McCombs & Whisler (1997) present the following
working definition of learner centered:
The perspective that couples a focus on individual learners (their
heredity, experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, talents, interests,
capacities, and needs) with a focus on learning (the best available
knowledge about learning and how it occurs and about teaching practices
that are most effective in promoting the highest levels of motivation,
learning, and achievement for all learners).
This dual focus then informs and drives educational decision making. The
learner-centered perspective is a reflection of the twelve learner-centered psychological principles1 in the programs,
practices, policies, and people that support learning for all.
The predominant approaches to education consider the learner and learning
primarily from the educator's point of view. It is the educator who decides
what is necessary, from the outside and for the
learner. Thus, the educators define for students the
characteristics of standards, instruction, curriculum, assessment,
institutional management, and environmental support. The assumption here is
that educators need to do things to and for the
learner, primarily by fashioning conditions outside the
A set of alternative approaches look with the learner at what
learning means and how to enhance it from within. The
learner's unique characteristics (perspectives, talents, etc.) are primary
in the creation and implementation of educational frameworks and standards.
The assumption here is that educators need to understand the learner's
reality and to support the learning needs and capabilities of the
In a traditional institutional setting, educators may find that they are
overwhelmed by the prospect of addressing each individual learner's
characteristics. Work in Learner-Centered
Technology (LCT) provides the means to exploit technology in support
of the integration of a learner-centered approach into the institutional
education setting. The objectives are to maximize high standards of
learning, motivation, and achievement for all learners--including both
students and their teachers--using pragmatic solutions.
principles mentioned refer to fundamental principles about learners and learning laid out in
Learner-Centered Psychological Principles: Guidelines for School
Redesign and Reform, which resulted from an American Psychological
Association (APA) special Presidential Task Force on Psychology in
Education. This has since been revised and made available on the web
(Board of Educational Affairs, 1997).
McCombs, B. L., & Whisler, J. S. (1997).
learner-centered classroom and school: Strategies for increasing
student motivation and achievement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Presidential Task Force on Psychology in Education, American Psychological
Association (1993, January). Learner-centered psychological principles:
Guidelines for school redesign and reform. Washington, DC: American
Psychological Association/Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory.
Board of Educational Affairs, American Psychological Association (1997,
November). Learner-Centered Psychological Principles: A Framework for
School Redesign and Reform. Washington, DC: American Psychological
Association. (1998, August 31).