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The teacher acts as a model of the educated person in instructor-centered teaching. He or she is regarded as the authoritative expert, the main source of knowledge, and the focal point of all activity. The student is the passive recipient of the information already acquired by the teacher. The teacher selects from the discipline the information to be taught, studied, and learned.
Student-centered teaching focuses on the student and, in particular, on the cognitive development of the student. The teacher's goal is to help students grasp the development of knowledge as a process rather than a product. The focus of classroom activities and assignments is on the student-centered process of inquiry itself, not on the products of inquiry. Students create their own conceptual or cognitive models. Content, teaching style, and methods are adapted to aid the cognitive and intellectual growth of students. Student-centered teaching combines an understanding of the way that humans process information with other factors that affect learning such as attitudes, values, beliefs, and motivation.
Although there are many ways to teach effectively, all require that the teacher have knowledge of three things: 1) the material being taught; 2) the best instructional strategies to teach the material (see Chapter 2); and 3) how students learn (discussed more fully in Chapter 3). New faculty members typically know far more about the content of their discipline than they do about instructional strategies, and therefore tend to use teaching styles similar to those used by their own teachers (Shulman, 1990). In most cases, they use elements of all three general teaching styles. As the teacher gains experience, his or her teaching style is likely to change.
What is the most effective way to teach students? The answer depends on what students are expected to learn. Students taught by lectures, instructor-centered presentations, and student-centered methods achieve similar results on tests that measure factual knowledge. However, student-centered discussions lead to better retention, better transfer of knowledge to other situations, better motivation for further learning, and better problem solving ability (McKeachie, 1994). Active participation by students helps them construct a better framework from which to generalize their knowledge.
Developing a Teaching Style
The first step in preparing to teach a particular course is to decide on a particular style of teaching that is compatible with and appropriate for your students and the goals of your course. It is likely that you will use a combination of the three teaching styles, depending on the circumstances of your course. While developing their own teaching style, science teachers must answer a fundamental question: Is the primary goal of my course for each student to gain specific information, or for each student to master how to organize and apply new information independently to new situations? The primary goal may not be the same for each student in a course, especially when the students come from diverse backgrounds (see Chapter 8). In courses that are the foundation for more advanced learning in a subject area, how should the