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The Democratic Classroom: Sharing Power to Improve Learning and Educate Citizens
Unformatted Document Text:  Democratic Classroom 6 Power and Learner-Centered Teaching Learner-centered teaching is grounded in the constructivist theory of learning, which posits that students only learn when they actively assimilate and accommodate what they are taught rather than when they passively and neutrally receive information (cf. Prawat & Floden, 1994). Constructivism is the guiding assumption of the seminal article advocating the “Learning Paradigm” by Barr and Tagg (1998). In “From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Higher Education”, Barr and Tagg dismiss the “Instruction Paradigm” as a confusion of means and ends – if good teaching occurs, it is assumed that students learn. Under the Learning Paradigm, the end (learning) governs the means (teaching). Barr and Tagg recognize that such a paradigm shift raises the bar for colleges and universities since they can no longer take for granted that students are learning based solely on the existence of quality teaching. At the same time, there is a shift of responsibility for learning from the student to both the teacher and the student. As Barr and Tagg put it: The Learning Paradigm shifts what the institution takes responsibility for: from quality instruction (lecturing, talking) to student learning. Students, the co-producers of learning, can and must, of course, take responsibility for their own learning. Hence, responsibility is a win-win game wherein two agents take responsibility for the same outcome even though neither is in complete control of all variables (1998, p. 699). It is evident that the Learning Centered paradigm empowers students since they are no longer considered passive subjects of the educational enterprise. This shift of power has also caused some to resist the notion that teachers should be responsible for an outcome that ultimately takes place within the student. Barr and Tagg anticipate and counter this argument through emphasizing that to be responsible for this outcome does not mean that teachers can always

Authors: Price, Christopher.
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Democratic Classroom 6
Power and Learner-Centered Teaching
Learner-centered teaching is grounded in the constructivist theory of learning, which
posits that students only learn when they actively assimilate and accommodate what they are
taught rather than when they passively and neutrally receive information (cf. Prawat & Floden,
1994). Constructivism is the guiding assumption of the seminal article advocating the “Learning
Paradigm” by Barr and Tagg (1998). In “From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for
Higher Education”, Barr and Tagg dismiss the “Instruction Paradigm” as a confusion of means
and ends – if good teaching occurs, it is assumed that students learn. Under the Learning
Paradigm, the end (learning) governs the means (teaching). Barr and Tagg recognize that such a
paradigm shift raises the bar for colleges and universities since they can no longer take for
granted that students are learning based solely on the existence of quality teaching. At the same
time, there is a shift of responsibility for learning from the student to both the teacher and the
student. As Barr and Tagg put it:
The Learning Paradigm shifts what the institution takes responsibility for: from quality
instruction (lecturing, talking) to student learning. Students, the co-producers of learning,
can and must, of course, take responsibility for their own learning. Hence, responsibility
is a win-win game wherein two agents take responsibility for the same outcome even
though neither is in complete control of all variables (1998, p. 699).
It is evident that the Learning Centered paradigm empowers students since they are no longer
considered passive subjects of the educational enterprise. This shift of power has also caused
some to resist the notion that teachers should be responsible for an outcome that ultimately takes
place within the student. Barr and Tagg anticipate and counter this argument through
emphasizing that to be responsible for this outcome does not mean that teachers can always


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