Student-centered Learning (Part 1/5: New Paradigm in Language Teaching and 21st Century Skills)

Author: Made Hery Santosa

In the 21st century era where rapid developments take place in many sectors, including English education, meaningful engagement to recent changes in the language teaching paradigm and participation in the global roles are strongly encouraged. The purpose of education is to prepare the younger generation to be able to face and overcome challenges, and take a role in the global world. Various efforts have been made to reform the education system so that it is more focused on active involvement of students in building knowledge, attitudes and behavior, where teachers are shifted more into facilitators in the learning process (Santosa, 2019). This learning is no longer focused on teachers (teacher-centered learning) but becomes student-centered learning (student-centered learning).

Student-centered learning is not a new approach in the educational field in the world, but it relatively new in the Indonesian educational system. It is coined with the implementation of the 2013 curriculum earlier that attempts to provide students more opportunities and facilities to build their own knowledge so that they will gain a deep understanding which in turn can improve the quality of students. Through the application of student-centered learning, students are expected to participate actively, always be challenged to have critical power, be able to analyze and be able to solve their own problems (Zarouk et al., 2018).

Huba and Freed (2000) characterized teacher-centered paradigm and learner-centered paradigm as follows.

Table 1. Teacher-centered paradigm and learner-centered paradigm

Teacher-centered paradigmLearner-centered paradigm
Knowledge is transmitted from professor to studentsStudents construct knowledge through gathering and synthesizing information and integrating it with the general skills of inquiry, communication, critical thinking, problem solving and so on
Students passively receive informationStudents are actively involved
Emphasis is on acquisition of knowledge outside the context in which it will be usedEmphasis is on using and communicating knowledge effectively to address enduring and emerging issues and problems in real-life contexts
Teacher’s role us to be primary information giver and primary evaluator.Teacher’s role is to coach and facilitate Professor and students evaluate learning together
Teaching and assessing are separatedTeaching and assessing are intertwined
Assessment is used to monitor learningAssessment is used to promote and diagnose learning
Emphasis is on right answersEmphasis is on generating better questions and learning from errors.
Desired learning is assessed indirectly through the use of objectively scored testsDesired   learning    is   assessed   directly through papers, projects, performances, portfolios, and the like
Focus is on a single disciplineApproach        is        compatible         with interdisciplinary investigation
Culture is competitive and individualisticCulture is cooperative, collaborative, and supportive
Only students are viewed as learnersTeacher and students learn together

To assist you in understanding the concept deeper, please watch the video on Student-centered Learning below.

Student-centered learning also takes place beyond the classroom wall. Online learning has become a trend today as technologies and crisis develop. According to Stewart et al. (2012; Zucker & Fisch, 2019), online educators believe that three kinds of interactions must be fulfilled in the online learning environment, namely:

  1. Student-content interaction, where teachers provide meaningful and active learning activities for students. This normally consists of active learning experiences and reflections. In the online learning context, this interaction type provides learning experiences for students to show their mastery of the topic knowledge in virtual modes.
  2. Student-student interaction, where teachers structure the learning community as peers and collaborators. Students learn and support from each other when they interact. In the online learning environment, students are encouraged to experience online learning collaborative works in the live learning platforms.
  3. Student-instructor interaction, where teachers create a framework as they will interact with students during the learning activities. In the online learning process, teacher and students may interact in an e-learning platform for the teaching and learning process, like discussion, confirmations, and assessment. (I wrote a more detailed post on this topic here).

These three forms of interaction do not happen spontaneously. They require planning, intention, and instructional design. Furthermore, these three types of interaction are not  prescriptive, that is they do not require the use of a particular type of learning activity or assessment. Through these interactions, learning is directed to reach for broad goals that can be achieved in many ways. To conduct student-centered learning in the online learning context today does not actually need specific and expensive educational technological aids. Teachers can use tools they already have, which are mostly free or low cost. The emphasis is more put into how to use the tools to shift the learning to learner-centered fashion.

It is therefore encouraged in the teaching and learning practice to focus more on providing more learning opportunities to students to enable them to explore and grow their skills and abilities in the learning of the subject. A teacher must shift into a coach and facilitator and, at the same time, collaborate in learning and give students empowerment to be more ready to take a role in the global world.

Student-centered learning is relatively new in the Indonesian educational context. The purpose of the concept is to provide more spaces for the students to be more active, autonomous, and regulated in their own learning. Teachers are expected to draw back a little to be more facilitators of learning that learn together with the students. Contents can be elaborated and explored more by the students with the teacher’s guidance and students are expected to take charge more into acquisition of knowledge, application of it in the new context, and creation in different ways. These ways are believed to help the students best to participate in the global context.

Additional Materials

To enrich your understanding on the topic, please read the following materials.

  1. Hynes, M. (2018). Students-as-producers : Developing valuable student-centered research and learning opportunities. International Journal of Research Studies in Education, 7(4), 1–13.
  2. Rayens, W., & Ellis, A. (2018). Creating a student-centered learning environment online. Journal of Statistics Education, 26(2), 92–102.
  3. Student-centered Learning: Building Agency and Engagement:


Huba, M., & Freed, J. (2000). Learner-centered assessment on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning (8th ed.). Pearson.

Santosa, M. H. (2019). Introduction to Core Skills and its best practices in the Indonesian classrooms. In M. H. Santosa (Ed.), Penerapan Core Skills di kelas-kelas di Indonesia (1st ed., Vol. 1, pp. 07–23). Azizah Publishing.

Stewart, A. C., Houghton, S. M., & Rogers, P. R. (2012). Instructional design, active learning, and student performance: Using a trading room to teach strategy. Journal of Management Education, 36(6), 753–776.

Zarouk, M. Y., Restivo, F., & Khaldi, M. (2018). Student-centered learning environment for self-regulated project-based learning in higher education: A qualification/selection study. Learning through Inquiry in Higher Education: Current Research and Future Challenges (INHERE 2018), 2–15.

Zucker, L., & Fisch, A. (2019). Play and learning with KAHOOT!: Enhancing collaboration and engagement in Grades 9-16 through digital games. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 15(1).

Note: This section is Part 1 of 5 of New Paradigm in Language Teaching and 21st Century Skills writing series.

Click to read Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

Please cite this source accordingly using an appropriate reference system and manager.

©mhsantosa (2021)

6 thoughts on “Student-centered Learning (Part 1/5: New Paradigm in Language Teaching and 21st Century Skills)

  1. Kathrine Christy says:

    I think I’ve been incorporating more of a student-centered perspective in my teaching for awhile. One of the the things I do in class that came to mind when reading this is my method of giving students questions in-class to stimulate discussion. These pertain to whatever readings I assigned for them. Early on in teaching, I tried asking students questions and having them answer, but I noticed that students seemed reluctant or unable to answer questions off the cuff. I decided then to allow them time to write out their thoughts before we commenced with class discussion. This made a tremendous difference–students are far more capable of and willing to engage in class discussions if they have time to gather their thoughts beforehand. When I first figured out I had an issue with getting students to engage, I tried seeing things from their perspective–which was admittedly difficult to do (when I was a student, I was never unwilling to talk, and I always had something to say, so it took a moment to put myself in the headspace of someone who is less comfortable speaking extemporaneously). I think a more student-centered perspective really helped me make some headway in resolving this issue. My concern with my upcoming hybrid course is how to translate that kind of engagement to the online aspect (I was thinking of having Discussion Board activities for students to respond to after they look at my lectures). I’m trying to view the online aspect from a student-centered perspective–what they’ll find most helpful, be most engaged in, etc.

    1. Made Hery Santosa says:

      Thanks so much for sharing. That’s a very good strategy! Another good way to provide more opportunities to students to learn (y)

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