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The Democratic Classroom: Sharing Power to Improve Learning and Educate Citizens
Unformatted Document Text:  Democratic Classroom 7 guarantee such an outcome; “it is [instead] to make the achievement of the outcome the criterion by which one measures ones efforts” (1998, p. 699). In defining learning-centered teaching as a paradigm shift, Barr and Tagg desire a wholesale change in higher education. Such a shift involves many moving parts (assessment, curriculum reform, student support services, etc.) out of the control of the individual faculty member by him or herself. Their advice to individual faculty member is to do “whatever works.” The Learning Paradigm “supports any learning method that “works”, where “works” is defined in terms of learning outcomes, not as the degree of conformity to an ideal classroom archetype” (Barr and Tagg, 1998, p. 704). For more specific advice on how instructors can take a learner-centered approach in the classroom, it is necessary to turn to Maryellen Weimer’s Learner-Centered Teaching. Just as higher education as an institution has to undergo a revolutionary shift from teaching to learning, so must the individual faculty member. Weimer eloquently describes the change in her thinking that led her to take a more learner-centered approach to course content: College should be the time when and the place where students develop their prowess as learners. … I came to accept that one of my tasks as a teacher was developing lifelong learning skills and the confidence to use them. … Having accepted this goal, I saw course content in a whole new light. It moved from being the end to being the means. It went from something I covered to something I used to develop learning skills and an awareness of learning processes (Weimer, 2002, p.5). I highlight the change in Weimer’s view of content because the professional identity of most faculty is so closely tied to the role of disciplinary expert that it seems heresy to reduce content to a means to an end. The first step, therefore, is to get faculty focused on shifting the “balance

Authors: Price, Christopher.
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Democratic Classroom 7
guarantee such an outcome; “it is [instead] to make the achievement of the outcome the criterion
by which one measures ones efforts” (1998, p. 699).
In defining learning-centered teaching as a paradigm shift, Barr and Tagg desire a
wholesale change in higher education. Such a shift involves many moving parts (assessment,
curriculum reform, student support services, etc.) out of the control of the individual faculty
member by him or herself. Their advice to individual faculty member is to do “whatever
works.” The Learning Paradigm “supports any learning method that “works”, where “works” is
defined in terms of learning outcomes, not as the degree of conformity to an ideal classroom
archetype” (Barr and Tagg, 1998, p. 704). For more specific advice on how instructors can take
a learner-centered approach in the classroom, it is necessary to turn to Maryellen Weimer’s
Learner-Centered Teaching.
Just as higher education as an institution has to undergo a revolutionary shift from
teaching to learning, so must the individual faculty member. Weimer eloquently describes the
change in her thinking that led her to take a more learner-centered approach to course content:
College should be the time when and the place where students develop their prowess as
learners. … I came to accept that one of my tasks as a teacher was developing lifelong
learning skills and the confidence to use them. … Having accepted this goal, I saw course
content in a whole new light. It moved from being the end to being the means. It went
from something I covered to something I used to develop learning skills and an
awareness of learning processes (Weimer, 2002, p.5).
I highlight the change in Weimer’s view of content because the professional identity of most
faculty is so closely tied to the role of disciplinary expert that it seems heresy to reduce content
to a means to an end. The first step, therefore, is to get faculty focused on shifting the “balance


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