Learner-Centered Instructional Methods

Learner-centered instruction is not new. The days where an all-knowing “sage on the stage” stands before a classroom delivering content to learners is long gone. Today, learners expect to be supported and actively engaged in exploring content, sometimes even determining which areas will be emphasized and which areas will be skipped over.

All that may sound good, but sometimes it leaves the instructor wondering what instructional methods are best suited for a learner-centered classroom. Below are a few of the most effective methods, along with a brief description on how they might be applied.


The format of a debate is the perfect framework for inspiring learners to research a topic, and then challenge each other to formulate their own opinions based upon the facts that they have discovered. Learners can work as individuals, or as a team to conduct the research and prepare their arguments. Debates also require learners to actively listen to other points of view, and learn to differentiate between subjective and objective data. They also help learners develop critical thinking skills, in addition to absorbing whatever content they may be researching.

Role Play

Learners can try out different approaches through role play, and find out for themselves what works the best. The scenarios can be created by the instructor, or even by the learners. The instructor is there to keep learners on point, and ensure that certain key objectives are covered. If learners are a bit shy about role playing, they can take on the part of critical observer, giving feedback to the other learners about how the scenario is run.

Index Cards

There are dozens of ways to creatively use index cards in learner-centered instruction. They can be used to brainstorm ideas, and then collected and shared with the entire class anonymously. They can be used to jot down questions that are then answered by other learners or the instructor. The cards can be used as an audience response system, using different colors or letters to respond to a question posed by the instructor. Learners can also create their own activities using index cards, setting up the guidelines together.

Small Group Discussion

Form a larger class into smaller groups, and have learners talk about a given topic. If they need additional information on particular points, have them go and do their own research. Have the small group select a spokesperson to report back their findings to the larger class, or have them create a presentation.

Many More Options

There are many more methods that can be used to engage learners. This has been only a small sampling. Also, learners can suggest instructional methods or do their own research on what is available.