The Student-Centred Paradigm and the Optimization of the Learning Process

Abstract

The paper aims at identifying the perceptions of students in regards to the problematic and dysfunctional aspects identified by them within the learning process in Romania, as well as identifying the possible solutions that would lead to the amelioration of the educational practice, with the purpose of optimizing the schools results of pupils/students. The target group was represented by a group of students enrolled in technical faculties which were asked to elaborate on the two mentioned aspects, referencing both their experience as students, as well as that of pupils. The results obtained following the processing and analysis of the answers converge on the necessity of respecting the requirements characteristic to the paradigm of adapting school to the necessities and particularities of the pupils. We note the fact that the national educational policies support and promote the principle of adapting the school to the requirements and possibilities of the pupils, at the level of educational objectives and courses of action stated within certain documents of educational policy aimed at the pre-university and university level, through which the achievement of a high-quality education is endeavoured, particularly through: the reassessment of the role of the pupil, placing his needs, interests, and requirements at the forefront of the educational proceedings, and assuring equal opportunity throughout the entire educational process. The problematic aspects identified within the educational process remain, however, valid, representing a discrepancy between the documents of educational policy and the educational practice.

Keywords: Adapting school to the possibilities of the studentsthe paradigm of education centred on the studenteducational policiesoptimizing the learning processeducational practice

1. Introduction

The improvement of the instructive-educational process and the optimization of the academic

results of those being educated must be based on an objective and precise identification of the causes that

generate dysfunctions at this level. We consider that the identification of the perceptions of those

involved in the educational act can lead us to objective conclusions in regards to the problematic and

dysfunctional aspects present in the course of the educational process. Recognizing the discrepancies

between the courses of action being promoted by the educational policies documents and those actually

present in educational practices constitutes a starting point in the investigation of the issues mentioned,

the validity of which will be underlined by the following study.

2. The Paradigm of Adapting School to the Requirements of the Pupil

The requirements that target the adaptation of the school to the learning possibilities of the

students are in accordance with the new principles specific to contemporary education and pedagogy and

with the European educational policy documents that represent the foundation for the current educational

systems. The current educational systems, adapted to the specific educational requirements of the varied

school population, have been built according to the ideas and principles of contemporary pedagogy, an

interactive pedagogy which emphasizes the importance of developing competencies, and are

characterized by the following aspects: reconsidering the role of the student, who becomes the subject of

education; using information technology in education (the computer, Internet, virtual classrooms) in: the

design of the teaching activities, guiding the learning process, monitoring the didactic act; the transition

from hierarchically organized school systems to educational systems organized according to the network

model; learning through problem solving, stimulating the critical thinking; concern for developing

competencies; the inclination towards exploration, anticipation, and reconstruction of learning structures;

the preponderance of interactive experiences, which generate an in-depth learning: cooperative learning

and teaching, lessons based on life experiences, confrontation of different views, learning by doing; the

reconstruction of the school space in order to encourage interaction, cooperation, active listening, the

exchange of experiences and opinions.

The paradigm of adapting school to the learning necessities and possibilities of the student,

characteristic for future systems of education and for contemporary network-type educational systems

(Chiș, 2005), requires a diversity of learning situations and experiences, built in accordance with the

possibilities and the needs of all student categories, in order to comply with the principles of: ‘inclusive

education’, ‘education for all’ and ‘integrated education’. The idea of the education centred on the student

– as a person with individual characteristics that need to be valued and capitalized within the educational

act – is highlighted by the postmodern educational paradigm and by the constructivist approach to

knowledge and education (Tăușan, 2012).

The adaptation of the school, of the educational strategies, and of the entire instructive-educational

process to the individual needs of the students, to their learning abilities and particularities, is one of the

dimensions of the postmodern paradigm in education. Păun (2002) outlines the following characteristics

of postmodernism in education, in a study dedicated to the analysis of the theoretical developments from

the perspective of the paradigm of postmodernity:

�Learner-centred education, the student being seen as a person with individual, differentiating

characteristics that should be valued and capitalized to the maximum (an idea situated at the centre

of the existential-humanistic paradigm, subsumed under the postmodern perspective);

�The revalorization of the subjective-affective dimension in the educational relationship, of the

actions and behaviours of subjects that have a unique, situational, and contextualized character;

�Considering the educational relationship as an interaction where the teacher and student are

engaged in a process of cognitive and emotional investment, and in which the teacher works

alongside the students with the purpose of their development and the building of their status as

students;

�Creating a balance between promoting competition and promoting cooperation in schools;

�Promoting new types of education, particularly inter-disciplinary ones;

�Outgrowing the prescriptive, normative and formalized view on curricular theory and integrating it

into the classroom (cultural space), with the purpose of analysing the cultural contexts in which

the curriculum is structured and of continuously developing and refining it.

The postmodern approach corresponds largely to the constructivist approach to education,

especially through the role given to the student in the construction of knowledge, through the

modification of the teacher’s role, and through educational strategies that possess a pronounced formative

character.

The legislation in place that concerns the quality of education is aimed at optimizing the school

environment in accordance with the current educational policies and with the necessity of bringing the

Romanian educational system to the European standard, in order to be able to offer students an

environment that is conducive to a holistic development and to the achievement of the highest results.

The educational approach is now seen through a new perspective, influenced by the latest educational

paradigms and the modern theories of pedagogy. The educational value of the newest technological

instruments in use comes into question, as well as the possibility of effectively implementing them within

the Romanian educational system. The pedagogical potential of these tools can be seen in the effect that

they have concerning the students’ implication, mobilization and in the way that they facilitate the

construction of the students’ individual knowledge (Tudor, 2015).

A series of documents from the international educational policies promote and sustain dimensions

of the learner-centred paradigm and adaptation of the school to the possibilities and necessities of the

pupil: The Convention on the Rights of the Child, The Framework for Action from the World Education

Forum in Dakar, The Millennium Development Goals, UNESCO Medium-Term Strategy for 2008 –

2013 (Delors, 2000; Văideanu, 1996).

The requirement for the development of open, flexible educational strategies, tailored to social and

individual needs, which would favour the development of each child’s potential, is also formulated by the

European Council, with the purpose of achieving the common objective of the future European

educational policies, as it is stated in the Declaration of the European Ministers of Education from

Krakow (2000): ensuring the development of a democratic citizenship within open and pluralist societies,

where children’s rights and human rights are respected (Bunescu, 2007; Codorean, 2006).

A new type of curricular culture is generated and is characterized by: transforming the school

centred on the teacher into a school centred on the student, using interactive learning methods, a flexible

curriculum and an inter- and cross-disciplinary approach of the curriculum. This new type of curricular

culture is in accordance with the paradigm of adapting the school to the needs and possibilities of the

students, ensuring that all the students have the opportunity to have their interests identified and their

aptitudes and capacities are capitalized to their fullest.Langa (2011) emphasizes that the implementation

of proper knowledge management is an essential requirement for the development of high-quality study

programs, due to the fact that the organizational knowledge management principles, instruments, and

techniques have been shown to bring about an improvement in the case of other organizations.

The national documents of educational policies, which strive for a harmonization between the

internal priorities and the European ones (Post-accession Strategy 2007-2013, National Development

Plan 2007-2013, Strategy for the Development of Pre-University Education for 2001-2010), stipulate the

following objectives and courses of action, in accordance with the paradigm of adapting the school to the

possibilities and requirements of the students: ensuring equal opportunities and increasing participation in

education by encouraging the participation of all young people in compulsory, post-compulsory and

university education; ensuring basic education for all citizens; forming key-competencies; basing the

educational process on the needs for personal and professional development of the students.

We underline the fact that the national educational policies sustain and promote the principle of

school adaptation to the needs and to the abilities of the students, at the level of the objectives and courses

of action contained in the aforementioned documents, trying to create a high-quality education, especially

by: reassessing the role of the student, placing his needs, interests, and requirements in the foreground of

the instructional process, and ensuring equal opportunity throughout the entire educational process.

3. Methodology

In a recently conducted study, we aimed at identifying the perceptions of a group of students

enrolled in technical faculties with regards to the aspects they perceive as being problematic and

dysfunctional within the pre-university and university level educational process in Romania. Furthermore,

the students were asked to identify the possible solutions that would lead to the improvement of

educational practices, with the ultimate purpose of optimizing the academic results of pupils/students.

The aim of the research : identifying educational practices seen as inadequate in what concerns the

requirements and needs of the pupils/students, as well as the current particularities of the educational

systems, as prerequisites for the optimization of the instructive-educational process and the amelioration

of the academic results of pupils/students.

The objectives of the research:

�Identifying malfunctions and problematic aspects at the level of didactic practices within the

educational system in Romania;

�Identifying possible solutions which would contribute to the improvement of the

instructive-educational process;

�Evaluating the solutions proposed by the students through the perspective of the principles put

forward by the paradigm of focusing the educational process on the needs and particularities of the

pupils/students.

The hypothesis of the research : respecting and applying the principles of the learner-centred

paradigm could constitute a solution for the improvement of educational practices and the optimization of

the academic results of pupils/students.

The description of the research instruments : in order to identify the perceptions of students in

regards to the problematic and dysfunctional aspects present within the instructive-educational process in

Romania, as well as the possible solutions that could lead to the amelioration of the educational practices,

we have used two open-ended items from a questionnaire in which the students were asked to elaborate

on the two issues mentioned, with reference to both their experience as pupils, as well as their experience

as students.

Target group: the questionnaire was administered to a group of 100 students enrolled in technical

faculties in Cluj-Napoca.

4. Results and Discussion

Following the administration of the questionnaire, for the item „ Specify the dysfunctional and

problematic aspects you have noticed during your experience as a pupil and student at the level of the

educational practices present within the instructive-educational process” we have identified the

following categories of answers that constitute problematic aspects that are specific to the didactic

practices within the educational system: the contents are mandatory and not adapted to the requirements

of each pupil or their individual potential; the focus is on the content being transmitted and the

correctitude of the acquired information; the rigidity of the content that is transmitted and prescribed by

the various course syllabi; theoretical and abstract information is predominant, with its practical

application being insufficient; the informative function of the content is emphasized, by expressing it in

terms of knowledge, in the detriment of capabilities, abilities, skills, attitudes, competencies; through the

teaching-learning methods, the activity of the teacher is emphasized, rather than the activity of the

pupil/student and the acquirement of techniques for individual studying and learning; frontal-instruction

is predominant; the flow of information is unidirectional; teacher-centred, expository methods are

predominant; memorizing, retaining, and the accurate reproduction of information are stressed and

valued; the role of the pupil is merely to listen to the lecture of the teacher and retain it; the practical

character of the methods used is minimal; the tendency of standardizing the activity and rate of learning

of those being educated is present; summative assessment is prevalent, which does not allow for the

correction or amelioration of learning gaps or difficulties; the evaluation is focused on reproducing the

information as accurately as possible; the manifestation of subjectivity in the evaluation process; the

presence of an authoritarian hierarchy structure, of an authoritarian leadership style which encourages

conformity in the detriment of expressing individual ideas, opinions, or collective proposals; the main

role of the teacher is that of a source of information, a transmitter of knowledge.

Analysing the answers from a qualitative perspective, we have observed that the majority of the

identified problematic aspects can be subsumed in one of the following categories:

�Problematic aspects at the level of the contents of the instructive-educational process;

�Problematic aspects at the level of the teaching-learning strategies employed;

�Problematic aspects at the level of the assessment of the academic results of pupils/students;

�Other problematic aspects (the authoritarian relationship between teacher and pupils; insufficient

material facilities).

By summarizing the results of the aforementioned categories, we have obtained the following

frequency of answers:

Figure 1: Problematic aspects within the instructive-educational process
Problematic aspects within the instructive-educational process
See Full Size >

The solutions provided by the students as part of their answers to the second item of the

questionnaire, ‘Suggest solutions for the amelioration of the problematic aspects previously identified’,

have been summarized and grouped into the following courses of action that would contribute to the

improvement of the instructive-educational process:

�Courses of action with regards to the content of the instructive-educational process: adapting the

content to the potential of those being educated; granting greater weight to the school-based

curriculum, which offers flexibility in the organization of the content; respecting the individual

rate of learning of the pupils; promoting the capitalization of their personal experience and the

development of each pupil’s imagination and creativity; combining the abstract, theoretical

knowledge with experiments realized during and outside of the class;

�Courses of action with regards to the teaching-learning strategies employed: using a methodology

that offers the maximum of diversity and flexibility, one that will be able to manage the variety of

situations that can arise during the instructive-educational process; adapting the teaching and

learning methods to the real requirements of the pupils; emphasizing the use of methods that are

focused on the involvement and the active participation of the pupils, making them co-participants

in their own formation, with the purpose of stimulating the pupils’ knowledge and mental

operation structures; emphasizing the formative character of the instructional methods (aiming at

the development of the capacity for applying the information and knowledge acquired, the ability

to operate with it, to formulate and verify hypothesis, to solve problems, etc.); promoting methods

based on action, on exploration, on experimentation, on research; the frequent use of methods that

require work to be done in pairs or teams, promoting cooperation; expanding the use of methods

that involve the relational component of the didactic activity (teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil

communication); the use of methods that contribute to the development of the abilities and skills

of those being educated; the use of methods that focus on the acquirement of individual studying

and learning techniques; promoting methods that cultivate the practical and experimental

character of the information; using methods that promote democratic relationships between

teacher and pupil, based on cooperation and on the support of the teacher in the evolutionary

process of the pupil; promoting methods that accentuate the role of the teacher as an organizer,

coordinator, facilitator; capitalizing, at the level of methodology, on the new technologies for

information and communication; the optimal employment of the methodology, through the

integration of appropriate teaching aids (Bocoș, & Ionescu, 2009; Tăușan, 2016);

�Courses of action regarding the assessment of the academic results of pupils/students: granting a

greater weight to the formative assessment; ensuring that the pupils have knowledge of the

requirements and criteria of assessment, as a basis for the formation of the ability to self-evaluate;

diversifying the assessment techniques and adapting them to the concrete didactical situations;

transferring the focus in assessment from cognitive acquisition to intellectual development, to the

ability to apply their knowledge in a practical manner, to the behaviour, the attitudes of the pupils,

to the degree of assimilation of certain values (Jucan, 2011);

�Other courses of action: promoting anti-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian principles, encouraging

individual, diverse thinking; taking into consideration the community’s proposals; using

information technologies (computer, Internet, virtual classrooms); taking into consideration

multiculturalism (Todor, 2015).

The results obtained, following the processing of the questionnaire and the analysis of the answers

received, converge on the necessity to comply with the demands of the student-centred paradigm, the

need to adapt school to the requirements and particularities of the pupils, and to overcome certain

mentalities and educational practices specific to the traditional paradigm, all seen as conditions for the

improvement of the instructive-educational process and the optimization of the academic results of pupils.

5. Conclusions

The majority of the aspects identified by the students as being problematic within the

instructive-educational process are educational practices specific to the traditional teaching paradigm,

while the solutions proposed by those interviewed are in accordance with the directions encouraged by

the learner-centred paradigm. The comparative presentation in Table 2 illustrates this observation:

Figure 2: A comparative presentation: the traditional paradigm/ the constructivist paradigm (according to Chiș, 2005)
A comparative presentation: the traditional paradigm/ the constructivist paradigm (according to Chiș, 2005)
See Full Size >

We note the fact that the national educational policies support and promote the principle of

adapting the school to the requirements and possibilities of the pupils, at the level of educational

objectives and courses of action stated within certain documents of educational policy aimed at the pre-

university and university level, through which the achievement of a high-quality education is

endeavoured, particularly through: the reassessment of the role of the pupil, placing his needs, interests,

and requirements at the forefront of the educational proceedings, and assuring equal opportunity

throughout the entire educational process. The problematic aspects identified within the educational

process remain, however, valid, representing a discrepancy between the documents of educational policy

and the educational practice.

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Publication Date

18 December 2019

eBook ISBN

978-1-80296-022-8

Publisher

Future Academy

Volume

23

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Subjects

Educational strategies, educational policy, organization of education, management of education, teacher, teacher training

Cite this article as:

Tăușan*, L. (2019). The Student-Centred Paradigm and the Optimization of the Learning Process. In E. Soare, & C. Langa (Eds.), Education Facing Contemporary World Issues, vol 23. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 380-388). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2017.05.02.47