• Kathleen Donohoe

Learner Focused or Teacher Focused?



The phrase ‘teaching and learning’ is familiar to all of us, a key element across all stages of education, particularly over the last few centuries.

Why do we prioritise teaching over learning? Is it because traditionally authority was an important element of schooling? Because education was centrally focused on K-12 and for the lucky few tertiary opportunities?

There is no denying the importance of the role that educators at all levels have for developing learners and providing opportunities and experiences that will set learners up for life – Teachers are a major source of variance in student achievement and “account for about 30% of the variance. It is what teachers know, do, and care about which is very powerful in this learning equation.”

But should the teacher be at the centre? Noting that students “account for about 50% of the variance of achievement”, I propose we transform the phrase, the mindset and the practice and focus on learning.


Why should learning be at the centre?


  • Our teachers are also learners: we often forget that schools are their workplace, and teachers (unsurprisingly) are advocates for lifelong and workplace learning – including their own.

  • To prepare our learners for an ever changing world, for which lifelong learning will be key, we need to emphasise the importance and the joy of learning.

  • Students own their learning through collaborative activities, co-creation of learning, and ever-evolving approaches to differentiation and personalising learning. Students are active learners undertaking projects and identifying innovative solutions to problems.

  • Teaching is only one element of learning (although an influential one). Students of today have vast opportunities for learning through the internet – YouTube, WooTube, Khan Academy, to name a few. Once provided with direction, and with media and digital literacy skills, students will source and evaluate vast amounts of information delivered in different ways to reinforce or expand their learning.

  • Places and opportunities to learn stretch far beyond the traditional classroom. Learning extends beyond school gates, school hours, and school years: we learn across all elements of our lives and across our lifespan. This learning is not necessarily dependent on being taught, and is driven by our desire to continually learn and develop skills and capabilities.

  • Learning is the measure by which the success of teaching is determined. Teachers guide and facilitate learning (amongst many other tasks), but the learner takes ownership of their learning.

  • Learning is transforming. With the integration of technologies, artificial intelligence, bio metrics, mixed reality, and other emerging innovation, we need to focus on the learning and how this is supported.

Most importantly:


“Teaching does not imply learning”

Why do we prioritise teaching over learning? Both are the foundations of education, so we need to reconsider which should lead the current and future learning experiences at school, and across our lifespan.


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