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Focus on Learning

There has been an increasing focus on what constitutes excellence in education.  Education is rapidly moving away the concept of a teaching centered program of instruction to focus on what students actually learn.  Best practices for teaching and learning are becoming better understood based on research and program evaluation.  Accreditation commissions are basing their standards on how well colleges are identifying what students should know and be able to do (student and program learning outcomes) and how well the students are actually learning what is expected of them (actually assessing how well students are learning against the outcomes).  

Focusing on learning means making fundamental changes in the way we operate, make decisions and allocate resources.  Two basic questions can assist in helping focus on learning.  1) Does this action improve and expand learning? and 2) How do we know this action improves and expands learning? These two questions are not limited to academic programs, but also equally apply to administrative and support services decision making.

Learning-Centered Principles for Community Colleges

Terry O”Banion has done significant work on what is meant by a learning college. “The learning college places learning first and provides educational experiences for learning anyway, anyplace, anytime”.  In his “Creating More Learning-Centered Community Colleges” and other works he sets forth a set of key principles for a learning college:

The learning college creates substantive change in individual learners.

The learning college posters partnerships…


In the beginning of student’s academic career


In the classroom


And continue partnerships after students leave institution

The learning college engages learners in the learning process as full partners, assuming primary responsibility for their own choices

The learning college creates and offers as many options for learning as possible.

The learning college assists learning to form and participate in collaborative learning activities.

The learning college defines the roles of learning facilitators by the needs of the learners.

The learning college and its learning facilitators succeed only when improved and expanded leaning can be documented for its learners.  

Perhaps a more concrete way to look at the type of changes involved is the following chart that lays out Teaching – Centered vs. Learning – Centered Instruction provided by Dr. Mary Allen of the California State University, Bakersfield.  

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