learner-centered teaching: postsecondary strategies that promote "thinking like a professional"

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Ume University Library]On: 13 October 2013, At: 02:23Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Learner-Centered Teaching: Postsecondary StrategiesThat Promote "Thinking Like A Professional"J. Thompson , B. Licklider & S. JungstPublished online: 24 Jun 2010.

    To cite this article: J. Thompson , B. Licklider & S. Jungst (2003) Learner-Centered Teaching: Postsecondary Strategies ThatPromote "Thinking Like A Professional", Theory Into Practice, 42:2, 133-141, DOI: 10.1207/s15430421tip4202_7

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    Thinking Like a ProfessionalThompson, Licklider, and Jungst

    The Learner-Centered Psychological Principles(LCPs) provide a holistic framework that integratessocial constructivist and cognitive theories, as wellas motivational and individual differences theo-ries. We have used these to better align our ownclassroom practice with the rapidly expandingknowledge about how learning occurs. In an ac-tive and collaborative learning environment, wehave used specific instructional techniques, identi-fying similarities and differences strategies, to en-hance students thinking and learning skills.Original research on the novice-expert continuumsupports the domains of the LCPs and underscoresthe importance of strategies to engage students inidentifying similarities and differences to enhancestudents abilities to think like a professional.

    A CRITICAL PURPOSE OF postsecondary educa- tion is to prepare students for their futureprofessional lives. Meeting this purpose requiressupporting students in developing deep understand-ings of their disciplines and in honing their criticalthinking abilities. Helping students think like a

    professional in the field is at the heart of learner-and learning-centered education at the college level.

    Learner- and Learning-Centered PracticesAs indicated by McCombs (this issue), sup-

    porting changes in educational practice and educa-tional systems so they operate more congruently withthe growing body of knowledge about human learn-ing was one impetus behind development of theLearner-Centered Psychological Principles (LCPs)(APA Work Group of the Board of EducationalAffairs, 1997). A similar desire to make teachingpractice at the college level consistent with learn-ing theory has led to intentional changes in ourown pedagogical approaches at the classroom lev-el. Although our approach has been formed aroundan independent understanding of social construc-tivist theory and cognitive theory, the LCPs pro-vide an overarching framework that integrates theseas well as elements of motivational and individualdifferences theories (Lambert & McCombs, 1998).

    In the work we do with college students,learner- and learning-centered principles merge inan active and collaborative learning environment.Learner-centered educational environments havebeen described as those in which the focus on indi-vidual learners is combined with a pedagogical ap-proach that incorporates the best available knowledgeabout how learning occurs (Lambert & McCombs,1998). Specifically, attention is given to creating a

    J. ThompsonB. LickliderS. Jungst

    Learner-Centered Teaching:Postsecondary Strategies That PromoteThinking Like A Professional

    J. Thompson is assistant professor of natural resourceecology and management, B. Licklider is associate pro-fessor of education, and S. Jungst is professor of natu-ral resource ecology and management, all at Iowa StateUniversity.

    THEORY INTO PRACTICE, Volume 42, Number 2, Spring 2003Copyright 2003 College of Education, The Ohio State University

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    THEORY INTO PRACTICE / Spring 2003Learner-Centered Principles: A Framework for Teaching

    supportive context that addresses an array of indi-vidual students prior knowledge, skills, attitudes,beliefs, and needs (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking,2000; McCombs, 1997). Thus, the culture of thelearner- and learning-centered classroom is coop-erative, collaborative, and supportive, and the in-structor and students learn together (Barr & Tagg,1995; Huba & Freed, 2000; McCombs, this issue).

    We have adopted the collaborative and ac-tive learning approach of Johnson and Johnson(1989) as a vehicle to create the social context forlearner-centered education. The process of discov-ering what students are thinking, providing oppor-tunities for them to examine and correct possiblemisconceptions, and providing situations that in-vite students to expand their thinking and buildnew knowledge is enhanced by students activeparticipation in guided and authentic collaborativeexercises (e.g., Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Stage,Mullen, Kinzie, & Simmons, 1998; Thompson,Jungst, Colletti, Licklider, & Benna, in press). Inaddition to enhancing student learning, these ap-proaches have also been shown to increase reten-tion (Gardiner, 1994; Slavin, 1992; Svinicki, 1992).

    This article includes a brief summary of thespecific literature that supports instructional ap-proaches we have used in the college classroom.We then describe strategies we have found to beeffective, and link them to what, in practice, areoverlapping domains of the LCPs.

    Thinking Like a Professional: WhatDoes Novice-Expert Research Tell Us?

    To meet the postsecondary education goal ofdeveloping students professional-level expertise,teaching should be done in a manner consistentwith findings on expert performance in domainsthat are relevant to a particular discipline (Niemi,1997). Although there is no direct substitute forthe kinds of life experiences that make an expertan expert, Glaser (1992) has suggested that find-ings from novice-expert research can be used tostructure learning experiences that move studentsfarther and faster toward thinking like an expert inthe discipline.

    It is generally recognized that experts in somedomains use frameworks for thinking so problemsolving appears to occur without conscious effort.

    Key research identifying differences between nov-ices and experts has been summarized by Glaser(1992) and Bransford et al. (2000). Very briefly,experts proficiency is highly specific, and allowsthem to (a) discern meaningful patterns in informa-tion they encounter (e.g., the classic chess masterstudy by deGroot, 1965); (b) effectively organizeknowledge around major principles and concepts(e.g., Chi, Feltovich, & Glaser, 1981); (c) respondto context and access appropriate knowledge toaddress it (e.g., Glaser, 1992); (d) perform fluentor effortless retrieval of relevant knowledge (e.g.,Spiro, Coulson, Feltovich, & Anderson, 1994); (e)self-regulate in terms of attention allocation andfeedback recognition (e.g., Glaser, 1992; Wineburg,1998); and (f) remain flexible in their applicationof knowledge (also referred to as adaptive exper-tise, Hatano & Inagaki, 1986). It is important tonote, however, that expertise in some domains (forexample, interpreting history) is not always char-acterized by smooth and efficient performanceby experts (Wineburg, 1998). In any domain, alearner-centered approach to developing expertiserequires purposeful and specific instruction thatbuilds student capacity in these arenas.

    Thinking About Thinking ina Learner-Centered Context

    All of the aforementioned attributes of ex-pertise are important, and teaching to enhance in-dividual student performance in that regard willhelp all students begin to think like professionals.Some depend heavily on broad and deep contentknowledge and major principles that can be usedto organize that knowledge (e.g., items a-c aboveand the cognitive factors identified in the LCPs);others depend on self-awareness and context aware-ness (items d-f above, and the metacognitive fac-tors identified in the LCPs). We believe thatself-regulation (including metacognitionknowl-edge of what one does and does not know), as wellas attention to real-time feedback while on task, isa frequently overlooked expert skill that can andshould be intentionally developed through work witheach student. In fact,