which are the most frequent problems that you face when using the student-centred approach? (1 – yes, 2 – no, 3 – I don't know):

 

Proposition

1

2

3

1.

Strict syllabus that does not allow student-centred approach

30

55

12

2.

No interest in the university

14

58

22

3.

Lack of knowledge and skills about student-centered learning

46

36

14

4.

Study programs are not being able to change quickly

54

34

6

5.

Other (please put down)

 

The most frequent problems that teachers face when using the student-centred approach are:
-    Study programs cannot be changed quickly (54 %)
-    Lack of knowledge and skills about student-centered teaching / learning method  (46 %)
-    Strict syllabus that does not allow student-centred approach (30 %).

Since changing study programmes requires a procedure that can take months and/or years it was expected that this would be a problem. But we did not expect that so many teachers would complain about lack of knowledge and skills regarding student-centred learning. Although teachers claim that they have some development programmes (as explained later) they obviously do not include student-centred learning.

11 Please describe two cases of good practice of the student-centred learning (either good practice that you use or good practice that you have heard of):

-    Working in groups 8 %
-    Case studies 3 %
-    Discussions 3 %
-    Role playing 2 %
-    Describing students' problems on their work place 6 %
-    Trying to find study methods that will lead to new knowledge 1 %
-    Applying studies to students' practical experiences 3 %
-    I prepare special programme and examinations for students who are hospitalized 1 %
-    I offer students distance study although our school officially does not perform it 1 %
-    Individual examinations each week 1 %
-    I often adapt to younger generations by contemporary themes and technologies (facebook, start-ups, modern phones etc.) 1 %
-    I suggest that they learn languages with the help of their children, by listening radio and TV in foreign language, students make tests themselves, they work in pairs 4 %
-    Solving problems in real situations 3
-    I present a problem and its solutions (from everyday life) 2 %
-    I give additional consultations 2 %
-    I use Moodle 1 %
-    Different workshops and courses 2 %
-    Research of motivation of employees for the needs of their firms, inviting directors from practice 1 %
-    Application of practice on theory 4 %
-    I explain that mistakes are nothing bad, I try to be kind, I repeat things that they do not understand, I introduce some minutes of sports or relaxation 1 %
-    Examination passed in more parts 1 %
-    Explaining tricks how to remember words or grammar 1 %
-    By special projects e.g. Out of forty 2 %
-    Helping student who cannot walk, understanding diversity 1 %
-    Explaining the topics with examples 1 %
-    Quizzes in e-learning 1 %
-    Students' own innovations 1 %
-    Students' research work – cooperation in real projects 2 %
-    Students have to learn a topic and then we discuss things 1 %
-    Two teachers are present in the class 1 %
-    Written projects selected by students themselves 2 %
-    Encouraing critical thinking 2 %
-    Visiting working organisations 4 %
-    Participating in conferences and commenting the papers 1 %
-    Presentation of a work place created by a student himself/herself 1 %
-    Making a business plan 1 %
-    Career plan 1 %
-    Essays (about students, their competences, mission, vision, SWOT analysis, career plans) 1 %
-    Family business (application of theory on practice) 1 %
-    Using the methods of coaching 1  %
-    Neuro linguistic programming 1 %
-    Recording of a lecture 1 %
-    Reading biblographies of teachers (novels) 1 %
-    Reflexions on readings 1 %
-    Dynamic lecturing 1 %
-    Work in pairs 1 %
-    Adapting the programme to the majority of students 1 %
-    Preparing notes together 1 %
-    Asking students what interests them 1 %
-    Including teachers from working organisations 1 %
-    Including students in projects 1 %
-    Presentation of business themes by literature and movies 1 %
-    Participation of students in meetings, analysis of documents, writing minutes, sending them to the forum 1 %
-    No answer: 1 %
-    I do not know student-centred methods: 2 %
-    Student-centred learning is just a phrase: 1 %
-    
The teachers describe a number of cases of good practice with which they introduce the student-centred learning. Among the most frequent are:
-    Working in groups 8 %
-    Describing students' problems on their work place 6 %
-    Visiting working organisations 4 %
-    Application of practice on theory %
-    Teachers suggest that students learn languages with the help of their children, by listening radio and TV in foreign language, students make tests themselves, they work in pairs 4 %.

We actually expected that the teachers would describe good practices with more words but their descriptions are limited to minimum. This is a pity because we are sure that many teachers might have their own innovative variants of the SCL teaching methods.

II Questions related to the feedback

12 Select the evaluation methods which you use (1 - very frequently, 2 – frequently, 3 – occasionally, 4 – rarely, 5 – never, 6 – I don’ know)

Method

Importance

Content-heavy

1-40, 2-41, 3-11, 4-4, 5-1

Summative

1-22, 2-37, 3-28, 4-8, 5-2

Norm-referenced

1-85, 2-8, 3-1, 4-2, 5-1

Flexible

1-32, 2-31, 3-16, 4-15, 5-3

Criteria referenced

1-84, 2-10, 3-1, 4-2, 5-0

Formative

1-1, 2-9, 3-28, 4-24, 5-35

Other (please put down)

 

Evaluation methods of Slovenian teachers are:
-    Criteria-referenced (84 % very frequently, 10 % frequently: 94 %)
-    Norm-referenced (85 % very frequently, 8 % frequently: 93 %)
-    Content-heavy (40 % very frequently, 41 % frequently: 81 %)
-    Flexible (32 % very frequently, 31 % frequently: 63 %).

13 Evaluate your assessment students feedback: (1 - very frequently, 2 – frequently, 3 – occasionally, 4 – rarely, 5 – never, 6 – I don’ know)

Proposition

Importance

Do you make feedback, comment directed towards the task

1-59, 2-23, 3-7, 4-8, 5-0

Do you discuss strengths and weaknesses

1-41, 2-33, 3-12, 4-8, 5-3

Explain mistakes and give advice how to improve

1-45, 2-39, 3-6, 4-5, 5-2

Help to focus on skills relating to a deep approach to learning

1-42, 2-30, 3-18, 4-5, 5-2

Other (please explain)

 

Slovenian teachers most often make feedback by:
-    Explanation of mistakes and advice how to improve (45 % very frequently, 39 %  frequently: 84 %)
-    Comments directed towards the task (59 %  very frequently, 23 %  frequently: 82 %)
-    Discussing strengths and weaknesses (41 %  very frequently, 33 %  frequently: 74 %).

14 How do you provide for students’ word in the assessment?
o    Students suggest self-assessment grades 16 %
o    Students negotiate self-assessment grades 4 %
o    Students can come and ask for explanation of the marks 87 %
o    Other (please explain): 12 %
Teachers provide for students’ word in the assessment mainly so that students come and ask for explanation of the marks 87 % and so that students suggest self-assessment grades (16 %).

15 How do you try to reduce students’ anxiety before examinations?
o    I speak with students and try to relax them 67 %
o    I give them questions that help to repeat the topic 64 %
o    I tell them to calm down 17 %
o    I tell students to think logically 48 %
o    Other (please describe): 12 %

Teachers try to reduce students’ anxiety before examinations by:
-    Speaking with students and trying to relax them 67 %
-    Giving them questions that help to repeat the topic 64 %
-    Telling students to think logically 48 % (which is not very helpful).

16 How long does it take before students receive feedback?
o    One week 67 %
o    Two weeks 3 %
o    One month 0
o    Other: 26 %

The majority of teachers give feedback to students in one week.

17 Are there procedures for students of your University to appeal decisions regarding their academic attainment or progression?
Yes 77 %;
No 1 %;
I don’t know 17 %

In Slovenia there are procedures for students to appeal decisions regarding their academic attainment or progression: 77 % positive answers.

18 Has any of the teachers tried to introduce student-generated examination questions? If yes, How were the results?

I do not know 22 %
No 15 %
Not yet but a good idea 5 %
Yes, they give questions just like the teacher/it was successful 8 %.

Just 8 % teachers tried to introduce student-generated examination questions and they say that it functioned well.

III Questions related to curriculum

19 Are students of your University consulted on curriculum content? (Briefly describe how)
Yes, the students can suggest changes by students’ representatives 45 %
No answer: 2 %
I do not know 7 %
No 10 %
Students are pleased with the curriculum 1 %

The main part of the teachers claim that students can suggest curriculum contents by students’ representatives 45 %

20 Are students of your University consulted on the teaching methods that are included in the curriculum? (Briefly describe how).

-    Yes in yearly evaluations of their studies 54 %
-    No 8 %
-    They are pleased with teaching methods 1 %
-    No answer: 1 %
-    I do not know 6 %.

Slovenian students can express their opinion on the teaching methods that are included in the curriculum by yearly evaluations of quality (54 %).

21 Are students of your University consulted when learning outcomes in the curriculum are designed? (Briefly describe how)

-    No 10 %
-    Yes 33 %
-    I do not know 9 %
-    No answer: 3 %
Slovenian students are consulted when learning outcomes in the curriculum are designed: 33 %.

22 Are students of your University consulted on assessment methods included in the curriculum? (Briefly describe how)
-    Yes 42 %
-    No answer 2 %
-    I do not know 7 %
-    No 7 %

Slovenian students are consulted on assessment methods included in the curriculum: 42 % positive answers.

IV Questions related to professional development programmes

23 Does your institution have a regular professional development programme for teaching staff?
Yes - 59 %
No - 21 %
 I don’t know-13 %.

59 % of teachers claim that their university has a regular professional development programme for teaching staff. Since teachers claim (as quoted above) that they lack knowledge about SCL, these professional development programmes probably do not include SCL.

24 Do you think that student-centred learning encourages deep learning and academic engagement? Please justify.
-    Yes but such methods can spoil students
-    Yes this stimulates self-initiative and reflection and focuses students’ personal growth
-    Yes 42 %
-    Yes, students feel more responsibility towards knowledge acquisition
-    Yes, students feel more self-confident
-    Yes, it increases motivation and success of students 9 %
-    No answer: 2 %
-    Yes but this is impossible if there are too many students
-    Yes, students are more pleased, results are obvious immediately
-    Yes but it depends on students 2 %
-    No 2 %
-    Yes because this stimulates also teachers that they teach contemporary topics and can adapt to new generations 3 %
-    Yes, this improves the atmosphere
-    Yes, students acquire more concrete knowledge, they communicate more and learn more easily
-    Yes it stimulates studies because students feel more attention
-    Yes, students must feel that they are not just numbers
-    I do not know 5 %
-    According to my experiences there is not enough time
-    No answer 1 %.

The majority of teachers think that student-centred learning encourages deep learning and academic engagement: 65 %. A number of teachers think that it increases motivation and success of students.

25 Do you believe that student-centred learning means a link that will improve relationships between students and teachers? Please justify.

-    Yes 40 %
-    Yes, enables communication and feedback to teachers 2 %
-    Yes, this is the best way to improve relationships 3 %
-    Yes in theory but there are different practical situations 1 %
-    No answer 2 %
-    Yes this is urgent. But limits are still necessary – students must achieve basic requirements and teachers must perform the study process so that the required level of knowledge is achieved and that personal growth is ensured 2 %
-    Yes, more trust between students and teachers 1 %
-    Yes, students are central for our work and personal contacts have very good influence on the study system 2 %
-    Yes, there should be no other way of teaching than student-centred approach 1 %
-    Yes, this is possible but there is also the question of motivation for this approach 1 %
-    Yes, students appreciate if teachers pay attention to them; students' fears are reduced 1 %
-    Yes, because the emphasis is on cooperation between teachers and students 1 %
-    Yes, students and teachers have in this way common interests 1 %
-    Yes, it is necessary to change the paradigm of education 1 %
-    Yes, if the teacher discusses also personal matters, gives possibility to explain things, shows humour, this brings about better contacts and students more easily accept the teacher who is a normal human being and their friend who wishes that they study well 1 %
-    Maybe 2 %
-    Yes, it reduces the distance between students and teachers 1 %
-    The relationship between teachers and students should be ethical and friendly already now 1 %
-    Yes, partly, especially with students who need additional motivation 1 %
-    Yes, student-centred learning increases engagement of students and influences on better relationships between students and teachers 1 %
-    Yes, possibly but not within the present system of education 1 %
-    Yes but I think this depends upon each school, university, professor and student 1 %
-    No 1 %.

Teachers believe that student-centred learning means a link that will improve relationships between students and teachers.

8 CONCLUSIONS

The theoretical part of the research cites a number of relevant authors who discuss important features of the contemporary student-centred approach: taking into account individual learners’ experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, interests, capacities and needs. SCL requires that teachers should provide different opportunities for students to learn, often change teaching methods, help students who have troubles, discuss with students which study activities lead to good results, expose students to finding their own solutions, provide different learning environments in which learners feel safe and accepted, develop global, interdisciplinary, and complementary activities, emphasize activities that encourage cooperation, provide different study materials and give students enough time to construct the information cognitively and connect the new knowledge and real life.

The research further describes the most frequent types of student-centred learning such as problem-based learning, project-led education, learning contracts, flexible learning, inquiry learning, just-in-time checking and personalized learning.

Assessment within the student-centred approach should be more flexible, integrative, contextualized, criteria referenced, informing the students about the results, giving advice on how to improve knowledge, and be fair. Examination questions should refer to real situation and not lead to categorizing students with regard to their marks.

The curriculum should be designed so that it would help individual requirements of students: by including experiences, problem-based approach, by the use of virtual problems related to the subject, by new technologies such as simulators that provide a more realistic learning experience.

Even today a number of teachers think that there are limits beyond which SCL cannot go. The most frequently listed are limits as regards the scientific fields, geographical areas and big sizes of classes. This research cites several relevant authors who proved that student-centred learning is developed in different areas of medicine, business, chemistry and in many other scientific areas. SCL has been developing also in Asian countries whose culture is different from Western ones and it seems that it can be used also in very big classes.

This research found that teachers need more development programmes which will not acquaint them just with pedagogic and didactic issues but also accelerate their personal growth and other topics (like use of information technology). The research did not investigate student’s voice (because this was beyond the scope of the project) but it would be useful and could show if students have the same opinion about SCL as teachers.

The second part of our research focused upon the student-centred approach in Slovenia. The teachers seem to be quite well aware that student-centred learning has advantages like increased motivation of students, increased responsibility and commitment, increased confidence and respect of different individuals. The teachers include in their teaching SCL methods like in-class discussions, solving practical problems, individual or small group based activities, problem-based learning etc. Teachers try to involve students who are not interested in SCL by including contemporary cases and practical examples that arouse interest, by discussions and in other ways. The majority of the teachers can support student diversity and individual learning needs by speaking with those who have troubles, by additional consultations and by individual examination terms. Teachers support students who find their learning activities difficult by by explaining the topic again, by looking for new study methods and by telling them to read additional literature. Teachers support students by textbooks, additional slides, lists of additional literature but they do not often use research articles, popular scientific literature and statistical data. If students do not have enough time, teachers try to help them by later examination terms and by acquainting them with time plans. Some teachers also admit that they do not ask if students have enough time. It is rather surprising that teachers do not often take the students to libraries which should be the other place for learning. However, they very often ask them to use experiences from their work place. Teachers also try to show that they value students either by speaking with them, showing respect, praising them. Among the most frequent problems of SCL are rather fixed study programmes that cannot be changed quicky; lack of knowledge and skills about student-centred learning and sometimes also strict syllabus that does not allow SC approach. The teachers listed a number of good practices of the student-centred learning which they use. The assessment is in many cases criteria-referenced and flexible but also norm-referenced and content-heavy. The teachers frequently provide feedback to students by explaining mistakes and giving advice how to improve. If students are not pleased with the assessment, they can come and ask for explanation but students are not actively involved in assessment. Teachers try to relax students before examinations and often give them questions to repeat the topic. Students receive assessment in average in about a week. Teachers are acquainted with the practice that students can appeal decisions regarding their academic achievements. As regards students’ voice in the curriculum content, the teaching methods, learning outcomes, assessment etc., less than half of the teachers say that students have influence upon curriculum – only indirectly – by their representatives. Only about half of the university teachers who responded the questionnaire mention that they have regular professional development programmes for the staff. A considerable number of teachers feel that SCL encourages deep learning and academic engagement and even more find this approach good for development of the relationships and organizational culture in the university.

The research shows that there are a number of open questions which should still be answered – a clear definition of the student-centred learning, precise definitions of different types of the student-centred learning, better ways of assessment, introduction of development programmes for teachers, more connections between teachers and librarians, mofre research about students’ voice etc. However, student-centred learning has certainly become an important part of the tertiary education.

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ENCLOSURE: Questionnaire for teachers

I Questions related to the teaching/learning process

1 Which are according to your opinion the main advantages of student-centred learning (1 - very important, 2 - important, 3 - moderately miportant, 4 - of little importance, 5 – unimportant):

 

Proposition

1

2

3

4

5

1.

Motivation of students

         

2.

Possibility that students learn at their own pace

         

3.

Being more focused upon learning

         

4.

Respecting different individuals

         

5.

Increase of confidence

         

6.

Partnership between teachers and students

         

7.

More responsibility and committment

         

8.

Other (please describe)

 

2 Which of the below methods do you include in your teaching (1 - very frequently, 2 – frequently, 3 – occasionally, 4 – rarely, 5 – never):

Proposition

1

2

3

4

5

Problem-based learning

         

Individual or small group based activities

         

In-class discussions

         

Classroom workshops

         

Group presentations

         

Projects

         

Solving practical problems

         

Cooperating in research activities

         

Quizzes

         

Use of the case method

         

Use of role plays

         

Collaborative paper assignments

         

Web-conferencing environment in distance education

         

Other (please describe):

 


3 How do you try to involve students who do not seem to be interested in the student-centred learning? Please describe with a couple of words.

4 Can you support student diversity and individual learning needs by (1 – yes, 2 – no, 3 – I don't know):

 

Proposition

1

2

3

1.

Offering students additional consultations/advice

     

2.

Offering students individual examination terms (beside the terms which are defined by the University calendar)

     

3.

Taking some time to speak with a student who has troubles personally/trying to tell him/her how to achieve better results

     

4.

Enabling students to accelerate their studies (= to finish their studies in 2 years instead of 3)

     

5.

Enabling students to prolong their studies (= to finish their studies in e years instead of 1 year)

     

6.

Helping foreign students who do not speak your national language

     

7.

Using special support measures that help students from disadvantaged backgrounds?

     

8.

Studying either on campus or at a distance

     

9.

0ther (please put down):

 

5 How do you support students when they find teaching/learning activities difficult (1 - very frequently, 2 – frequently, 3 – occasionally, 4 – rarely, 5 – never)

 

Proposition

1

2

3

4

5

1.

I explain the topic again

         

2.

I tell them to read additional literature

         

3.

I have no time to repeat things

         

4.

I am looking for new study methods

         

5.

Other:

 


6 Which typical study materials do you introduce to support students? (1 - very frequently, 2 – frequently, 3 – occasionally, 4 – rarely, 5 – never)

 

Proposition

1

2

3

4

5

1.

Textbook

         

2.

Additional slides

         

3.

List of additional literature

         

4.

Research articles

         

5.

Popular scientific literature

         

6.

Statistics

         

7.

Other (please describe with a couple of words):

 

  


7 Do you ever ask students if they have enough time for studies? If you find that is not enough, what do you do?

8 Do you ever take students to:
-    Libraries
-    Museums
-    Ask them to describe a case from their work place?
-    Other (please describe with a couple of words):

    
9 How do you show that you value students? (Please describe with a couple of words):

10 Which are the most frequent problems that you face when using the student-centred approach? (1 – yes, 2 – no, 3 – I don't know):

 

Proposition

1

2

3

1.

Strict syllabus that does not allow student-centred approach

     

2.

No interest in the university

     

3.

Lack of knowledge and skills about student-centered learning

     

4.

Study programs are not being able to change quickly

     

5.

Other (please put down)

 


11 Please describe two cases of good practice of the student-centred learning (either good practice that you use or good practice that you have heard of):

II Questions related to the feedback

12 Select the evaluation methods which you use (1 - very frequently, 2 – frequently, 3 – occasionally, 4 – rarely, 5 – never, 6 – I don’ know)

Method

Importance

Content-heavy

 

Summative

 

Norm-referenced

 

Flexible

 

Criteria referenced

 

Formative

 

Other (please put down)

 

13 Evaluate your assessment – feedback to students: (1 - very frequently, 2 – frequently, 3 – occasionally, 4 – rarely, 5 – never, 6 – I don’ know)

Proposition

Importance

Do you make feedback,   comment directed towards the task

 

Do you discuss strengths and weaknesses

 

Explain mistakes and give advice how toimprove

 

Help to focus on skills relating to a deep approach to learning

 

Other (please explain)

 


14 How do you provide for students’ word in the assessment?
o    Students suggest self-assessment grades
o    Students negotiate self-assessment grades
o    Students can come and ask for explanation of the marks
o    Other (please explain):

15 How do you try to reduce students’ anxiety before examinations?

  1.  I speak with students and try to relax them
    o    I give them questions that help to repeat the topic
    o    I tell them to calm down
    o    I tell students to think logically
    o    Other (please describe):

16 How long does it take before students receive feedback?
o    One week
o    Two weeks
o    One month
o    Other:

17 Are there procedures for students of your University to appeal decisions regarding their academic attainment or progression?
Yes-no-I don’t know

18 Has any of the teachers tried to introduce student-generated examination questions? If yes, how were the results?

III Questions related to curriculum

19 Are students of your University consulted on curriculum content? (Briefly describe how)

20 Are students of your University consulted on the teaching methods that are included in the curriculum? (Briefly describe how).

21 Are students of your University consulted when learning outcomes in the curriculum are designed? (Briefly describe how)

22 Are students of your University consulted on assessment methods included in the curriculum? (Briefly describe how)

IV Questions related to professional development programmes

23 Does your institution have a regular professional development programme for teaching staff? Yes-no-I don’t know

24 Do you think that student-centred learning encourages deep learning and academic engagement? Please justify.

25 Do you believe that student-centred learning means a link that will improve relationships between students and teachers? Please justify.


This research was written as a part of the Erasmus+ project Empowering teachers for a student-centred approach.