Facilitating Learning: The Learning Paradigm

While learning has many ends, teaching has only one: to enable or cause learning.1

The necessity for a shift from the traditional instruction paradigm to a learning paradigm is patently obvious. At the risk of exaggeration, it might be said that the former is the “pedagogy of the oppressed2” while the latter allows “freedom to learn”3. Many of the ideas about the shift are by now familiar4. However, a reminder of the key differences may still be useful.

Instruction vs. Learning Paradigms

Instruction Paradigm Learning Paradigm
Mission
Transfer knowledge Empower learners to discover and construct knowledge
Provide efficient delivery of instruction Facilitate/cause effective learning
Education as quantitative knowledge acquisition Education as qualitative transformation
Values
One-size-fits-all Respect for individual needs/strengths
Competition Cooperation
Reactive Proactive
Institution/discipline-centred; isolationist Responsive to stakeholders/‘clients’; ‘strategic alliances’
Learning Theory
Body of knowledge exists for transfer/storage Knowledge is individually constructed and dynamic
Culture of unquestioning acceptance of received wisdom Culture of inquiry and evidence-based learning
Teacher responsibility Learner responsibility
Extrinsic motivation Intrinsic motivation
Learning is linear and sequentially ‘chunkable’ Learning is non-linear and ‘hyperlinked’
Teaching/learning assumptions
Instructor-led/dependent/micro-managed Learner-led
Didactic, monologic Active/interactive, dialogic
Curriculum-driven Geared to learner’s experience/needs; contextual
Coverage dominated Mastery, distributed cognition
Classroom-bound; synchronous Anywhere, anytime learning
Single-loop learning Continuous learning loop
Certification is key Competency is yardstick
Measurement in terms of time on task Learner-paced; achievement-based measurement
Individualistic and competitive learning Cooperative, collaborative learning
Teacher as expert Teacher as guide/facilitator
Education is the responsibility of teachers Whole organisation involvement in optimising learning environment
Performance indicators
Inputs/outputs; efficiency Learning quality/outcomes; effectiveness
Enrolment Quality of education
Curriculum development/expansion Development of teaching/learning environment
Quality of entering students Quality of graduates

Making learning the focus of the education enterprise naturally leads to a learner-centred approach, and to such attendant issues as learner profile, motivation, learning styles and approaches, instructional design and methodology, and learning outcomes.


  1. K. Patricia Cross. (1988). ‘In Search of Zippers’. AAHE Bulletin. Vol. 40, No. 10, p. 3.
  2. Paulo Freire. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
  3. Carl R. Rogers. (1969). Freedom to Learn. Columbus, OH: Charles Merrill Publishing Company.
  4. Refer, for instance, to John Barr & Robert Tagg. (November/December 1995). ‘From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education’. Change. Vol. 27, No. 6, pp. 13–25.