Comparative perspectives of learner-centered pedagogy

Year: 2018

Author: Thomas, Matthew A.M., Schweisfurth, Michele

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper introduces the symposium by broadly discussing the notion of pedagogy. We begin by exploring the inherent connections between epistemology and pedagogy, and the ways in which epistemological stances necessarily influence beliefs about pedagogical approaches (Vavrus & Bartlett, 2012), including which are deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We examine one ‘good’ pedagogical approach that has gained significant interest within the educational development and comparative education communities: learner-centered pedagogy (LCP). The paper places this pedagogy in historical context by exploring its theoretical evolution, including the development of related concepts such as progressivism, constructivism, experiential learning, inquiry-based learning, etc. LCP is often contrasted simplistically with teacher-centered pedagogy, so we continue this discussion by critiquing both the assumed binary of these pedagogies (Schweisfurth, 2013) as well as the ways in which instructional methods—such as placing students in groups—are sometimes perceived to be indicators of LCP and its attendant assumptions (Brodie, Lelliott, Davis, 2002; du Plessis & Muzaffar, 2010). We then examine comparative appearances of LCP in educational policies, international development programs, and teacher education curricula (Vavrus, Thomas, & Bartlett, 2011) before drawing on data from a case study in Tanzania to discuss the application of LCP in a specific context. We conclude by raising critical questions about the continued promotion of LCP around the world as well as the roles of educational scholars, practitioners, and policymakers in advancing particular pedagogies that are considered ‘good’ by those who have the power to promote them (Thomas & Vavrus, 2018).
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Thomas, M.A.M., & Vavrus, F. (2018). The (postcolonial) Pluto problem: Reflexivities of discomfort in teacher professional development. Manuscript submitted for publication.
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