# Benchmarking the Degree of Implementation of Learner-Centered Approaches

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## Abstract

We describe an objective way to measure whether curricula, educational programs, and institutions are learner-centered. This technique for benchmarking learner-centeredness uses rubrics to measure courses on 29 components within Weimer’s five dimensions. We converted the scores on the rubrics to four-point indices and constructed histograms that indicate how learner-centered courses are and which specific learner-centered components are used. We applied this benchmarking technique to a curriculum sample to illustrate how the data can be used and interpreted. These analyses form a snapshot of teaching that can be used in accreditation self-studies and for faculty development.

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## Notes

1. A boxplot is a graphical summary used for numerical data constructed using their five-number summaries: the smallest observation, lower quartile (25th percentile), median, upper quartile (75th percentile), and largest observation. The box is delimited by the lower and upper quartiles, and the line inside the box represents the median. The lower whisker or vertical line below the box extends down to the smallest observation, which is marked by the horizontal line; and the upper whisker extends up to the largest observation.

2. Sample size was determined using power analysis for a test of agreement between two raters using the Kappa statistic with 90% power and significance level of 0.05.

3. Kappa coefficient is a measure of agreement between two raters classifying the same items (inter-rater agreement). It measures the percentage of agreement and then adjusts it for the amount of agreement that could be expected due to chance alone. Kappa coefficient is always less than or equal to 1, where a value of 1 implies perfect agreement.

4. One component had a Kappa coefficient equal to 0 due to the fact that all of the observations fell into only two levels.

5. The Kruskal-Wallis test is a nonparametric (distribution free) method used to test equality of three or more population medians.

## References

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## Author information

Authors

### Corresponding author

Correspondence to Phyllis Blumberg.

## Appendix. The Components of Learner-Centered Teaching Organized within Weimer’s Five Dimensions

### Appendix. The Components of Learner-Centered Teaching Organized within Weimer’s Five Dimensions

1. A.

The function of content

1. 1.

Varied uses of content: In addition to building a knowledge base, instructor uses content to help students evaluate why they need to learn content, acquire discipline-specific learning methodologies, practice using inquiry or ways of thinking in the discipline, and learn to solve real world problems

2. 2.

Level to which students are required to engage with the content

3. 3.

Use of organizing schemes to facilitate learning

4. 4.

Use of content to facilitate future learning

2. B.

The role of the instructor

1. 1.

Creation of an environment for learning through organization and use of material that accommodates different learning styles

2. 2.

Alignment of the course components -- objectives, teaching or learning methods, and assessment methods -- for consistency

3. 3.

Use of teaching or learning methods appropriate for student learning goals

4. 4.

Use of activities involving student, instructor, content interactions

5. 5.

Articulation of SMART objectives: (Objectives are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time oriented)

6. 6.

Use of strategies that motivate students to learn

3. C.

The responsibility for learning

1. 1.

Responsibility for learning - a philosophical overview based on policies and practices

2. 2.

Use of learning to learn skills for the present and the future including, for example time management, goal setting, and how to do independent reading and research

3. 3.

Use of self-directed, lifelong learning skills including determining a personal need to know more, knowing whom to ask or where to seek information, determining when need is met, and developing an awareness of student’s learning abilities

4. 4.

Use of students’ self-assessment of their learning

5. 5.

Use of students’ self-assessment of their strengths and weaknesses

6. 6.

Use of information literacy skills (ACRL 2004)

4. D.

The Processes and Purposes of Assessment

1. 1.

Use of assessment within the learning process

2. 2.

Use of formative assessment (giving feedback to foster improvement)

3. 3.

Use of peer and self assessment

4. 4.

Demonstration of mastery and ability to learn from mistakes

5. 5.

Students justify the accuracy of their answers

6. 6.

Instructor provides a timeframe for feedback

7. 7.

Use of authentic assessment (what practitioners/professionals do)

5. E.

The Balance of Power (control issues)

1. 1.

Determination of course content by allowing students some choice

2. 2.

Use of expression of alternative perspectives by students

3. 3.

Determination of how students earn grades

4. 4.

Use of open-ended assignments

5. 5.

Flexibility of course policies, assessment methods, learning methods, and deadlines

6. 6.

Provide opportunities to learn and not just attend class

Blumberg (2009) Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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Blumberg, P., Pontiggia, L. Benchmarking the Degree of Implementation of Learner-Centered Approaches. Innov High Educ 36, 189–202 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-010-9168-2