Volume 1
February 2003
Paradigm Shift
Associate Professor Daphne Pan
Department of English Language and Literature
Director, CDTL

The knowledge-based society with its rapid technological developments and information explosion impels changes in the purpose and nature of education, particularly higher education. The old pedagogical framework of de-contextualised instructionism and fixed curriculum is clearly inappropriate. With information having increasingly short shelf life, education must empower learners to learn for themselves, and to continue to do so continuously. Our graduates must be learning-enabled and life-long-capable.


The most socially useful learning in the modern world is the learning of the process of learning; a continuing openness to experience and incorporation into oneself of the process of change.

—Carl Rogers, Freedom to Learn

More important than learning a finite body of knowledge is learning how to learn so that continued, self-directed knowledge acquisition and construction can be negotiated. Traditional pedagogies that are prescriptive and enforce passive reception do not develop such autonomy. Education must be recognised as not an end but a means, and should focus on process rather than product.


The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

—Alvin Toffler

The traditional, inflexible ‘life phase approach’ with its compartmentalising of learning and working life will no longer serve. Education must move to a recurrent, with learning freed from being a formal and time-tied activity to become an on-going process that will refresh knowledge and ensure lifelong viability.

The Learning Paradigm

The shift from teaching/teacher-centredness to learner/learning-centredness involves major changes in our assumptions about and approach to the teaching/learning transaction.

Even from this summary it is evident that the differences are very real and as educators we need to think of their many and profound implications for why, what and how we teach.


Further Reading

Barr, Robert & Tagg, John. (Nov/Dec 1995). ‘From Teaching to Learning’, Change, 13–25.

Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities for the Professoriate (a special report of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching). Princeton, NJ: University Press.

Rogers, Carl. (1969). Freedom to Learn. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill.


published by
Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL)
National University of Singapore
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