Countless studies have found that “student-centered” instruction can be much more effective than ones that are commonly considered “teacher-centered” (see The Best Research Demonstrating That Lectures Are Not The Best Instructional Strategy and The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching).
Of course, that doesn’t mean that we teachers are not supposed to stand there like “potted plants” and just let students do whatever they want. Critics of active learning sometimes try to paint this kind of constructivist instruction in that way, but they are just using the “straw man” fallacy . I’ve discussed this point at Is This The Most Important Research Study Of 2012? Maybe.
Really, as the saying goes, we need to be “guides on the side.”
A new meta-analysis reached the same conclusions, with one interesting twist.
The study is called Twenty‐first century adaptive teaching and individualized learning operationalized as specific blends of student‐centered instructional events: A systematic review and meta‐analysis – whew, that’s a mouthful!
It find that teachers do, indeed, need to act as guides for effective student-centered instructions (they give examples like cooperative learning and peer‐tutoring).
Interestingly, though, they found that “excessive student control over pacing appears to inhibit [learning].”
Even though I hadn’t thought about it before, that makes sense to me. I try to provide a lot of student choice and autonomy in classrooms. However, nine times out of ten, students want to move things at a slower pace than I think is appropriate, even though they almost always complete it in the shorter time I give to them. I guess it might be a version of Parkinson’s Law.