During the past two decades, the student-centered approach has been widely
promoted and accepted by the educational community as one of the most effective
instructional approaches. It has been continually developed and revised to match our
current understanding of how humans learn (American Psychological Association, 1997).
It is based upon the belief that students should take responsibility for their own learning.
Thus, curriculum, instruction, and assessment should be carefully designed to stimulate,
facilitate, and accelerate students' learning as much as possible. In order to do so, the
teacher needs to take the following factors into consideration: students’ cognitive
structures, metacognitive and regulative skills, motivation and affective states,
developmental and individual differences, and social supports. However, the term
student-centered has been defined and described by researchers and scholars in many
different ways. Little is known about how practicing teachers conceptualize this term and
how they perceive their classroom practices in relation to these conceptions.
The purpose of this study was to utilize a qualitative multiple-case study approach to investigate teachers’ conceptions of the student-centered approach and their
perceptions of their classroom practices. Four Thai high school physics teachers, who
were considered products of the current student-centered educational reform movement
in Thailand, participated in this study. Data were collected for one learning unit (three to
eight weeks) through classroom observations, semi-structured interviews, and document
The data analysis revealed that teachers’ conceptions of student-centered
curriculum, instruction, and assessment had three common characteristics: (a) students’
active participation; (b) special emphasis on students’ background knowledge,
understanding, motivation, affective states, and learning capability; and (c) benefits to students. The results also indicated that there were some similarities and differences
between teachers’ conceptions of the student-centered approach and the underlying
principles of the student-centered approach. Moreover, this study showed that teachers’
conceptions of the student-centered approach were not always consistent with their
classroom practices. In addition, these teachers used various instructional activities
perceived by them as being non-student-centered, such as developing curriculum based
on the national high school physics textbooks and teacher’s experiences, delivering
knowledge through lecture, and assessing students’ understanding by using teacherconstructed
test questions. Furthermore, findings from this study provide implications for
researchers, teacher educators, and policy makers with regards to successfully implement
the reform-based, student-centered approach in the actual science classroom.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. February 2013. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Fred Finley. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 294 pages, appendices A-G.
On the way of educational reform: Thai High School physics teachers’ conceptions of the student-centered approach and their perceptions of their classroom practices.
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