Teacher-Centered, Part 2 (M2M Vlog #3)

Because this one logs in at 15 minutes (!) and, in it, I live up to the Ol’ Ramblin’ Noble nickname (that’s just my steez for these videos – sleek professional efforts they ain’t), I’ve listened back and jotted down the bullet-pointed basics below for the 99% of you for whom yeah that’s just not happening.

Nothing earth-shattering here as usual, but if something, anything, sparks a thought in you please don’t be shy to share it in the comment section please!

Tweet-length summary: “student/teacher-centered” are catch-all terms that carry a lot of water but I think may do more harm than good in some ways if a (naive?) new teacher like me gets hung up on the simplistic dichotomy. 

What I talk about in the Vlog vid:

  • Before I get into the topic, I get a little emotional about the very recent passing of silent way teacher and #ELTchat regular Glenys Hanson.
  • The “student-centered” vs. “teacher-centered” dichotomy *looms large* as a fundamental sense-making concept especially for new teachers.
  • As expressed in Part 1, teacher-centeredness is a ‘bugaboo’ whereas student-centerness lies at the heart of what we think of when we think of good practice.
  • In some sense (this is the thought experiment, really), “I wish I’d never heart of student-centered vs. teacher-centered“.
  • Obviously this axiomatic dichotomy is natural, useful, and accurate intellectual frame for understanding the foregrounding of learner agency in
  • Sometimes it seems like a “brittle dichotomy” more than a “dialectical monism” (like the yin-yang) which expresses a “fruitful paradox”
  • But is it a “conceptual bull in a china shop” in that it might paper over some of the (manageable) complexity that lies beyond simplistic conception?
  • The ‘-center’ word here is a killer – it does nothing at all. It’s conceptually unproductive, or worse, carries quite unhelpful associations.
  • What’s the difference between starting from a more (so-called) teacher-centered approach that can grow towards the student-centered side vs. starting on the student-centered end and developing the teacher-centered side from there.
  • Part of me wished I’d actually been trained to be (effectively, skillfully) teacher-centered FIRST, and then learned to shirt towards a student-centered approach.
  • The terms ‘student-centered’ and ‘teacher-centered’ strike me personally as anachronistic and overbearing, so I haven’t been using them for a good while especially as a trainer.
  • I don’t say this, but I think that forgoing these particularly ‘umbrella terms’ can make room for more apt and specific descriptors of particular classroom dynamics, e.g. if the teacher is talking and the students are very passively listening, calling it that, looking at why, and then exploring at how the teacher could make their explanation more engaging (or scrap it all together for guided discovery, etc.) = much preferable to simply stamping it “teacher-centered” and kind of shutting down a more open-eyed examination. Words matter. The terms we use when inculcating newbies into a whole new field of thought and action REALLY matter.
  • Finally, a livetweet from Chris Mares’ IATEFL talk reminds me of one of the things I avoided (or felt guilty about when I didn’t) for far to long because of the “teacher-centered” idea being lodged too far up my brainstem: telling (and exploiting) stories and anecdotes in the classroom!

Other notes: Part of me is embarrassed by my lack of efficient eloquence here, and wants to mention being totally exhausted after a near-sleepless night and a long, hot, very busy day today // I never once seem to actually acknowledge the value of student-centeredness in the video, and it feels weird; I found myself wondering if I come across as some kind of backwards, devolved ELTer, knuckle-dragging into his ‘teacher-centered’ classrooms or worse, promoting ‘teacher-centeredness’ to trainees. Which is weird..I think that’s just how deep it goes, how truly ‘wrong’ it feels – while in reality I essentially aspire to be a Silent Way teacher like Glenys ;P // I kind of remember – or maybe I’m imagining but it feels true – that “it was really…teacher-centered” was kind of the worst feedback you could get on your CELTA teaching practice lesson // This relates to the surprisingly common experience of CELTA trainees hearing feedback to the tune of “maybe you should have explained that more” or similar – even towards the very end of the course – and saying something like “but I thought we weren’t supposed to ‘teach’?!”, having unfortunately conflated “student-centeredness” with complete and utter “non-teacherness” // There are plenty of ways for the teacher to be “centered” in some fashion in the class and for learners to be engaged, active, and learning…or for the teacher AND the learners to be at the “center” simultaneously…so, just more reasons why I don’t like the way this dichotomy solidifies things so much the way it tends to.


I think the image on the left should also be fit inside of the circle in the image on the right and/or you just smash the two images together, see where things fall, and maybe get a more realistic visual of an actual classroom.

*I couldn’t find an original source for the image above.




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