Student-centred advances

November 13, 2008

Although I would agree with much of Frank Furedi's article "Feeding a fine hunger" (30 October) in that good teaching is not a separate and distinct activity from the rest of academic work, I take issue with some of his assertions.

He claims that the current "obsession with student-centred teaching has two damaging consequences" that distract academics from pursuing the intellectual logic of their discipline with undergraduates. Furthermore, he states that this can lead to a culture of low expectations in students.

Those of us who believe in, and practise, a student-centred approach to learning would argue exactly the opposite. An inclusive pedagogic approach that considers the needs of diverse learners can enrich and enhance our own discipline knowledge in many ways.

It enables lecturers to "think aloud" around tricky discipline knowledge and concepts and to seek creative ways of presenting them. If Furedi adopted a co-learning approach in which he engaged his students in the research process, thereby modelling just how he does this himself, it is likely that he would help his students to "grasp the point of (his) discipline" while at the same time cultivating a regime of high, rather than low, expectations in the student body.

His criticism of groupwork - equating it to "circle time" in primary school and asserting that it "encourages participation without focus" - is prejudicial and offered without evidence. It makes the strongest case for an enlightened professional teacher-education for all teachers, particularly those who seem unaware of the progressive developments of recent years.

Cordelia Bryan, Higher education consultant.

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