Exploring students' beliefs about teaching and learning in relation to their perceptions of student-centered learning environments
Lee, Sang Joon
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Student-centered learning environments place students in the center of the learning process, requiring their active participation in knowledge construction. Considering that most students have experienced teacher-directed instruction for much of their education, student-centered learning environments require significant changes in students' notions of teaching and learning and in their expectations of their classroom role. Due to significant difference between student-centered learning environments and teacher-directed classrooms, students may feel uncomfortable and find themselves ill-prepared to learn in the new environments. This case study explored students' beliefs about teaching and learning and how their beliefs influenced their experiences in a student-centered learning environment in a graduate program. This study also examined whether students' beliefs and perceptions changed throughout the study as a result of their experiences in the learning environment. This study was conducted in the Studio courses in the Instructional Design and Development program. The Studio, employing a constructivist, student-centered learning environment, consists of a sequence of three required courses that focuses on educational multimedia design and development tools for students in the master's program. Eleven graduate students were selected from among the three Studio courses in this qualitative case study. Data were collected using in-depth interviews, students' personal documents, and classroom observations during a 16-week semester. The findings indicated that students' background knowledge and skills, as well as their beliefs about teaching and learning, were important in determining their readiness for the Studio. Readiness for the courses influenced students' perceptions of and reactions to the learning environment. The findings of this study also indicated that the student-centered learning approach was worthwhile in that students were able to be exposed to a different approach to teaching and learning, and thus, become more flexible and adaptive to new ways of teaching and learning. This study showed that successful implementation of a student-centered learning environment depends on how and when support and guidance is provided for student learning. Therefore, this study suggests that teachers and educational practitioners should acknowledge students' individual differences, provide personal support and guidance, use technology to leverage student learning, and encourage students to become self-directed learners.
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