Education is the most powerful weapon which can use to change the world (Nelson Mandela, 2003). In its drive toward becoming an advanced country, Malaysia recognizes the significant role of education as the driving force of its transformation process into becoming a knowledge-based society as a basic requirement of becoming a developed nation in the information age (Garba, 2015). Everyone has been said about the importance of education and the knowledge-based society but somehow it is still to be elusive. Since the new generation now should meet the needs of the industry and its companies, education must be more accommodating.
As everyone should know that to have a good education one should not just have a good achievement in academics but also a set of vital life skills. There are many university students graduate with flying colours and an excellent pointer but at the end of the day, they still got no job offered. One of the reasons why those students did well in academic but still jobless is because they seem to have lack of important skills such as communication skills, highly-thinking order skills, interpersonal abilities and other essential skills in life.
Thus, the education sector is expected to train young learners into becoming competent citizens who are capable of making useful contribution for the nation. NurrahimahYusoff (2013) states that the second thrust out of seven strategic thrusts of the National Higher Education Strategic Plan is to improve the quality of teaching and learning. The educational system should change with the times as well as with the learner. In the student-centered learning method, lectures will be the most important person to guide and to find an effective way of learning methods for their students to be more versatile. Student-centered is a new teaching approach that started in the 20th century that works by replacing lectures with active learning, integrating self-paced learning programs, cooperative group situations, ultimately holding the student responsible for his advances in education. According to Melissa Abdullah et. al (2013), this approach is characterized by innovative methods of teaching that emphasise students as the key players in learning and promote their active participation at all stages of the learning process. Nowadays, most of the educators in Malaysia choose student-centered as their new approach because they believe that this approach is compatible in this modern era generation where students more open-minded and want more freedom in learning. I firmly believe that the student-centered approach is a better teaching method to be applied in all universities in Malaysia compared to teacher-centered approach.
First and foremost, this student-centered learning method can improve students thinking skills by problem-solving projects. Most of the students will experience a better performance when they are asked to think about the matters instead of other people doing the thinking for them. In the student-centered learning process, students must know how to solve complicated problems on their own. This is because student-centered method is indeed a learning method that can be considered problem-based, problem-oriented, and project-based learning, which can produce competitive graduates who can perform in complex situations (Mojgan, Ghavifekr, Saedah & Ahmad Zabidi, 2013). Problem-solving develops critical thinking skills and prepares the students for a professional work environment in the future. It is also can develop flexibility in thinking to consider multiple perspectives on a given situation or phenomenon and also reasoning skills as students compare and contrast various possibilities in order to draw their conclusions. As example, when students are given task in lectures, they need to learn to direct their own learning, ask questions, create their own solving problem method, explore more ideas and pieces of information to complete the tasks. Students get into their prior knowledge and experience as they attempt to solve a problem by themselves. Thus, students will continually fit the new knowledge into existing knowledge by providing context and creating a personal “storage room” of resources that will be available for future problem-solving needs. This will enhance their higher-order thinking skills. Higher-order thinking skills require students to manipulate information and ideas in ways that transform their meaning and implications (NurahimahYusoff et al., 2013). Manipulating information and ideas through these processes allows students to solve problems and discover new meanings for them and understandings. Barret (2013) reported that bringing real-life problems into the learning environment allow students to explore and implement ways to problem-solving. Generally, they will have a better understanding of a certain topic because when students develop deep thinking of the main concepts based on real-life problems, they actually demonstrate deep knowledge and explore more of open-ended problems. In conclusion, there is no doubt that by approaching students as developer of critical thinking and problem-solving skills would enable them to experience success as a good problem solver, self-directed and life-long learner which is the type of worker that todays job market requires.
In addition, a student-centered approach creates collaborative learning through group works task which will improve students social skills. Collaborative learning is a situation in which teams of students work on structural task such as homework assignments, laboratory experiments or design projects. So basically, collaborative learning involves working in a group with individual members enhancing and reinforcing the knowledge base and skill sets of each other. Many studies have shown that when they implemented correctly, collaborative learning improves information acquisition and knowledge retention, higher-order thinking skills, interpersonal and communication skills, and self-confidence. Collaborative learning gives students the authority to seek for understanding together by engaging in the learning process which will facilitate higher achievement in the classroom (Hamdi, 2015). However, positive interactions between the students do not always occur naturally, and social skills instruction must precede and concur with good cooperative learning strategies. This is mean that lecturers or teachers should play their role as a facilitator that should monitor their students to ensure they are actively participating in the group work. Rukmini, E., Cindy, C., & Tanoto, P. (2018) stated that students’ teamwork during collaborative learning could be assessed from performance on working in a team and their level of communication skills upon working in a team. For instance, lecturers can design learning activities with greater emphasis on group work such as group presentations, team quizzes, and debates. Group presentations and interactive lectures featuring discussion of concepts and application to practical exercises can create more interest in the topic learned. Debates also help them understand well by exchange ideas and knowledge. These are some activities that might be effective and suitable to be applied as a group works. Students not only just able to learn from the course materials or individual assignments, but also from their classmates through interaction and discussion (Samson M. Tsegay, 2015). Consequently, they will learn communication skills, leadership skills, interpersonal skills and other social skills that highly demanded by most of the employers through this collaborative learning in the student-centered learning environment.
On top of that, student-centered learning able to enhance students self-engagement and also their motivation to learn. Students who have motivation to learn in the university will earn higher grades, have higher standardized test scores, better attendance for lectures and are less likely to drop out (Krista Kaput, 2018). Students need a motivation to learn first in order to have self-engagement in learning. Student’s engagement is vital in terms of educational outcomes such as achievement, persistence and knowledge retention. As we know, teacher-centered is conventional learning where students are the passive recipients of information during lectures. These conventional teaching formats have been criticized for insufficiently engaging students and less motivation for them to learn. Meanwhile, student-centered learning has some methods that emerge with the aim of enhancing engagement through participation in high-impact activities which can encourage them to learn more deeply about the topics. In general, studies have demonstrated that active learning, such as discussion, practical hands-on activities and meaningful knowledge construction and transfer such as the ability to develop new knowledge to teach others, leads to a significantly higher knowledge retention rate than the traditional lecture-style that is known as a one-way learning concept. Melissa Abdullah et al. (2013) states that students knowledge retention can be enhanced if active learning is promoted via the student-centered approach of teaching. To give you an idea, a group presentation can put a bit pressure on the students where they really need to understand expertly the topic in order to present well and look more presentable. Another example is a peer tutoring method where students serve as tutors and also tutees. A study shows that a student will have 90% knowledge rates retention when they teach other students. This is because they will learn more if they need to teach others when participating in activities such as group presentations and peer tutoring. This method will simultaneously support the learning of self-regulation skills, active learning, and individual construction of knowledge so that individuals assume greater responsibility for their own learning. To sum up, students will also be more motivated to learn as they are exposed to alternative problem-solving strategies, able to engage more in meaningful learning, are less fearful in generating their their own solutions or answers, and are probably more confident and persistent in facing learning challenges.
Apart from that, student centered-learning also helps to promote an increasing number of a positive learning outcome through the efficacious activities in this learning by guidance from the lecturers. Some of the positive outcomes are such as there is more willingness by students to express their ideas, improved participation and interaction among the students and also between students and teachers, enhanced students motivation of learning, quality of discussion and level of their analysis of certain concepts. During a student-centered learning process, students take part in learning activities which gives them opportunities to help them in clarifying their understanding more and also in assimilating the subject matter in meaningful ways. This is because when lots of effective learning activities are ongoing, students are actually engaged to focus more on what they are currently learning. However, all of these must be organized by a lecturer that acts as a facilitator. Lecturers must be creative to organize constructivist learning activities for the students in order to make student-centered learning as a successful method to promote a positive learning outcome. Lecturers are recommended to prepare a model answer and highlight important points that will help students to refine their understanding by using critical thinking skills, they also can provide multiple means of accessing information for students in order to encourage them to explore more about the topic learned. They should really play their important role as a facilitator in all those activities by facilitating the learning activities, guiding the students to improve their understanding and interpretations and also maybe correcting any misconception among students about the topics. All of these guides by the lecturers can help all learning activities are running smoothly and well-participated by the students. For instance, lecturers can organize a group discussion or debates about an interesting phenomenon that related to the topics learned to provide example for learners to experience real-world or meaningful practices. This is because students learn from examples, they will have afterwards experience in a more relevant practice. They learned to construct meaning and deep understanding through all of those learning activities that will result in achieving a better learning outcome. They will be more motivated, remember more, can link information together better, and can form ideas with more self-confidence to express their opinion about the idea if this student-centered learning is applied (Daff, 2013; Reeve, 2013). Therefore, it is evidently that constructive learning activities that can be organized by lecturers in student-centered approach will improve the learning outcomes quality from the students.
Another point worth noting is, student-centered learning also helps to equip students with transferrable skills or also known as soft skills. Soft skills are interpersonal skills that are used to describe your approach to life, work, and relationships with other people (Aashish Pahwa, 2019). Soft skills are also a combination of social skills, social intelligence, emotional intelligence and also self-ability to navigate their environment and surrounding. Soft skills are really crucial for students because it can be their special selling point which gives them a competitive edge over others in study or even soon in a workplace. There are some of the soft skills that students can develop through student-centered learning such as communication skills, self-motivation, good teamwork, time management, responsibility, leadership and flexibility. Students indeed will have a good future by mastering all of these beneficial soft skills that help them to learn, work, and live better. Those who have experienced student-centered learning are believed to be more independent and well-prepared to the real work environment because they are already equipped with transferable skills that enable them to work effectively in their future careers. They can perform more efficiently at work and able to contribute extensively to the society in the future. For example, collaborative learning in a student-centered approach helps students to develop their social skills. Group discussion or presentation is not just a practice in getting the work done in time but it also throws students into a situation of learning how to work together well and concomitantly can refine their social skills. Social skill is one of the most essential soft skills that students need to have because David J. Deming (2015) demonstrates that high-paying, difficult-to-automate jobs increasingly require social skills. Soft skills are one of the skill sets that have a high contribution to the success of university alumni for their professional careers in the future. It can be predicted that even though they have good intellectual skills, it is quite difficult for them to be successful if they do not have great soft skills. Regarding this matter, universities should be responsible for equipping their students with soft skills during their study at the university. In conclusion, one of the ways to develop transferable skills among students at the higher education level, the educational system must be characterized by active learning and this student-centered learning.
Taking everything into consideration, there is no doubt that student-centered learning is the best method of learning rather than teacher-centered learning due to all the reasons above. Student-centered learning helps to develop high critical thinking order, create collaborative learning, enhance students engagement and their motivation to learn, promote more positive learning outcomes and lastly able to equip students with soft skills. Student-centered learning with an effective teaching content such as group tasks, problem solving task, question and answer session, discuss, explain, debate, or brainstorm during learning sessions and other relevant learning activities allows students to identify a problem, formulate learning issues, collaborate with others, create social active interaction, encourage research by their own, be motivated to express a different opinion, stimulate ideas, and offer an alternative perspective during discussion (Golightly & Muniz, 2013). This approach will also help students to be assessed based on their ability to apply the knowledge learned by doing projects, simulating tasks, working in real-life situations, become more focused and self-directed. However, the role of lecturers in this student-centered approach is very essential for the sake of effectiveness and success of this method of teaching. Lecturers have to provide a learning environment in which active engagement is stimulated to help students become more academically successful. They also have to create a context where the students are motivated to learn such as providing content and resources, and also organizing constructivist learning activities. The student-centered approach will be an extremely effectual learning program for students in university with the help and guidance of lecturers. This new learning paradigm, that focuses on the learner and the learning process might be able to boost the quality of undergraduate education and also the quality of the students performance. The research, which surveyed 500 undergraduates from both public and private universities, found that 65% of students indicated that their university courses play a vital role in increasing their chances of employment, yet only 25% say they are equipped with the necessary skills required for employment (Martin T., 2017). Hence, it is obvious that all universities in Malaysia should construct a paradigm shift in students learning by choosing student-centered approach as new teaching method to fulfil the requirements of the labour market to deliver more competent graduates.