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10 Ideas for Making Your Teaching More Learner-Centered

  1. Explain why you are doing things

Share with learners why you are asking them to perform a task, attend a library session, etc. Empathize with why the learner might find something worthwhile (or not) and share your reasons for asking them to participate.

  1. Eliminate “should” and “ought” from your vocabulary

Appeal to individuals’ autonomy and intrinsic motivation by appealing to their interests, passions, and curiosity, instead of using more controlling language and behaviors. Try “have you thought about…” instead o “you should use…”

  1. Do less

People can only process a limited amount of information at once. Plan to include fewer learning outcomes in your session, and spend more time going into depth and providing active practice.

  1. Incorporate time for active practice

“Active learning” provides opportunities for learners to deeply engage with material, leading to increased likelihood of retaining information and using it in new context. Guided practice allows for you to give them meaningful feedback in real time.

  1. Reveal your own practice and processes

When discussing an assignment, talk about your own personal approach to it--share how you might choose a topic that’s interesting to you, acknowledge that there are multiple possibilities for solving any problem, and share your own bumps in the road.

  1. Show an interest in your learners as people

While it can be a challenge to build rapport with your learners in a short session or a reference desk interaction, doing something as small as asking how their day is going can help.

  1. Discuss process and failure as a normal part of conducting research

Normalizing that getting good at doing research doesn’t happen overnight and that even expert researchers (like librarians) can struggle in finding good information can help teach persistence.

  1. Praise the process, not only the results

Most people focus on the end product, which is of course important, but the journey to getting there is equally critical. Asking learners to reflect on their process and pointing out moments where they tried creative approaches can help promote long-term learning.

  1. Only use technology when it allows you to do something you couldn’t otherwise

Technology can be a distractor or an excellent teaching tool; it all depends on how you use it. Consider only using technological methods when they allow you to something different or better, not just because they are cool. 

  1. Be yourself

There’s no better way to build trust with your learners than to share some of yourself. If something feels inauthentic to you as a teacher, don’t do it!

Want to know more? 

Check out: Klipfel, K. M., & Cook, D. B. (2017). Learner-centered pedagogy: Principles and practice. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.


Dani Brecher Cook, ALA Midwinter 2018