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Learner-Centered Campus

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The Learner-Centered Campus In 1995 an article by Robert Barr and John Tagg (“From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education”) noted that many institutions of higher education focus their attention much more on instruction and the bureaucratic needs of the institution than on student learning. Barr and Tagg, however, advocated a shift to a new paradigm, which they dubbed “learner centered.” Since 1995, many other voices have been added to the call for a transformative change in higher education, including Penn State emeritus professor of teaching and learning Maryellen Weimer, in LearnerCentered Teaching: 5 Key Changes to Practice,(2002), consultant and educator, L. Dee Fink in Creating Significant Learning Experiences (2003), former Harvard President Derek Bok in Our Underachieving Universities (2006), and professor at the University of the Sciences Phyllis Blumberg in Developing Learner-Centered Teaching: A Practical Guide for Faculty (2008). Today nearly everyone in higher education is familiar with the idea of learner-centered instruction. In a recent article in New Directions for Teaching and Learning, however, Tagg notes that few institutions have actually made the shift from an instruction-centered to a learner-centered paradigm. He makes a distinction between espoused theories (what people say they believe) and theories-in-use (what actually governs people’s behavior) and says that “The learning paradigm is very close to the espoused theories of most educators—we see it reflected in presidential addresses and college catalogues. But the instruction paradigm is much closer to the theory-in-use of most colleges.” Why? Because most institutions hold this truth to be self-evident—that “the curriculum is what teachers cover.” Because of that fundamental belief (which Tagg calls a “governing value”), when the outcome is undesirable (“poor retention of learning, poor transfer of skills from course to course”), the solution is to tinker with the curriculum by changing content and increasing “bureaucratic oversight.”


Tagg proposes a different conception of the curriculum. If we define the curriculum as what students learn rather than as what teachers cover, then curriculum development will necessarily focus not on content but on “learning objectives and assessment.” When this happens, colleges become institutions that produce learning rather than institutions that provide instruction. Tagg goes on to note that the major barrier to implementing this kind of institutional change is “the dearth

of information on most campuses about either teaching or learning.” He says that while most institutions know how many students they have, what courses they are taking, and their grades, “no one can tell us whether those same students have worked collaboratively with other students, what kinds of assignments they have done, what kind of tests they have taken, how many books they have read, and what they have learned in the course of their studies.” Without the ability to assess student learning directly, institutions cannot make “transformative rather than cosmetic change.” Because of a variety of pressures from external agencies, such as regional accrediting bodies, institutions have become adept at assessing for accountability. Most do not assess for improvement, however, and it is that kind of assessment that will lead to transformative change. It is important to note that Tagg does not advocate abandoning accountability. In fact, he emphasizes that “the process of assessment for improvement can, if properly structured, satisfy the call for accountability.” Tagg adds that assessment for improvement is greatly assisted by advances in technology. “Digital portfolios allow institutions to preserve the products of student learning, and if linked to a systematic set of learning outcomes and rubrics such portfolios and outcome ‘transcripts,’ can provide an alternative to the lists of courses that pass for a curriculum at most institutions.” He concludes that today is a “teachable moment” for colleges and universities. Not only do we have technology that can help us measure learning, current research on how students learn underscores the importance of learner-centered, active strategies. While many educators have in fact changed how they teach, the time is now, Tagg suggests, for institutions to change how they think about their very raison d’etre. BGSU’s Center for Teaching and Learning daily rises to Tagg’s challenge. We are always ready to collaborate with faculty and administrators to bring learner-centered strategies to the fore and, through workshops and consultations, are always ready to advance the adoption of learner-centered strategies at BGSU. Tagg, John. “The Learning Paradigm Campus: From Single- to Double-Loop Learning, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 123, Fall 2010, 51-61.

Did You Know




The Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research (I/NCEPR) is an organization that brings together individuals from college campuses throughout the United States and around the world to study how electronic portfolios affect student learning and achievement of learning outcomes. Each year from ten to twelve institutions are chosen by I/ NCEPR to form a three-year cohort. This year, Cohort VI will examine the relationship between eportfolios and assessment. Bowling Green State University, which was a member of I/NCEPR’s first cohort, has joined Cohort VI. Other participating institutions are Curtin University of Technology (Australia), Goshen College, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Lamar University, Northeastern University, Portland State University, University of Georgia, University of Michigan, University of Mississippi, Virginia Military Institute, and Westminster College. BGSU representatives to the cohort are Cathi Cardwell, Bonnie Fink, Steve Langendorfer, Susan Kleine, Bill Knight, and Karen Meyers. While each campus will work on an individual project, members of the cohort serve as resources, “critical friends,” and sounding boards to help to advance the research. The overarching theme for Cohort VI is assessment, and each of the research projects will attempt to answer basic questions about using eportfolios for the purpose of evaluating learning. The BGSU research team is still fine tuning its research question, but in general terms the members have agreed to look at the relationship between the quantity and quality of reflections and the extent of student “ownership” of the portfolio. They also plan to look at a number of student and environmental characteristics that may influence how much and how well students reflect on their learning.

Peter Facione author, speaker, consultant Dr. Peter (Pete) Facione will be the keynote speaker at the BGSU Teaching and Learning Fair on February 11, 2011. He is internationally known for his work on the definition of critical thinking and the measurement of its core skills and habits of mind. He was the lead investigator on an international research project that articulated a cross-disciplinary expert consensus regarding the skills and habits of mind that constitute collegelevel critical thinking. That research, which was sponsored by the American Philosophical Association, has formed the basis for numerous academic replication studies and government policy studies about critical thinking in the workplace, including research sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Facione maintains an active speaking, writing, consulting and research agenda, with well over 150 publications including essays, books, articles, case studies, and educational testing tools. His tools for assessing reasoning are used around the world. These include the California Critical Thinking Skills Test, the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory, the Health Sciences Reasoning Test, the Business Critical Thinking Skills Test, the California Measure of Mental Motivation, the Legal Studies Reasoning Profile, the Military & Defense Critical Thinking Inventory, the Professional Judgment Rating Form, and the Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric. Facione is a principal at Measured Reasons LLC (www., a research and consulting firm supporting excellence in academic leadership. He is a Managing Partner of the California Academic Press, and a Strategic Consultant with Stratus-Heery International. He served as Provost of Loyola University, Chicago, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Santa Clara University, and Dean of the School of Human Development and Community Service at California State, Fullerton. Facione was a faculty member in the BGSU philosophy department in the 1970s. His new textbook, THINK Critically, is being used in the University Seminar, BGSU 1000, this year. With Noreen Facione he coauthored Thinking and Reasoning in Human Decision Making.

HOT 5 (click on link to visit site) 1 2 3




EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative

Teaching Materials cases/ tid/33152 html

Tips on how to develop and use new media to foster student learning

The advancement of higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology

Information from the Office of Education Development at Berkley University

Media Education Foundation


Deakin Studies Online

Production and distribution of documentary films and other educational resources

A global news source covering educational, political, business, and environmental issues

Discussions and Workshops Strategies for Teaching and Learning Socratic Circles

Using e-Portfolios to Foster Intentional Learning

Facilitator: Karen Meyers

Facilitator: Karen Meyers

Thursday, December 2, 9:30am-10:30am Wednesday, February 16, 2:00pm-3:00pm Monday, March 21, 9:30am-10:30am Thursday, April 14, 11:00am-12:00pm

Friday, December 3, 10:30am-11:30am Thursday, February 10, 1:00pm-2:00pm Tuesday, March 29, 9:00am-10:00am Thursday, April 21, 3:30pm-4:30pm The Ethics of Teaching

Deep Learning: Can You Make It Happen? Facilitator: Karen Meyers

Facilitator: Karen Meyers

Tuesday, February 22, 12:30pm-2:00pm Thursday, March 3, 9:00am-10:30am Monday, April 4, 2:00pm-3:30pm

Thursday, February 3, 10:30am-11:30am Wednesday, March 16, 1:00pm-2:00pm Tuesday, April 19, 2:30pm-3:30pm Championship Teaching: Lessons From Lemov

Active Learning and Problem-based Learning Strategies

Facilitator: Karen Meyers

Facilitator: Bonnie Fink

Monday, February 7, 9:30am-10:30am Thursday, March 24, 3:00pm-4:00pm Wednesday, April 13, 1:00pm-2:00pm

Tuesday, February 8, 1:00pm-2:00pm Wednesday, March 16, 9:30am-10:30am Friday, April 22, 11:00am-12:00pm Researching for Literature Review Facilitator: Amy Fyn

Tuesday, November 30, 4:30pm-6:00pm

Technology to Support Student Learning RefWorks: Bibliographic Management Software Facilitators: Linda Rich and Ed Weilant

Friday, January 14, 3:30pm-4:45pm Friday, January 21, 1:30pm-2:45pm Friday, January 28, 10:30am-11:45am Friday, February 11, 1:30pm-2:45pm Friday, February 18, 10:30am-11:45am

For more information on our workshops or to register, contact the Center at:, 419.372.6898, or


This newsletter is a publication of the Center for Teaching and Learning. Visit us online at or in 201 University Hall.


eaching earning

Fall 2010 Newsletter #2  

This is the second of two newsletters published by the Center for Teaching and Learning during Fall 2010. It's main articles include: Learne...

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