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For far too long, education has focused on teachers and instructors. The time has come to shift the focus to learners. 

At least, that’s what the advocates of learner-centered teaching believe.

So, should your organization implement a learner-centered training approach?

In this guide, we’ll look at why that might just be a really good idea. 

Time to get on with it and:

  • Define what student-centered education is
  • See why it matters 
  • Go over ways to establish a student-centered training process in your organization 


What is learner-centered education?

Learner-centered education focuses on the learners’ needs. This learning approach emphasizes the importance of student engagement.  

Now, let’s drill down a little deeper. Stick with us.

Unlike traditional teaching methods and pedagogy, based on the behaviorist idea of students being blank slates, student-centered learning has constructivist learning theory as its base.

This means that it acknowledges the fact that students bring their own knowledge, past experiences, and education into a learning environment. This significantly impacts how they process new information and engage with the material. 

So, in a learner-centered classroom, instructors take on the role of a facilitator, instead of a single source of authority. Student-centered learning gives individual learners a lot of autonomy over the outcome of the learning process. Essentially, it gives learners the reins.

A common approach is to offer a variety of learning paths. This lets the students direct their own learning while promoting and demanding the development of critical thinking, problem-solving, and active learning skills. It’s an especially effective way to deliver corporate training and adapts well to in-person, blended, and online learning programs.

Dr. Maryelllen Weimer, professor emeritus of teaching and learning at Penn State Berks, outlines the five characteristics of learner-centered education:

  1. Engaging students directly in the learner process 
  2. Providing explicit skill instruction
  3. Encouraging learners to reflect on what and how they learn
  4. Motivating students by giving them autonomy over their learning 
  5. Encouraging collaboration between instructors and students and peer learning

All that sounds great, but why should it matter to you? We’ll answer that in the next section.


Why does learner-centered education matter?

In most industries and businesses, the work environment has changed dramatically in the last few decades. 

Now more than ever, businesses value communication, collaboration, and information.

To keep a competitive edge, organizations need to continuously hone and develop employees’ skills. This is achieved by fostering a learning culture

Student-centered education fits better with this idea than traditional learning strategies that revolve around learners passively absorbing material through lectures. (We’ve all yawned our way through three-day training sessions where the instructor talks at us.)

When you make learner-centered education a part of your professional development strategy, you give your employees the skills they need to succeed in today’s business environment. 

All of this fits very well with adult learning theory too. Adult learners need autonomy, and they need to connect what they’re learning to real-world situations. 

Communication and presentation skills, get a boost from learner-centered education because there’s a lot of group work and interactive learning activities. 

Through these types of learner-centric activities, you give employees the opportunity to engage with different viewpoints and learn how to function well in diverse environments. 

Arguably the biggest benefit of this learning approach is engagement. As we know from learning experience design, engagement is key if you want to achieve learning objectives. 

People are more engaged when they get to actively participate in learning activities and when they’re involved in decision-making. 

Up next, we’ll look at ways to establish a learner-centered approach in your organization.  


Five ways to establish a learner-centered approach in your organization

We have some good news for you. You don’t have to overhaul your learning and development strategy to implement learner-centered training. 

All you have to do is put the learner first. 

How do you do that? Here are five simple ways. 


Way #1: Encourage partner training

For any learning approach to work, you have to bring in all the stakeholders. So, don’t forget your partners. Your resellers, distributors, and other partnerships should be part of any learning strategy you’re implementing. 

What we’re saying is, don’t neglect partner training

In fact, you can enhance partner training by applying student-centered learning. 

The main objective of partner training is that participants remember and use the knowledge when selling your product. So, it makes sense to put partners at the center of your training strategy. 

As partners are often the face of your brand, keeping them engaged and helping them retain product knowledge is a priority.

Partner training can be tricky for L&D teams to manage, especially if your organization has partners in different locations or time zones. Fortunately, a corporate Learning Management System (LMS) enables you to deliver effective partner training to a wide audience. L&D teams can automate labor-intensive training management tasks and combine training materials into personalized learning paths.


Way #2: Promote social learning

There’s a reason why every superhero has a trusty sidekick. Some things are just better shared with your peers. Learning included. 

Have you heard of the 70:20:10 Model? It suggests that 20% of the information we learn happens socially. In other words, by interacting, observing, and debating with our peers. While the learning theory has faced some criticism, most L&D professionals harness the power of social learning.

Most people love talking about what they’ve just heard and learned with others, and the odds are your employees will do too.

Giving learners a chance to voice their viewpoints and learn from their peers enhances the learner experience.  Plus, it boosts learning retention, so it’s a win-win.  

If you’re doing most of your training online through an LMS, you can use the discussion, forum, or chat features to encourage learners to interact with each other.  Employees can discuss training topics, share useful resources, and ask in-company experts questions about the material.


Way #3: Use gamification tactics

You heard it here first, learning can be fun. And gamification is proof. Most good LMSs have tons of gamification features to add a splash of fun to training. 

If you haven’t heard of gamification before, it’s the same features you can find in most video games:

  • High scores
  • Achievements
  • Badges
  • Leaderboards
  • Leveling up, etc. 

These features make learning more engaging and foster a healthy sense of competition in group settings. 

For example, learners can win points for correctly answering quiz questions or earn a badge for completing learning paths. 

In the spirit of learner-centered education, you can even let your students pick how they earn awards. For instance, they can earn a badge by completing a certain number of training courses of their choice.

Adding gamification to your training programs makes learning fun and more engaging, improving the overall effectiveness of training.


Way #4: Use real-life scenarios

The theory has its place, but nothing beats real-life scenarios to make learning engaging and put learners in the driving seat. 

Adult learners like to know how what they are learning relates to their lives and their jobs. So give them hands-on experiences such as product demos (if you’re doing product training) or role-playing. 

You should base role-play on actual job-related scenarios. That way, learners feel like they’re solving real problems and acquiring relevant skills they can use immediately. 

Role-playing exercises work especially well for customer and sales training. It allows employees to build confidence in a safe environment (without scuppering real-life client relations). Whether you go for in-person role-plays or online simulations, it’s a great way to give learners control.


Way #5: Brainstorm

There’s nothing like a good brainstorming session to engage and delight. 

Brainstorming works well in tandem with using real-life examples in your training. Have learners brainstorm ideas to solve a challenging problem. 

If you’re assigning group projects as a part of training, instruct your learners to have brainstorming sessions too. 

What’s great about brainstorming is that it’s not a complicated or high-tech learning method. You just need to assign a topic and let your learners talk about what they know. 

You can fill in the gaps, and it’s a great way to get a feel for the knowledge level of your group.

Keep reading for a  recap of the most important bits about learner-centered learning. 


Now over to you

Learner-centered education is a learner-first approach to training. It puts the focus on the learner, making training more engaging, personalized, and effective. 

This learning and development strategy meets the demands of modern business environments and promotes lifelong learning. 

If you’d like to know more about how different ways of learning benefit organizations, head on over to our glossary.