The empty centre: power / knowledge, releationships and the myth of ' student centred teaching' in teacher education
Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
The notion of ‘student centred learning’ is a popular and influential one in education at all levels. Questions of exactly how this may be defined, and what it would look like in practice are, however, much more difficult to address. During second semester 1998, I was involved in teaching a Masters level unit on teacher action research to a group of middle school teachers. I placed a high value on the knowledge, values and experience of these students, and attempted to allow them considerable freedom to construct their own learning activities and assessment procedures. Some students accepted the offered challenges, and after some initial disorientation were able to construct powerful and valuable educative programs for themselves. Others, however, felt threatened by the perceived lack of structure and direction in the course, and felt that their time was being wasted. This paper explores my own experiences and ethical/theoretical commitments through discussion of contemporary reflective texts and narratives. It also addresses some of the complex meanings that may be ascribed to the phrase ‘student centred teaching’, and suggests that a teacher’s withdrawal from an intensive, controlling classroom role must be negotiated with students in ways that avoid the creation of an ‘empty centre’.