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Leadership 107: Student Centeredness – A Balance

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade in Teaching I

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.832.1 - 15.832.8



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Paper Authors


Jerry Samples University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown

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DR. JERRY SAMPLES holds a BS Ch.E. from Clarkson College, MS and Ph.D. in ME from Oklahoma State University. Dr. Samples served at the United States Military Academy twelve years before assuming the position of Director of the Engineering Technology Division at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in 1996. After a five year period as the Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs he returned to the Engineering Technology Division. He is a Fellow of the International Society for Teaching and Learning receiving that honor in 2007. In 2008, he received the American Society for Engineering Education National Outstanding Teaching Award.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Leadership 107: Student Centeredness – A Balance Abstract

In today’s academic world there are several terms that indicate a new direction in faculty-student relations – one such term is student-centeredness. This term and its implications are part of the paradigm shift from teacher-centered to student-centered in current learning models. Basically, teaching is not about the faculty member and it is not totally about the student: rather, it is about a level of balance that needs to be maintained to promote student learning. Classes, office hours, and research need to be balanced to foster student growth while allowing faculty time to get their work accomplished. Thus, there are elements of time management, self-discipline and organization that assist in striking the balance required to make student-centeredness work.

This paper will discuss the balance of professional needs with student needs and wants. It will make suggestions for establishing a student-centered class in the most time constrained time – the tenure years.


The term student-centered is the opposite of teacher-centered: the standard lecture format that teachers often use in teaching engineering and science courses. Student-centered approaches include various levels of interactive and active learning wherein students are asked to assume more responsibility for their learning. Techniques for student-centered learning include: interactive, collaborative/cooperative, active, problem/inquiry based, and team learning. Each of these take into account the need to provide the “customer” with learning environments that have proven results: i.e., better learning that manifests itself in improved retention. However, there are mixed reviews from faculty and students on the effectiveness of these techniques in improving learning. Faculty experience in the classroom may not include any of these techniques and students expect to be taught rather than to work to learn. Felder1 comments on the use of collaborative learning that:

Obstacles to the widespread implementation of cooperative learning at the college level are not insignificant, however. The approach requires faculty members to move away from the safe, teacher-centered methods that keep them in full control of their classes to methods that deliberately turn some control over to students. They have to deal with the fact that while they are learning to implement CL they will make mistakes and may for a time be less effective than they were using the old methods. They may also have to confront and overcome substantial student opposition and resistance, which can be a most unpleasant experience, especially for teachers who are good lecturers and may have been popular with students for many years.

While experienced teachers have little to lose in implementing student-centered classroom techniques, new faculty members must take care in providing instruction via a method that students consider an “unpleasant experience.” Experienced faculty will survive a few terms with potentially lower course evaluations – new faculty may not have that luxury. The fact that

Samples, J. (2010, June), Leadership 107: Student Centeredness – A Balance Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16390

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