Teacher-Centered vs. Student-Centered Teaching: What Works Best in your Class?



Teacher-centered approach is a strategy wherein the teacher is in full control of the entirety of the lesson and classroom. In its simplest meaning, teacher talks and students listen. The teacher prepares the course outline, lesson plan, and instructional materials before he goes to class. While teaching, he delivers the lesson in his own method and assesses student performance through group or individual activities. Students work independently during or after the discussion. Typically, the classroom is quiet. Classroom management is easier since the learners are highly dependent on their teacher.

On the other hand, student-centered learning highlights more on the learners than the teacher. In this scenario, the teacher acts as a moderator. He discusses the lesson, the students interact, and the students answer questions based on the sets of information presented. We can see active learning happening in this approach. Most of the time, students work in pairs, groups, or individually according to the purpose of the activity. Also, student work is not limited to pen and paper activities. During assessments, the students evaluate their own learning with minimum support from the teacher.  We can see that the classroom here is often busy and noisy.

Teacher-Centered Strategy: Teacher talks, students listen
Student-Centered Strategy: Active learning is evident

Analysis in Language Teaching

The National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC) which is under the US Department of Education aims to improve learning and teaching foreign languages. According to NCLRC, the objective of teacher-centered strategy is for the teacher to focus on language forms and structures. Basically, it is about what the teacher knows about the language. Meanwhile, student-centered approach focuses on the use of language in everyday typical situations. It is about how the students will use the language.

Teacher and Student-Centered Teaching in Harmony: providing a list of vocabulary and allowing students to use them in everyday scenarios.

In Thailand, deciding between teacher-centered versus student-centered instruction has been a major debate for most teachers.  Choosing what is best for classroom learning is vital to maximize student learning. However, considering other factors in the teaching process enable educators to be more enlightened in their teaching methodologies. The overwhelming teacher-student ratio sets a major drawback in classroom management especially in elementary school education. Add to that the lack of teaching assistants to support the actualization of the lesson in the classroom. Also, the limited preparation time for some teachers hinders them to plan effective instructional materials and assessment procedures. As a result, the teacher experiences a dilemma in the entire teaching process. In some cases, active learning is compromised and classroom management consumes most of the lesson delivery.

Nevertheless, effective teaching employs both teacher and student-centered strategies depending on the nature of your class. First, understanding the nature of your students as a whole is the basic foundation in language teaching. Second, providing extrinsic motivation and letting students realize the reward of learning English invites more efficiency in the learning process. Third, with a mix and match of the two strategies, the idea of modified instruction comes in. Since students learn differently, they can be grouped according to learning style.

Student of the month
Student of the month as a form of extrinsic motivation


So how are you as a teacher so far? What are your effective teaching strategies? How does your class look like? With these given questions, we can evaluate more on our teaching practices. In our world as educators, the art of teaching employs different strategies that sprout from various theories. What matters most is how they positively impact learners.

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