The European University Association (EUA) observes a new momentum in the transition from teaching to learning, also referred to as student-centered learning.
This paradigm shift “stipulates that education provision and all its aspects are defined by the intended learning outcomes and most suitable learning process, instead of the student’s learning being determined by the education provided” (EUA Report 2019).
In this context, the students’ role in creating the learning process distinguishes between teacher-centered and student-centered learning approaches.
I. Column: Project-based learning (PrBL)
The PrBL approach enables students to actively explore real-world problems. In a curriculum built around project work, faculty guides rather than directs students; ultimately, they take responsibility for their own learning by tackling tangible problems.
Jacobs University’s UG curriculum aims with its Community Impact Project (CIP) to actively engage with the University’s “Third Mission” or “Capacity Building. This mandatory module provides an ideal space for student-centered research projects, based on PrBL approaches.
II. Column: Team-based learning (TBL)
TBL is a collaborative learning and teaching strategy designed around units of instruction, best described as a version of flipped classroom approaches. It is a structured form of small-group learning that emphasizes student preparation out of class and application of knowledge in class. Students are organized strategically into diverse teams of around 5-7 students that work together throughout the class.
Team-based learning was coined by Larry Michaelsen in the 1970s at the University of Oklahoma and is widely used, in particular in Anglo-Saxon medical education. The TBL pedagogy is mainly fostered by the organization: “Team-Based Learning Collaborative”.
Four principles of Team-Based Learning (Michaelsen & Richards 2005) are:
- Groups should be properly formed (e.g. intellectual talent should be equally distributed among the groups). These teams are fixed for the whole course.
- Students are accountable for their pre-learning and for working in teams.
- Team assignments must promote both learning and team development.
- Students must receive frequent and immediate feedback.
III. Column: Problem-based learning (PBL)
PBL’s influence can be traced back to McMaster University’s Medical School in the 1960s.
Maastricht University has adopted PBL as the core of its teaching pedagogy ever since the university was founded. UM students team up with ten to fifteen fellows to tackle real-life challenges and actively engage with the subject matter, under the supervision of a tutor.
Cornell University describes PBL as an instructional method of hands-on, active learning centered on the investigation and resolution of messy, real-world problems. Rather than teaching relevant material and subsequently having students apply the knowledge to solve problems, the problem is presented first.
IV. Column: Phenomenon-based learning (PhBL)
PhBL (or PhenoBL) was implemented in Finland’s education systems in 2016. It has its origins in constructivist learning theories.
Phenomenon-based learning is a multidisciplinary instructional pedagogy, where students study a topic or concept in a holistic instead of in a subject-based approach.
The challenge of PhBL is that no specific subject is taught, nor is there any preset learning objective. Learning goals are created during the learning process, learners investigate and solve their own questions by applying what subjects are relevant to the problem.
• EUA Report 2019: https://www.eua.eu/downloads/publications/student-centred%20learning_approaches%20to%20quality%20assurance%20report.pdf
• Wright, G. B. (2011). Student-centered learning in higher education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Postsecondary Education, 23(1), 92-97
• Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.