Teacher-Centered and Students-Centered Approaches in Language Learning

Posted on: January 31, 2012

Learning styles are various approaches or ways of learning. They involve educating methods, particular to an individual that are presumed to allow that individual to learn best. Based on this concept, the writer would like to compares between teacher-centered and student-centered approach in language learning.

The teacher-centered approach is closely related to the behaviorist tradition. It assumes that learners are passive and that they become active by reacting to stimuli in the environment (Zophy, 1982). Therefore, the teacher’s role is to create an environment which stimulates the desired behavior and discourages those that are believed to be undesirable. This role makes the teacher the focus of attention. By contrast, the learner-centered approach assumes that learners are active and have unlimited potential for individual development. In the field of language teaching, Hart (2003: 288) defines that “language learners should develop their understanding of the convention of language used by engaging in the kinds of language activity found in real life rather than by learning lists of rules”. In a broader sense of education, Kain (2003) explains that in learner-centered approaches, the construction of knowledge is shared, and learning is achieved through learners’ engagement with various activities. The idea of focusing on the learner rather than the teacher requires that teachers’ and learners’ roles be reexamined in the learning process.

Therefore, Teacher-centered learning has the teacher at its centre in an active role and students in a passive, receptive role. And in the other hand, student-centered learning allows students to actively participate in discovery learning processes from an autonomous viewpoint. Students consume the entire class time constructing a new understanding of the material being learned without being passive, but more proactive. It requires students to be active, responsible participants in their own learning.

Classroom Activity

In the teacher-centered classroom, teachers are the primary source for knowledge. Teacher-centered activity orients teacher as a main source of learning material. Moreover, it is a style of instruction that is formal, controlled, and autocratic in which the instructor directs how, what, and when students learn. Teacher has power in conducting class activity by lecturing. Therefore, the focus of learning is to gain information as it is proctored to the student. Also, rote learning or memorization of teacher notes or lectures was the norm.

On the other hand, student-centered classrooms are now the norm where active learning is strongly encouraged. Students are now researching material pertinent to the success of their academia and knowledge production is seen as a standard. In order for a teacher to veer towards a student-centered classroom, he or she must become aware of the diverse backgrounds of his or her learners.

Therefore, when students are given the opportunity to gauge their learning, learning becomes an incentive. Because learning can be seen as a form of personal growth, students are encouraged to utilize self-regulation practices in order to reflect on his or her work. For that reason, learning can also be constructive in the sense that the student is in full control of his or her learning. Moreover, student-centered activities reflects the extent to which an instructor supports a more collaborative mode by practicing behaviors that encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning; those who support a teacher-centered mode of instruction favor formal testing over informal evaluation techniques.


Participation in the Learning Process


In teacher-centered classroom, students just focus on the material what the teacher has given are without giving feedback. The communication occur just in one way, teacher to students. Students only listens the material which teacher delivered. It means that, in this class students are passive in receiving information, or it is called ‘top-down’ classroom.

While in student-centered classroom, student requires to identify the problems they wish to solve and allows students to participate in making decisions about the topics that will be covered in class. And also, students allow giving feedback and talkative so that it was created communicative class. As usual, we call as ‘bottom-up’ classroom. Therefore, in this class students interact with instructor and one another. It is a must for students to work cooperative or work together in a group for discussing to solve problem. Moreover, Students are actively involved.



One of the most critical differences between student-centered learning and teacher-centered learning is in assessment. In teacher-centered learning, the assessment which is given is individually. It requires student to work individually and solve problem by their understanding. Therefore, in this case assessment is used to monitor learning process.

While in student-centered learning, students participate in the evaluation of their learning. This means that students are involved in deciding how to demonstrate their learning. Developing assessments that support learning and motivation is essential to the success of student-centered approaches. One of the main reasons teachers’ resist student-centered learning is the view of assessment as problematic in practice. Since teacher-assigned grades are so tightly woven into the fabric of schools, expected by students, parents and administrators alike, allowing students to participate in assessment is somewhat contentious. Therefore, in this approach, assessment is used to promote and diagnose learning.

The Goal of Learning Process

In teacher-centered, teachers are trying to achieve teaching goals that are closely related to academic disciplines and personal perceptions of teaching roles. And also, teacher covers the discipline.

In the other side, student-centered approach Students learn how to use the discipline, how to integrate disciplines to solve complex problems and an array of core learning objectives, such as communication and information literacy skills.


The term teaching style refers to the distinct qualities displayed by a teacher that are consistent from situation to situation regardless of the material being taught. Moreover, in this case, the teacher is being the main control in managing and conducting role in classroom and also providing whole materials which is needed in learning process. The teacher should be enrich their knowledge and smarter than their students.

The student-centered style is regarded as an effective and democratic way of improving students’ motivation, participation and final achievements in all kinds of learning processes. Therefore, the student-centered approach is praised in practice to address individual learners’ needs.

Choosing the approach which is appropriate in language learning, it depends on the situation, behavior, and goal which want be achieved so collaborating both of those approaches sometimes is needed. Moreover, it can help teacher to choose teaching style so that it is useful to deliver the materials.








Hart, I. (2003). The Outsider’s Gaze: A Learner-Centred Approach to Language-Teaching Materials. Educational Media International http://www. tandf.co.uk/journals.

Kain, D. J. (2003). Teacher-Centered versus Student-Centered: Constraint and Theory in the Composition Classroom. Pedagogy. 3(1), 104-108.

Zophy, J. W. (1982). On learner-centered teaching. The History Teacher. 15 (2), 185-195.


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