3.4 Teacher-centred education

On this page

  1. Importance teacher-centred education
    1.1 Teacher-centred education
    1.2 No teacher-centred education
    1.3 Starting with teacher-centred education
  2. Your activities in teacher-centred education
    2.1 Preparation
    2.2 Your role when whole class teaching
    2.3 Your actions
    2.4 Observing students
    2.5 Visibly reinforcing positive behaviour
    2.6 Pitfall of too much teacher-centred education
  3. Collaboration during teacher-centred education
  4. Full instruction prior to student-centred education
  5. Importance of framework and assessment in teacher-centred teaching
    5.1 Framework
    5.2 Assessment
  6. Summary

During whole class teaching, teachers explain, reinforce or demonstrate something to a group. Afterwards they give exercises and assignments for what has just been covered. This is what Friendly and Fair Teaching (FFT) calls teacher- centred education. This module focuses on the educational goals of Qualification and Socialization.

During whole class teaching, I take a leading role. I call for attention and explain something to the whole group. I connect exercises or assignments to my explanations so that my students become familiar with what I have just covered.

Current approach:

How do I teach the whole class now?

Future approach:

How do I teach the whole class in the future?


In the first year of secondary education, as a music teacher, I spent several lessons demonstrating different instruments. I then showed how to play them. To give all students a chance to play the bass guitar, of which I only had one, I made small boards with the strings and corresponding notes drawn on them. Whoever could point out a pattern on that board was allowed to try it out first on a guitar and if successful on the bass guitar.

Sometimes students reacted very strongly to an instrument during such an introduction. One student saw me demonstrating the bass guitar, had his own bass guitar within two weeks and then played along at every performance. At the same lesson in another class, a student asked if he could hold the bass guitar for a moment. He immediately stood like a guitar heavy metal artist and then he knew: This is my future!


Teacher-centred education is one of the four modules of the ‘Planning lessons’ perspective of Friendly and Fair Teaching (FFT).

Figure 32: Planning lessons (overview)

In this module teacher-centred education, the emphasis is on Qualification and Socialization.

On the one hand, with teacher-centred education, you ensure that your students meet the requirements (Qualification). On the other hand, during exercises and assignments that follow your explanations, you promote group cohesion by having your students work together in varying groups (Socialisation).

FFT understands teacher-centred education to that you take charge of the entire group. You are a guide for your students. You are a presenter who brings a subject into the limelight. You have a clear story, you talk intelligibly and you enthuse. You connect to the environment of your students and you enlarge their world of experience (Education = redirect).

During teacher-centred education you ask for the students attention, and you observe and guide them. The way you reinforce positive behaviour differs in teacher-centred education  from that in student-centred education. In the chapter “Reinforcing positive behaviour” you can see the differences in two columns side by side.

Teacher-centred education is ideally suited for:

  1. covering new topics.
  2. providing information and bringing students into contact with culture.
  3. For such activities, the teacher takes the initiative or the school involves external organizations.
  4. telling each other personal stories (Johari window). This creates mutual trust.
  5. Trying out collaboration with different classmates.

1 Importance of teacher-centred education

1.1 Teacher-centred education

In teacher-centred education, you take the initiative. You determine what you teach and you determine the appropriate teaching methods, assignments and exercises. In doing so, you use your didactic and pedagogical knowledge and your professional skills. You are in charge. Only if the group is attentive and cooperative will your lesson come into its own. Before you begin your explanation, you indicate that you expect your students to pay attention (Map expectation management).

1.2 No teacher-centred education

If you mostly let your students work independently, you have little opportunity to cover a new topic and let the group learn about it and practice it together. See pitfall of student-centred education

1.3 Starting with teacher-centred education

With teacher-centred education you can start right away. It requires less preparation than student-centred teaching and therefore, as a beginning teacher, you will usually start with teacher-led teaching in most cases. To start with ‘Teacher-centred education’ you prepare at least one lesson.

Improving your teaching style and materials

After each period you ask (some) students to evaluate your teaching style and your teaching materials. The suggestions they give and also what you yourself come up with as points for improvement, you incorporate into the subsequent lessons.

Good order

In all this, it should be noted that teacher-centred education stands or falls with good order in the classroom. That is why FFT recommends involving all five of FFT’s perspectives at the start of teacher-centred education, thus preventing most of the problems.

image: FFT fist with 5 perspectives
This is a part of the overview of Friendly and Fair Teaching

In teacher-centred education, you lead by example and rely on your students to adopt your example. With your good example, you give direction to the attitude of your students and the way they act during your lesson. With every context, including a teacher-centred education, there are limitations: what is and isn’t allowed? How do you resist the impulsive tendencies of students? How do you teach them to deal with delaying desires? For this, take a look at the perspective ‘Reinforcing Positive Behaviour’. In that chapter, directions specifically for teacher centred education are always in the left column.

Quote from Meirieu on the duty to resist.
Pedagogues do not leave children to nature, imagining that these same children could then spontaneously build a democratic society – indeed, everything points to the opposite – but they create situations that are both approachable and challenging and in which children can at the same time both learn what has been imposed on them and explore their freedom.” Meirieu (2016).

2 Your activities in teacher-centred education

If are teaching the whole class, what do you pay attention to when preparing a lesson? What do you pay attention to when observing your students? How do you act efficiently during teacher-centred education? How do you assess the students in teacher-centred education? How do you reinforce positive behaviour during teacher-centred education?

2.1 Preparation

Qualification and socialization are central in teacher-centred education.
You choose a subject and prepare at least one lesson.
You look for follow-up assignments that connect to what you cover.
You connect to the environment of your students and you enlarge the experiences of your students: Education = redirecting

2.2 Your role when whole class teaching

In Teacher-centred education you organize a trip. During this trip you are the tour guide.

2.3 Your actions

When you start working with a group, you start by explaining that, when you are whole class teaching, you expect your students to pay attention and be cooperative. You do this with the expectation management folder. You reinforce positive behaviour of students who do not pay attention during explanations, or students who do not participate in exercises (Ladder of actions).

The students see that you act in the following way:

  1. You explain and you enthuse. You introduce topics and give important information. Then you do exercises that are consistent with what you have covered. With all this, you introduce your students to your subject.
  2. You are clearly understood (Presenter).
  3. When you compliment, you do so (without saying anything) with a gesture (thumbs up).
  4. You make space for introductions and for telling personal stories (Johari Window).
  5. You set a good example and count on your students to copy it.
  6. You provide structure through which your students meet requirements.
  7. You provide variations in group organisation so that everyone gets to know each other.

2.4 Observing students

Pay attention to these points in Teacher-centred education:

  1. Are my students paying attention to my explanations and participating in the exercises?
  2. Do my students act cooperatively?
  3. Are they not disturbing anyone?
  4. Is there mutual trust?
  5. Are they able to accommodate and courteous if necessary?

2.5 Visibly reinforcing positive behaviour

You reinforce behaviour of both the whole group and individual students. If a student disturbs another student, you reinforce positive behaviour taking these steps

First steps

1.  body language,
2.  a (clearly understandable) Tip that you note in your Tip Book. You count the Tips you give per lesson with the abacus. With this you indicate your limit.

Next steps

3.  After the second Tip, give the third student who interrupts a future behaviour letter.
4.  If the student does not hand over the letter to you, you ask help from your supervisor.
These steps together FFT calls (ladder of action).

In the case of a serious disruption, you pause your teaching and talk with the class. You take time to reflect on what has just happened as well as your own reaction.

In whole class teaching, you act visibly and, if possible, inaudibly during reinforcing positive behaviour. You are and always need to remain friendly and fair. The four steps you always take in the above mentioned order. Usually step 1 is enough.

Refining the four steps

– Freeze – step to student – gesture

– by walking to the Abacus, students know that you are considering giving a Tip.
– When teaching frontally, the Tip: “Please pay attention.” almost always fits. You note the Tip in your Tip Book and then move your Abacus forward a Tip.
– By showing a future behaviour letter, students know that you are considering giving it. This acts as a pre-announcement. When a student nominated to receive this assignment stops interrupting, you put the assignment away again.

2.6 Pitfall of too much teacher-centred education

How do you fall into the trap of too much teacher-centred teaching? One possible cause is that you do not dare to really let go of your students for fear of chaos. You experience it as being too messy if all your students take their own course. This fear makes you cling to teacher-centred education. It may also be that you suspect that, if everyone takes their own course, you will no longer be able to manage the entire process properly; you will lose the overview.

A characteristic of teacher-centred education is that you determine the subject of the lesson and devise a corresponding lesson plan. You give instruction and choose exercises that fit your explanation. This can be a disadvantage. If you provide exclusively teacher-centred education, you thereby lock your students into a (by definition meagre) supply: in this type of instruction, you drop several topics because of time constraints and drop topics because you deem them unfeasible. By making these decisions yourself, without input from students, you are very decisive and limit your students’ room for own initiative and thus their freedom. This is the pitfall of teacher-centred education.

Another disadvantage of exclusively whole class teaching is that you are constantly controlling both your students and yourself. Always you work with the whole group and never really let go of the students. This can be oppressive for both your students and you. You can see this in the following two scenarios

  1. Students experience teacher-centred as oppressive:
    In this first scenario of (too much whole class teaching), the question is always whether your students want to cooperate. Students sit back and decide how much they like your lessons. They decide how long they are willing to follow you and be cooperative. For you, the question may be until when your students are willing to cooperate with your plans. Problems with class control play an increasing role during your lessons and expected control problems play an increasing role in the preparation of your lessons.
  2. You experience teacher-centred education as oppressive:
    In this second scenario, you manage to keep your students optimally engaged during whole class teaching. You have also overcome order problems. Nevertheless, the pressure of having to keep the whole group in tow troubles you. More and more it starts to gnaw at you that you do not really dare to let go of your students.

The same assignment

With teacher-centred education as a starting point, you have your students all working on the same assignment, level differences arise. Those differences are glaringly obvious. One student may find your assignment too difficult and another too easy. If, when preparing a lesson, you take these differences into account (because you want to be the assignment for everyone), you are forced to choose a middle ground as far as level is concerned, thus limiting the range of lessons you offer. You always look for an average that everyone can work with.

When preparing your lessons, you estimate the feasibility of an assignment. You look for an assignment that is neither too difficult nor too easy. As a result, you always end up with an assignment that is feasible for only part of the group. You don’t succeed in making assignments interesting for everyone.

What happens when, by necessity, you always focus the material on the middle group

Fast learners get too little challenge. They get bored and tend to disrupt the lesson.
Lagging students who struggle at the level get frustrated and disrupt the lesson.
If you succeed in your pursuit of uniformity (all students the same assignment), you will see uniform results.
Your students are less likely to help each other and do only the bare essentials.
Your students are introduced to only the (in your opinion) viable part of the subject you offer.
You are busy teaching. As a result, you don’t get around to supervising individual students.
With frontal teaching it is difficult to break the division of roles between teacher and student.

Ways of preventing this pitfall

In practice, lessons are never completely teacher-driven. To avoid the above pitfalls, you will quickly incorporate elements of student-driven teaching into your lessons. This description of the pitfall is intended as an impetus for you to immediately look for assignments where you let students determine their own course in a meaningful way.

In the practical example above, you do introduce your students to a topic but do not require them to all reach a certain level with that topic. What students do later (during independent work or at home – formally or informally) with your instruction depends on their motivation and commitment.

3 Collaboration during teacher-centred education

In teacher-centred education, after the explanation you put your students to work on an assignment that ties in with what you just covered. If the assignment lends itself to collaboration, you can choose to take turns influencing group composition or leave it up to the students. This way everyone gets to know each other. Read more about this under Collaboration

4 Full instruction prior to teacher-centred education

If you give a complex assignment and provide a lot of time for it, not every student will complete it as quickly. Full instruction for independent work includes six points. Read more at ‘Expectation Management’.

5 Importance of framework and assessment in teacher-centred education

5.1 Creating a framework for positive behaviour

In teacher-centred education, the attention and cooperation of your students is a prerequisite. You discuss the framework with them and indicate that you will try to be friendly and fair and that your students may address you if you fail to be friendly. Conversely, you ask your students to be friendly and fair. If necessary, you speak to them about this.

5.2 Assessment

In teacher-centred education, you assess your students. You can also give students the opportunity to assess themselves. With an app, you let students determine their level during exercises that follow your explanation. An app gives students an objective impression of their level. Working with an app is a good preparation for a central test where you test the same skills as with the app.

In addition, you can ask your students to assess your lessons and your teaching style. Because everyone involved in teaching assesses each other and themselves, everyone shares responsibility for the entire teaching context. The feedback of students’ can help you improve your teaching style. When your students see that you take their suggestions seriously, it increases their motivation.

Read more about assessment

6 Summary

In teacher-centred education, you introduce your students to important topics related to your subject. After your explanation, you give your students exercises and assignments that relate to them. Your role is similar to that of a guide. Because of the framework, your students know what behaviour you expect from them. If their behaviour does not meet the framework, you reinforce positive behaviour.