An interpretive study of student-centred learning through constructivist, humanist and socio-cultural lenses

Tangney, Susan Jean (2012). An interpretive study of student-centred learning through constructivist, humanist and socio-cultural lenses. EdD thesis The Open University.



The notion of student-centred learning is ubiquitous in the pedagogic literature, in learning and teaching statements of universities, and within course documentation. However it is not often defined, and an informal investigation of university staff revealed a variety of conflicting Interpretations. This ambiguity Is problematic for academic developers, and so warranted further Investigation through literature review and interviews with academic staff from the researcher's university.

The literature review revealed diversity in understanding, and on examination, ideas were underpinned by a range of perspectives on learning per se. Three different perspectives, namely constructivism, humanism and socio-culturalism were examined for their respective alignment and value in thinking about student-centred learning. Many interpretations were within a constructivist framework, others more aligned with humanist or socio-cultural perspectives. The term student-centred learning was also used in association with contemporary ideas such as employability, widening participation and social justice.

A constructivist grounded approach was used to collect data through interviews with lecturers teaching in art and design, and transcripts considered from the three perspectives above. It is argued in the findings that although constructivist interpretations of student-centred learning dominate the literature, other perspectives are also evident in the conceptions and practice of the group interviewed, and incorporation of these offered a more appropriate approach to contemporary issues in higher education, especially in building a partnership approach between lecturers and students. It is suggested that technicist approaches, though often based within constructivism, may have caused the proliferation of a 'slogan' approach to the student-centred learning discourse.

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