Learner-Centered Instruction: Building Relationships for Student Success


Jeffrey H. D. Cornelius-White & Adam P. Harbaugh

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    To Avery, Evan, Jackson, and Sarah


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    In my lifetime and clearly in this new century, there has not been a more urgent need for a new educational paradigm. This new paradigm must be one that focuses on the learner—of any age or stage of development. The reason for this need is also clear: We are losing too many qualified teachers, administrators, and particularly students because of an outdated model of instruction. This outdated paradigm is based on the wrong set of assumptions about learning, motivation to learn, human development, and individual differences. The old paradigm, and sadly the current paradigm of instruction for too many learners, was borrowed from mechanical systems and a factory model of learning and schooling begun in the late 19th century and continued throughout the 20th century. Now that we have arrived at a new millennium, the time for this new paradigm and this new model of instruction is now.

    What Jef Cornelius-White and Adam Harbaugh have done in their book is revolutionary. They have taken the best of the theories of learner-centered instruction and made them practical and real for teachers and other educators as well as researchers. And even more than that, Jef and Adam have put a lot of warmth, concern, and gentle urgings for readers to focus on the heart of learner-centered instruction—the personal relationships that are built between learners and their teachers. They have learned through research—their own, mine, and others'—that without a central focus on those individually and personally caring and respectful relationships, the foundation for learning and motivation is not present. Without that foundation, the research and the reality clearly show that learners suffer. Learners suffer because they become unsure of their competencies and abilities to be successful, and they begin to feel disconnected and alienated from learning and schooling. This is happening all too frequently in our nation's schools for students and their teachers and administrators. It is particularly happening for poor and urban school students and staff.

    There are many things to say that will recommend this book to a wide variety of readers—even parents and the students themselves. Most noteworthy to me is the careful building of the case for learner-centered instruction. The model is first introduced, and then the research and theoretical support is presented. With this base, Jef and Adam move to a careful explanation of what follows in terms of the practice of learner-centered instruction. Teaching is rightly seen as facilitation, and instruction is engagement focused. Classroom management becomes less about control and more about empowerment and student voice and choice. The focus on learning and achievement is redefined as an ongoing lifelong learning process where the learner plays an active role in regulating his or her own learning and achievement. Learning is seen as a true partnership between teachers and their students, with roles that can interchange depending on who knows the most about a topic at any given time.

    Also noteworthy and compelling, Jef and Adam systematically deepen the concept of teaching for the reader so that a true appreciation for the role of inquiry and authentic learning is built. In much the same way, they redefine what role cooperative learning plays in building those powerful learner–learner and learner–teacher relationships in the classroom. The reader understands that cooperative learning is not just about getting more students involved in the learning process—or even developing emotional intelligence, social skills, or motivating those students who are bored, disenfranchised, or scared. What it is really about is understanding our interdependencies and need for personal connections in the tradition of Meg Wheatley, Otto Scharmer, Peter Senge and other systems thinkers. The reader “gets” this by the time they reach the final chapter and understand that all learning contexts are ecological and map onto human learning principles—not mechanical and robotic or mechanistic and reductionistic principles so common in our current legislation on testing and standards-based instruction.

    The structure and format of this book makes it an easy and motivational read. Every chapter follows sound principles of learning, motivation, development, and individual differences. Readers are provided with an advance organizer that helps them visualize the learning journey of each chapter. They continually are asked to reflect on their own experience as they read various sections throughout the book. They are also provided with things to think, talk, or write about. There are lots of case studies to reflect on and helpful resources for educators in every chapter. All in all, this book makes me proud that I have persevered in arguing for learner-centered instruction and that it has the power and research support verified so well by Jef and Adam.

    As with any book, it will be a beacon for change for many and something to argue against for the doubters. We live in a world of opposites; part of the joy of learning is the debate between those at opposite poles of any issue. My hope is that many see the urgency to put into practice what Jef and Adam are arguing for: a new model and a new paradigm for teaching and learning. The new model must focus on learners or we will continue to lose too many of our best and brightest to alternative forms of schooling and learning. For me, this book is a “must read.” Hope it is for you as well.

    Barbara L.McCombs

    Dr. McCombs is the author of many books, including The School Leader's Guide to Learner-Centered Education: From Complexity to Simplicity just published by Corwin Press in July 2008. Her coauthor is Lynda Miller, the same coauthor as on her first book with Corwin Press published in 2007, entitled Learner-Centered Classroom Practices and Assessments: Maximizing Student Motivation, Learning, and Achievement.


    Welcome to Learner-Centered Instruction: Building Relationships for Student Success. The purpose of this book is to help readers explore how learner-centered interpersonal relationships, principles, and methods can improve their instructional practices. This book's primary audience is pre-service and in-service teachers, especially graduate students. For courses in which teacher–student relationships or learner-centered methods are a central topic, this book may serve as a core text. It is also well situated as a supplemental text in many courses, especially introduction to education and special education, elementary and secondary methods, theories of learning, the person and school in society, foundations, and its classroom assessment, reflection, and management courses.

    Learner-Centered Instruction fills a gap to address the ethical, relational realities of human development within school settings. It endeavors to help return a sense of compassionate control to classroom teachers and self-control to learners. Many graduate instructors may find its review of recent research (e.g., Cornelius-White, 2007) using the Assessment of Learner-Centered Practices (McCombs, 1999) and its consideration of school reform topics useful for examining current trends and future questions for additional research. This book is also applicable in courses on multicultural and disability education and school counseling consultation due to its prioritization of positive emotional and behavioral outcomes for all learners. Learner-Centered Instruction contains a variety of pedagogical aids to engage learners and deepen learning.

    Most discussions of instruction tend to undervalue caring, facilitative teacher–student relationships as major contributors to learner success. On the contrary, we believe fundamental ways that teachers are warm and curious and daringly empathic, yet transparently influential, are central to student success. However, we also honor the complexities that each unique teacher faces when trying to teach from this core. Teachers have to be flexible and serve many masters, all the while keeping a love of life and learning alive and thriving within their classrooms. Learner-centered instruction (LCI) is an approach to teaching and learning that prioritizes facilitative relationships, the uniqueness of every learner, and the best evidence on learning processes to promote comprehensive student success through engaged achievement. LCI is foremost an ethical and interpersonal endeavor, which is best pursued with an eye toward holistic learning goals and flexible use of a wide variety of instructional methods.

    Even though most educators believe it to be true on an intuitive level, a major teaching problem in pre-service and in-service teacher education is a lack of convincing research support to show how fostering successful teacher–student relationships is vital for students' comprehensive success. In contrast, a main learning problem for teachers is building the skills and attitudes, not just knowledge, necessary to actually foster those interpersonal relationships. Although the book is uniquely supported by quantitative and qualitative research, it also aims to bring to life the human dimensions of LCI so readers gain more than just knowledge. We believe every student, teacher, parent, and administrator is involved in a profound, shared enterprise. Listening to the valuable perspectives of all voices in schools can enrich teacher preparation, professional development, and practice. Throughout the book, we include enduring quotes from policy makers and education scholars alongside heartfelt statements and stories from everyday students, educators, and parents to highlight struggles and successes within today's classrooms. We hope readers will take from the book an understanding of the research support for LCI, an enhanced appreciation for listening to the voices within their schools, and a developing set of learner-centered attitudes, skills, and teaching methods that can be put to immediate practice in role plays or actual classrooms.

    Significant trends in ongoing educational discussions make LCI a relevant and enduring contributor to teacher development. The rising importance of multiculturalism and interconnectedness in the postmodern world and accountable, evidence-based practices, or scientifically supported teaching and learning strategies that bridge the research-to-practice gap, are perhaps the most important developments in education in recent years.

    Social responsibility and appreciation for diversity, disability, and opportunity are likely to become increasingly relevant. The future will likely bring more sophisticated research, theory integration, service-learning, and concern for social and ecological justice developing in the next 5 to 10 years. Humanistic, constructivist, care, and critical pedagogies, in which our approach is grounded, have been uniquely attuned to diversity issues. Diversity is best approached through listening and honoring student, parent, and community voices and adapting instruction to meet the needs at hand.

    In the past 15 years particularly, there has been an increased flurry of activity to discover evidence-based practices related to learner-centered instruction, explicitly integrating adaptation to individual and cultural differences as a major variable. Furthermore, developments in LCI continue to be well situated in terms of policy making for the near future given their importance to American Educational Research Association (http://aera.net) and American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org) policies, projects, and leaders.

    The subfields of learner-centered instruction are instructional methods at all learner levels, social and philosophical issues in education, student actualization, classroom climate and management, and school reform. This book addresses, in depth, the field of teacher–student relationships, learner-centered principles, classroom management, inquiry, differentiated and cooperative learning and instruction, student engagement and achievement, and professional development, advocacy, and networking. There is significant need for works that address these major areas because of a disconnection between the challenges classroom teachers face and the topics emphasized in teacher preparation programs. We agree with the need to bridge the disconnect between the belief that relationships, classroom management, and engagement are central to teachers' success or failure and the emphases of many teacher preparation programs that do not significantly address these concerns. Throughout this book, we provide ways teachers can effectively balance theory, research, and practice in direct and facilitative instruction.

    Pedagogical Aids

    We appreciate that every student, like every teacher and every reader of this book, is a unique person, with her or his own story, distinctive environment, personal sufferings, and exceptional strengths. We include several pedagogical features in each chapter to facilitate your engagement with learner-centered instruction. We invite you to Reflect on Your Experiences and existing knowledge at the start of each chapter with the hopes of helping your journey through this book to be more engaged and relevant for you. We include Things to Talk, Think, and Write About, such as skill-building exercises, discussion questions, and visual aids. Many chapters include tables and figures to show the relative effectiveness of specific learner-centered elements at reaching engagement and achievement goals and to encourage critical evaluation and learning of theory and research. We have set in bold type selected words or phrases that highlight key words and concepts and appear again in the Glossary.

    In the second half of each chapter, we provide Case Studies from the classroom and related Reflections to help readers apply the content to and learn from real classroom experiences. Each chapter concludes with a Summary, including main themes and an introductory sentence for the next chapter to remind yourself of content when studying and prepare for what is to come, and a Suggested Resources list for further exploration. Critical engagement of the Internet is increasingly becoming a useful resource for both information and cooperation with other educators. The use of a journal or peer group who read this book together can help readers' enjoyment and consolidation of learning. We invite you to apply what you learn immediately to stories from the classroom, role plays, or real-life interactions.

    During their preparation, professional development, and beyond, we expect educators to discover and articulate their own evolving models of how they teach, learn, and develop. Many of the pedagogical aids in the book provide examples of instructional methods teachers can use and, in turn, encourage students to use in schools. LCI is an approach that endeavors to empower teachers toward their own unique styles of instruction and simultaneously encourages students to become their own teachers, or self-regulating learners. LCI is an approach that aims for people to discover how to learn more effectively, a process that inevitably influences others around them to do the same.

    We believe posing and reflecting on questions is more important than it may at first seem. To help educators develop their own models and self-regulating learning skills, this book invites readers to consider “big” questions to expose their own assumptions. Making assumptions explicit is important to testing them, so one can teach and learn with confidence when those assumptions appear true and adapt when they appear false. Although the book will explore research and results, theories and ideas, and spend much of the time offering suggestions of how to put this information to work in classrooms, we recognize that your own experiences and perspectives are influential and essential to what you will take away from this book. We think the best educational text in the world is only as good as the reflective, critical, flexible reader who engages with its content through deep personal inquiry. We provide below an overview of the book as an advance organizer, or preparation for learning, and map to browse around the book for relevant topics.

    Organization of the Text

    Chapter 1 examines empirical foundations of our LCI model, including an introduction to the meta-analysis of the core learner-centered relationships, the American Psychological Association's (APA Work Group of the Board of Educational Affairs, 1997) Learner-Centered Psychological Principles, and research on guided inquiry and cooperative learning. Chapter 2 describes the theories on which our model of LCI is based, beginning with the relational foundations of humanism and the active role for learners in constructivism and addressing related and supportive traditions. These foundations include critical pedagogy, care, and brain-compatible instruction, which are all balanced throughout the text with a healthy appreciation for the complex and fast-paced, practical decision-making practices teachers use.

    Chapter 3 outlines the foundational facilitative relationship based on warmth, trust, authenticity, and empathy, including the strong empirical associations of these relational variables with comprehensive student success. Chapter 4 examines how LCI fosters student engagement as seen in increases in student attendance, basic respect for others, participation, intrinsic motivation and satisfaction, social connections, and self-regulation. Chapter 5 outlines how instructional methods that share control and choice and are embedded in relationships built on attractive power and cooperative influence can lead to successful classroom management.

    Chapter 6 outlines how teacher encouragement, challenge, and adaptation are three core principles for the flexible use of a variety of instructional methods. Chapter 7 discusses how students cognitively benefit from learner-centered instructional methods and relationships with particular attention to critical and creative thinking. LCI values the whole person of the student and acknowledges the central role education plays in the maintenance and enhancement of our societies.

    Chapters 8 and 9 introduce fundamental instructional practices that may be used across all levels of education, such as inquiry-based methods, cooperative learning, and roles for traditional lecture and assessments. Chapters 8 and 9 also describe important ways teachers can include technology resources in their instructional practices. Chapter 8 focuses on authentic and inquiry-based instructional methods and strategies, including questioning, problem-based learning, service-learning, simulations, and performance-based assessments, while Chapter 9 deals with cooperative learning, including essential conditions for cooperative learning, description of structured approaches, the role of feedback and assessment, and the appropriate balancing of cooperative with competitive and individualistic methods.

    Chapter 10 concludes the main text with a discussion of the importance of a focus on building the broader relationships necessary to reform schools in more than superficial ways, including relationships with parents, school administrators, other teachers, professional and advocacy groups, and with teachers' own selves. After the main text, a glossary, bibliography, and index complete the book.


    We would like to acknowledge many individuals who have been instrumental in helping us write this book. First and foremost, we would like to thank our spouses, Cecily and Rebecca, for their love and support throughout the journey of this project. Second, we would like to recognize the support of the following people:

    • Chuck R. Barké, University of Texas–Tyler
    • David Hough, Missouri State University
    • Lacey York, Missouri State University

    We would also like to thank our colleagues and expert reviewers who, through their insightful suggestions and comments, helped us write a better book than we could have on our own:

    • Robert Algozzine, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
    • Jerold D. Bozarth, University of Georgia
    • Robert Maribe Branch, University of Georgia
    • Randel D. Brown, Texas A&M International University
    • Susie Burroughs, Mississippi State University
    • Mary Margaret Capraro, Texas A&M University
    • Dorie Combs, Eastern Kentucky University
    • Deborah Cox, Missouri State University
    • Barbara K. Curry, University of Delaware
    • Jack Dimond, Missouri State University
    • Scott Gostchock, Brenau University
    • Marjorie Hall Haley, George Mason University
    • Jeanneine Jones, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
    • Steve Jones, Missouri State University
    • Dave Kommer, Ashland University
    • Hope Longwell-Grice, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
    • Barbara L. McCombs, University of Denver Research Institute Center for Motivation, Learning, and Development
    • Renate Motschnig-Pitrik, University of Vienna
    • David L. Netherton, Old Dominion University
    • Karen R. Nicholas, Florida State University
    • Marian J. Parker, Troy University
    • Lee R. Pearce, Black Hills State University
    • Jean W. Pierce, Northern Illinois University
    • Gerald J. Pine, Boston College
    • David Pugalee, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
    • William Watson Purkey, University of North Carolina–Greensboro
    • Gavin Reid, University of Edinburgh
    • Charles M. Reigeluth, Indiana University
    • Phillip Riner, University of North Florida
    • Kathy L. Schuh, University of Iowa
    • Binyomin G. Segal, National-Louis University
    • Roger Sell, Missouri State University
    • Eric Sheffield, Missouri State University
    • Kris Sloan, St. Edward's University
    • David Eddy Spicer, Harvard Graduate School of Education
    • David W. Stinson, Georgia State University
    • Rosemary Traore, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
    • Anete Vasquez, University of South Florida
    • Glee Whitsett, University of Montevallo
    • Trena L. Wilkerson, Baylor University
    • Shawn R. Woodhouse, University of Missouri–St. Louis
    • Theo Wubbels, Utrecht University

    Finally, we would like to thank the wonderful editorial team at SAGE Publications, especially Diane McDaniel, Ashley Plummer, Leah Mori, Sarah Quesenberry, and Teresa Wilson.

    Introduction: A Model of Learner-Centered Instruction

    Through others we become ourselves.

    —Lev Vygotsky
    Comprehensive Student Success

    Nine in ten American adults feel a failure to learn values, like honesty and respect, is a widespread problem, with a majority calling it very serious (Farkas & Johnson, 1997). Likewise, the majority of Black and Hispanic students feel there is a “very serious problem” with students' lack of respect for teachers (J. Johnson, Arumi, & Ott, 2006). Nearly 8 in 10 teachers attribute the lack of respect to a lack of family discipline requiring more management at school and to absorbing widespread cultural disrespect from the media and other outlets (Public Agenda Foundation, 2004). Perhaps more important, 95% of Americans feel schools should teach honesty and respect for all (J. Johnson & Immerwahr, 1994), and 93% of teachers and 88% of parents feel a school's mission should be to produce productive citizens in addition to teaching the three Rs (Public Agenda Foundation, 2004). Two-thirds of parents feel they have not been succeeding in helping their children develop adequate self-discipline, leaving an important gap for schools to fill (Public Agenda Foundation, 2004). In surveying nearly 1,000 teachers-in-training since 1999, Rubalcava (2005) found that they almost always hope their primary focus in teaching is to foster socialization, particularly communication and cooperation skills, or self-actualization, interacting with students as individuals to help them follow their unique paths of development. Although teachers-in-training value the themes of socialization and actualization most, they also value developing students' civic values as essential skills and content for contributing to the economy. In summary, most people want students to comprehensively succeed, not just be good test-takers in the three Rs.

    We propose a holistic model of comprehensive success that is built on both engagement and achievement, believing social, self-regulating, and critical thinking skills and dispositions represent the ideal levels of these two broad goals. School is an important environment that can foster comprehensive growth in students and adults alike. These processes of comprehensive success are consistent with the increasingly prevalent assertions from scholars and policy makers (e.g., J. Tomlinson, 1999), such as the findings in the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce Report from the National Center on Education and the Economy (Knapp et al., 2006). The New Commission asserted the educational needs for the new interconnected global world would go beyond strong mathematics, reading, and writing skills. To succeed in the workforce of the 21st century,

    [learners will] have to be comfortable with ideas and abstractions, good at both analysis and synthesis, creative and innovative, self-disciplined and well organized, able to learn very quickly and work well as a member of a team and have the flexibility to adapt quickly to frequent changes. (p. 8)

    Learners need a wide variety of rational, creative, emotional, interpersonal, and behavioral capacities to succeed. In an ideal educational system, teachers, administrators, and students are learning together—along with parents and community members—in interdependent, interpersonal, and personal ways (McCombs & Miller, 2007; Wheatley & Frieze, 2007).

    Listening to Student, Teacher, and Parent Voices

    What helps students and all learners to comprehensively grow and succeed? An innovative study, aptly named Voices From the Inside (Poplin & Weeres, 1992), asked virtually everyone associated with four urban and suburban public schools, representative of most Americans, what they thought about their schools. When we say everyone, we mean it: the students of all ages, the teachers, the custodians, cafeteria workers, administrators, parents, and other community members. The researchers spent 18 months, including 160 meetings; 24,000 pages of transcripts, journals, drawings, and essays; and hundreds of hours of tape to identify the problems of schooling. This study can be said to be not just student centered, but also teacher centered, parent centered, staff centered, researcher centered, and policy-maker centered. In the sense that everyone associated with these schools was trying to discover, or learn what can help improve schooling, the study was truly learner centered.

    Poplin and Weeres (1992) found that relationships, especially teacher–student relationships, are the biggest issue on everyone's mind. The next largest problem was the need for increased understanding and dialogue about diversity, particularly racial and economic diversity and to a lesser extent gender, among all community members. Problems related to diversity are essentially problems related to relationships, relationships between groups of people, not just individuals. Longitudinal studies support these main findings of the Voices From the Inside study. Cooperation and positive relationships have been among the most consistent fundamentals found to predict resilience (buoyancy and ability to recover from change or stress) in children and adults across cultural groups (Borman & Overman, 2004; Glantz & Johnson, 1999; Pianta, 1996). Our book's premise is that an effective way to reform schools is to foster facilitative, principled, and instructionally flexible relationships, especially between teachers and students, but also between all players in education.

    Importantly, and perhaps surprisingly to readers, in the Voices study, low test scores, violence, and higher dropout rates were not seen as the major problems in these schools. Poplin and Weeres (1992) discovered they were merely the consequences—consequences of a lack of meaningful relationships between all the participants of the school. Likewise, the researchers concluded regular conversations and emphasis must occur and be placed on relationships if schooling is to improve. Poplin and Weeres asserted any other approach will just treat the symptoms and not the problem itself.

    Frequently, when “nice” practices, like teaching students about respect and relationships, are brought up in conversations about education, there is a prevailing social bias asserting that these practices must not be effective or worthwhile. This bias may be expressed as, “Toughness gets results; niceness does not. The world today is a tough, competitive place.” While we acknowledge the world is in many respects tough and competitive and simply being nice is ineffective, we believe the rift between “nice” and “tough” is false. Part of the complexity of teaching in today's schools is dissolving these supposed dichotomies. Our model of learner-centered instruction (LCI) is about balancing challenge and empathy, high standards and high acceptance, achievement and enjoyment, as well as research and practice.

    A Model of Learner-Centered Instruction
    Learner Centered: Myriad Meanings

    The term learner centered has been used in many ways—most commonly, to distinguish an approach that is different, innovative, and potentially superior when compared to traditional practices in education. Table I.1 below lists some of the usages of learner-centered synonyms and practices in contrast with traditional ideas and practices. The left side of the table presents learner-centered aspects while the right side presents traditional aspects. Although we are aware that presenting these educational aspects and practices as opposites can hide many ways in which learner-centered and traditional approaches share similarities or may be combined for an effective educational approach, we also intend for the reader to draw from the table an emerging understanding of what we mean by learner centered. Sometimes learner centered evokes a lack of teacher-provided structure, especially when the term child centered is used. Although trust and nondirective or indirect facilitation are central to LCI, self-determination theory (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000), the model of teacher interpersonal behavior (Wubbels, Brekelmans, den Brok, & van Tartwijk, 2006), and person-centered approaches (Bohart, 2006; T. G. Patterson & Joseph, 2007) assert that supporting learners' autonomy requires a balance of structure and freedom with both proximity and influence. We present Table I.1 to stimulate thought, inquiry, and dialogue about the congruence of educational goals with educational methods.

    Table I.1 Learner-Centered Facets Contrasted With Traditional Facets
    Learner-Centered ApproachesTraditional Approaches
    Person centeredCurriculum centered
    Self-directedTeacher directed
    Child centeredTeacher centered
    Process (how)Content (what)
    Constructing understandingCovering subject matter
    Inquiry basedKnowledge based
    Experiential methodsLecture
    CooperationCompetition or individualism
    Criterion referencingNorm referencing
    Libratory pedagogyBanking model
    Learner-Centered Model Is Best Practice in Learning

    Beginning in 1990, the American Psychological Association formed a Presidential Task Force to clarify how psychological knowledge helps learning and how to improve schools with this knowledge. What emerged, with the leadership of Barbara McCombs, was Learner-Centered Psychological Principles: Guidelines for School Redesign and Reform (LCPs), which has since been revised (APA Task Force, 1993; APA Work Group, 1997). The LCPs include four general areas: cognitive and metacognitive, motivational and affective, developmental and social, and individual differences. Likewise, the LCPs were created as a collection of evidenced-based principles that highlight the active and relational psychosocial and constructivist aspects of learning, which stand in contrast to more traditional ideas of teaching that are focused more on the authoritative passing of knowledge to a passive, receptive student. Correspondingly, McCombs and Whistler (1997), and more recently McCombs and Miller (2007), describe an emerging theory of education known as the learner-centered model. The learner-centered model builds on the LCPs to focus on both the learner and the learning process. We believe these efforts have been helpful in broadening the conventional discussions of learner-centered instruction away from simple dichotomies toward the best, most pragmatic practices. In this sense, “learner-centeredness” may include many of the elements of traditional practice when they can help educational practice to focus on the central role of learners and learning.

    The learner-centered model has been extensively researched since 1993, especially using the Assessment of Learner-Centered Practices (ALCP) (McCombs, 1999). Although different forms of the ALCP target different student levels and include several measures of student motivation, teacher beliefs, and positive teacher–student relationships, these forms all emphasize three principles of LCI: encouragement of meaningful and deep learning, challenging higher-order thinking, and adaptation to individual and cultural differences.

    Learner-Centered Interpersonal Relationships Are Central

    I have learned that more students than I thought dislike school because of the TEACHERS. I went into teaching because I wanted to make school a good place for students. When I was in high school, it seemed most teachers did not care about their students. It was my rationale that I would be different and make school a better place for students. Are my colleagues and I failing to do this?

    —High school teacher, Voices From the Inside

    Carl Rogers (1951, 1959) proposed that facilitative relationships characterized by empathy, acceptance, and honesty are the key to human growth and development. Nel Noddings (1984, 1992) proposed that a caring relation, or connection between persons, characterized by engrossed listening and perceived compassion, is central to the necessary moral purpose and evolution of schools. Related research in education, counseling, play, parenting, and other interpersonal endeavors have generally confirmed the salience of facilitative and caring relationships in human development and productivity (Aspy, Aspy, & Roebuck, 1984; Bratton, Ray, Rhine, & Jones, 2005; Bruce & Levant, 1990; Carkhuff, 2000; Cornelius-White, 2007; Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 2001; Elliott, Greenberg, & Lietaer 2004; Pianta, 1996; Wentzel, 2002). McCombs and Miller (2007) summarize much of this research, stating, “At its core, learning is relational in two ways: (1) individual learners attempt to make personal meaning from information and experiences and (2) strong student–teacher relationships provide a positive climate out of which natural learning and motivation emerge” (p. 8). Our model integrates the role of facilitative (empathic, accepting, and genuine) relationships with three principles of McCombs and colleagues' learner-centered model measured by the ALCP (encouragement, challenge, and adaptation) and a variety of instructional methods consistent with the learner-centered principles for comprehensive student success.

    Figure I.1 shows how the three principles of encouragement, challenge, and adaptation bridge the core relational stance and ways of interacting. LCI involves relational ways of being, including warmth and respect for learners as people first, authenticity that teachers too are humbly learners and people first, and trust that people are fundamentally hardwired to learn. This relational, attitudinal orientation to instruction leads to ways of interacting, such as empathy and adaptation to each unique learner and his or her learning processes. These collective ways of “being in relationship” lead to the principled practice of encouragement and challenge, two key terms that summarize an approach to the use of a wide variety of specific instructional methods. Authentic, relevant learning endeavors, guided inquiries, cooperative learning, direct instruction, and other methods each have a vital role to play in a learner-centered classroom. Flexibility and differentiation to the needs of the students and situation is guided by the lived relationships in classrooms.

    Figure I.1 A Model of LCI: Facilitative Relationships and Principled Utilization of Congruent Instructional Methods

    We used Figure I.1 earlier to propose that LCI aims for comprehensive student success, not just a change in “symptoms of schooling,” such as an increase in test scores or a decrease in dropout rates. Our model of LCI acknowledges relational influence is bidirectional or reciprocal; that is, student success can foster better teacher relationships and instructional methods even as teachers foster student success. Learner-centered instruction (LCI) is defined as an approach to teaching and learning that prioritizes facilitative relationships, the uniqueness of every learner, and the best evidence on learning processes to promote comprehensive student success through engaged achievement.

    An Invitation to Improve How You Learn

    One of the most important things you can do to learn something is to prepare, study, and review as a proactive process, especially the same day or time period that you learned of it. As we stress throughout this book, the more active learners are in constructing their learning, the better. Every time you study is an opportunity to learn to study more effectively even as every time learners learn, they can improve how they learn. Use this chance to improve your study skills and find resources and handouts to give your students. Check back to this introduction or the glossary to assess how well you are improving your ability to learn as you move through the chapters.

    One of the easiest places to look to better learn is on the Internet. Type “study methods” or “study skills” into any search engine, and you will find tens of millions of entries. Weimer's (2002) text Learner-Centered Teaching provides six handouts for use in helping to build study skills and self-regulated learning in higher education (though some are applicable with students younger than that). Or consult the journal or Web site of The Teaching Professor (http://www.teachingprofessor.com) for ongoing ideas and discussion. Lest you be disappointed, we will suggest a few ways for you to approach and review this book, but most important is that you ask and pursue the questions and answers of how you can best learn now and in the future. In other words, we suggest you take this opportunity to use the scaffolding that is this book to construct and reconstruct stable, long-lasting teaching and learning foundations.

    You might consider the experience of learning and building learner-centered practices as a whole. While reading, what relationships are you building for your success? Are you using the book as part of a class, study group, or mentoring program? If so, did you make a solid, positive, fun, or otherwise rewarding relationship with your instructor, mentor, or your peers? Are you keeping a journal or sharing things you are learning with a partner? Will you discuss changes in your beliefs or how you interacted with learners? Can you notice how you are changing in interacting with your children, parents, family, or friends during this time?

    Focus back and forth from the specific to the general. After reading through technical or detailed passages, take a moment to mull over some of the book's main themes and how each of these relates to your own learning and teaching:

    • teachers as facilitators of learning and learner development;
    • empirical and theoretical bases for LCI;
    • core relational characteristics of warmth, trust, empathy, and authenticity;
    • engagement as learning outcome and process, with social connections and self-regulation as optimal signs of engagement;
    • classroom management as influence and proximity, attractive power, and shared control and choice;
    • encouragement, challenge, and adaptation for learning, thinking, and differentiation;
    • ways achievement can be redefined to include both the basics (three Rs) and critical and creative problem identifying and solving;
    • relevant, inquiring topics, assignments, and projects;
    • relationships built between learners through cooperative learning; and
    • relationships built beyond the classroom to support the classroom.

    Periodically, flip through the pages and look ahead at the headings in each chapter. You can spend 10 minutes or 10 hours in this process, but give yourself multiple exposures with different degrees of attention to see what you know or remember, what you still do not understand, or what you want to learn more about. Make up additional questions, outlines, or figures. Consider the various methods you could use if you were an instructor using this textbook with your class to facilitate students looking forward and looking back, all the while being engaged in the present. Ideally, LCI can help lead to learners and teachers alike sharing their roles. Learners build social and self-regulating skills to achieve in sustainable and creative ways. Let the student become the master, and the master the student!

    Every aspect of this book is designed with you and your comprehensive success in mind. We will share much of our understanding of research and theory about what often helps people learn, but at its core, this book is for you to develop a way of being, teaching, and learning that will help learners succeed. We hope you will accept our invitation to engage in this development.


    This chapter introduced the central concept of learner-centered instruction (LCI), an ethical and interpersonal endeavor, which is best pursued with an eye toward comprehensive student success. We introduced our model of LCI, emphasizing classroom and contextual relationships, learning principles, and the flexible differentiation of instruction utilizing methods such as inquiry, cooperative learning, and direct instruction. The introduction concluded with a suggested study guide in the form of an invitation to readers to improve their ability to learn while engaging this book. In the next chapter, we will give an overview of the research on relationships and principles central to LCI.

  • Glossary

    We have used bold throughout the text to highlight important or technical concepts. The glossary includes each bolded word or phrase, an explanation of its meaning or significance for learner-centered instruction (LCI), and the chapter number in which the concept is first discussed.

    • Achievement Gap: The differences in academic achievement between groups, especially racial or socioeconomic groups. Teachers College (2005) reported that, on average, Black, Latino, and poor students tend to be 2 years behind by 4th grade, 3 years by 8th grade, and 4 years behind by 12th grade, as compared to White and Asian students (Chapter 5).
    • Advance Organizer: An advertisement of what is to come in a lesson or series of lessons; a headline to help learners (and teachers alike) to plan and be ready to learn. (Introduction)
    • Aptitude: A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings—“catching on,” “making sense” of things, or “figuring out” what to do (http://www.lrainc.com/swtaboo/taboos/wsj_main.html). (Chapter 7)
    • Authentic Assessment: Testing a student's collective yet relevant set of knowledge, skills, and attitudes for real-world tasks, not just academic material. Authentic assessment helps students achieve and demonstrate both convergent and divergent thought processes. (Chapter 7)
    • Authentic Learning: Characteristics of authentic learning include high perceived relevance, reduced need for transferring learning, and direct redressing of real world problems. Authentic learning helps students engage their intrinsic motivation and environmental demands with a supportive context to learn. Authentic learning methods also reduce the distance students have to transfer their learning. (Chapter 8)
    • Autonomy Support: Actions that take learners' perspectives into account; provide relevant modeling, information, and advice; and support learner choice and self-determination and growth of responsibility. (Chapter 2)
    • Average Educational Variable: The average of thousands of educational interventions with millions of learners to determine the average amount of learning or positive changes that are associated with or result from an educational initiative. Learner-centered variables (warmth, realness, empathy, challenge, adaptation, etc.) often show correlations with student engagement and achievement above the average educational variable. (Chapter 1)
    • Backward Design Process: Teachers, when designing instruction, decide first what they want their students to understand, and then determine what evidence would show this understanding (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). (Chapter 6)
    • Bio-Ecological Model (also known as nested systems theory): Bronfenbrenner's theory posits that human development involves the interaction of the learner and his or her context across biological, temporal, and micro (e.g., teacher–student), meso (e.g., teacher–administrator or teacher–parent), exo (e.g., teacher–professional organization), and macro (e.g., teacher–culture) levels. In LCI, ecological systems theory is used to emphasize teachers' building of relationships outside the classroom and attending to one's own physical health. (Chapter 10)
    • Chaos Theory (also known as interdisciplinary or dynamic systems theory): Complicated systems at first glance may appear to lack order but actually follow particular rules, such as the butterfly effect, where small changes in inputs result in large changes in outputs, or the attractor effect, where large changes in inputs result in no changes in outputs. (See Cornelius-White & Kriz, 2008, for more information as pertains to human learning and development.) (Chapter 4)
    • Choice Theory (previously called Control): Students make choices in and out of the classroom in order to meet basic needs of love, survival, freedom, fun, and power (also called recognition). Teachers craft and adjust assignments to fit needs. (Chapter 5)
    • Cooperative Test Construction (also known as student-made tests): Involves students and teachers to plan and write assessments to increase learning and motivation without compromising test validity for summative purposes. (Chapter 9)
    • Co-Regulation: The social connections that help people learn, including the reception of information, planning of learning strategies, and monitoring of these strategies. See also Self-Regulated Learning and Scaffolding. (Chapter 2)
    • Correlation: The amount that one thing tends to move in synch with another, most often depicted by Pearson's r. Correlations can be zero or negligible, where there is no established association between two (or more) variables (e.g., babies crying and day of the year they are born); positive, where there is an established association where two (or more) variables increase or decrease together (e.g., babies crying and hunger); or negative, where there is an established association where two (or more) variables increase or decrease in opposite directions (e.g., babies crying and being held). (Chapter 1)
    • Cultural Competence: Understanding one's own values and biases, the worldviews of those different from you, and flexibly using intervention methods to fit the particular persons and situation (ACA, 1996; Cornelius-White, 2002). (Chapter 6)
    • Deficit View: Teachers hold a deficit view when they attribute student struggles to inherent problems that are resistant to change and not strongly related to the context, including their relationship and attempted methods of teaching. (Chapter 3)
    • Differentiated Instruction: “Ensuring that what a student learns, how he/she learns it, and how the student demonstrates what he/she has learned is a match for what that student's readiness, interests, and preferred mode of learning [are]” (C. A. Tomlinson, 2004, p. 188). (Chapter 2)
    • Discipline Gap: Students of races and cultures, who have been historically marginalized, are far more likely to receive harsher and absolute discipline in American schools than their White, middle-class counterparts. Statistical analysis supports the idea that teachers' conscious and unconscious expectancies appear to have a role. (Chapter 5)
    • Distal-Proximal Effect: The distal (factors most distant from the person being impacted) is less potent than the proximal (those factors closest to the person), where students (or their current behavior) are the center. This simply means that the closer something is to students' lived experience, the more it affects their learning. (Chapter 1)
    • Engagement: Learners' need, desire, and commitment to attend to, participate in, cooperate with, and self-regulate their learning. Engagement is perhaps the most fundamental and enduring developmental step in life (Watson & Battistich, 2006). Even as joining is a basic need (Maslow, 1968), it is equally important as a process that facilitates success of all kinds on its own, including attachment (Bowlby, 1973), cognitive and social development (Vygotsky, 1962/1986), and moral development (Gilligan, 1982). (Chapter 4)
    • Equity Traps: Thought and behavior patterns, usually outside educators' awareness, that limit possibilities for equitable school practices for diverse students and their families. These traps include the deficit view, racial erasure, and paralogical beliefs and actions. (Chapter 3)
    • Ex Duco: Latin root for “education,” meaning to draw out the best in people. (Chapter 6)
    • Flow: The term used to describe optimal experiences, which are those where both performance and enjoyment are highest, characterized by clear goals, concentration, no self-consciousness, time distortion, immediate feedback, personal control, intrinsic reward, and a merging of action and awareness. (Chapter 2)
    • Formative Assessment: Continuous aids to learning/teaching cycle or feedback mechanisms. Formative is contrasted with summative assessment and not used for overall evaluation or grading procedures only in low-stakes ways. (Chapter 8)
    • Heterogeneous Grouping: In cooperative learning, making groups comprised of learners with different characteristics (e.g., not all boys, all high achievers). (Chapter 9)
    • High-Stakes Tests: For example, No Child Left Behind (NCBL) primarily uses Adequate Yearly Progress on one standardized test per state with a heavy emphasis on reading (not literature, per se) and arithmetic (not mathematics, per se) to the exclusion of other subjects and goals. Such tests have become known as high-stakes tests. (Chapter 7)
    • “I”-Statements: An effective way to build realness and help interpersonal relationships in the classroom is the practice of “I”-statements. Teachers, like parents and other leaders, often force their hand by attempting to control learners, when“I”-statements that simply convey teachers' intentions, feelings, or preferences work better. (Chapter 3)
    • Influence and Proximity: Influence ranges from dominance (D) to submission (S), and proximity ranges from cooperation (C) to opposition (O). LCI is characterized by a balance of high influence (particularly for academic achievement) and proximity (particularly for engagement and broader achievement), with reductions in influence and proximity as students achieve more self-regulating ability. Varying degrees of the two dimensions are described by eight types of teacher behavior: leadership (DC), helpful/friendliness (CD), understanding (CS), giving students freedom/responsibility (SC), uncertainty (SO), dissatisfaction (OS), being admonishing (OD), and strictness (DO) (Wubbels, Brekelmans, den Brok, & van Tartwijk, 2006). In LCI, helpful/friendly behavior should appear the most, followed closely by leadership, understanding, and giving students freedom, depending on the tasks involved and level of learner self-regulation. (Chapter 5)
    • Inquiry-Based Teaching (also known as guided discovery or experiential learning): Guides students to learn by helping them become researchers. This approach to teaching emphasizes the identification and specification of self-initiated or community-relevant questions, and builds skills to search and critically evaluate the Web, books, and other media; systematic samples; and the community of experts. (Chapter 8)
    • Instructional Feedback: A pivotal feature of optimal flow and learning experiences. They are preferably made in a timely, relevant manner, especially during the practicing phase of a knowledge or skill acquisition (Hattie, 1999; Hattie & Temperley, 2007). In LCI, feedback is conveyed with a balance of empathy and challenge. Learner-centered feedback aims to “connect while you correct” (Landreth & Bratton, 2006). (Chapter 3)
    • Jigsaw Method: A common example of a scripted approach to cooperative learning, involving explicit directions in procedures, that is able to be generalized across curriculum and grade and ability level. The typical procedure asks groups of students to form four- to six-person clusters as a team; learn material and become an expert in a specific section; re-form teams with all of the experts in a given area; and then reassemble to share, teach, and discuss with the original teams following the expert meetings. (Chapter 9)
    • Learner-Centered Instruction (LCI): An approach to teaching and learning that prioritizes facilitative relationships, the uniqueness of every learner, and the best evidence on learning processes to promote comprehensive student success through engaged achievement. Figure I.1 in the Introduction provides a model showing how LCI involves a relational stance, ways of interacting, principles, methods, and relationships in context. (Introduction)
    • Learning Centers: “Defined space[s] where materials are organized in such a way that children learn without the teacher's constant direction” (Mayesky, 2002, p. 80). (Chapter 4)
    • Meta-Analysis: A way of helping people see the forest, not just the trees, when they read research. More technically, a meta-analysis is a quantitative synthesis of all available studies in a particular area; in this case, learner-centered interpersonal relationships and principles. (Chapter 1)
    • Metacognition: Thinking about and knowing how to think and learn. Self-regulated learners improve their ability to learn; that is, they are motivated and know how to think well, applying studying, self-questioning, self-evaluation, and problem-solving strategies effectively to each learning situation. (Chapter 2)
    • Mirror Neurons: Brain components that fire both in individuals performing an action and in those observing the action. Mirror neurons provide a biological basis for empathy and cooperative behavior. (Chapter 2)
    • Moderator Analysis: Variables that may influence the relationship between an independent and a dependent variable. For example, in the learner-centered meta-analysis, teacher gender was considered as a potential moderator, hypothesizing that there may be a difference in how successful empathy or challenge (or other teacher variable) would be with positive student outcomes like engagement or achievement. Moderator analysis shows that though there are small, noticeable variations, LCI appears to be universally successful; that is, LCI contributes to success for nearly all learners and teachers. (Chapter 1)
    • Multiperspectival Thinking: Involves wearing many hats, such as psychologist, neuroscientist, and educator, ideally seeing how the learner is more than the sum of the perspectives. In LCI, teachers ideally approach each new instructional situation as a possibility, a possibility for student success, a possibility for learning something new within the teacher, and a possibility for transformation in our rapidly changing world. (Chapter 6)
    • Over-Learning: Knowing or practicing something beyond initial mastery so that it becomes automated or a natural extension of you. (Chapter 6)
    • Paralogical Beliefs and Behaviors: Conclusions and resulting actions that do not logically follow from premises. Paralogical beliefs are a form of self-deception that result from accepting common or traditional ideas without critical examination. Paralogical beliefs were discussed as ways that teachers are not authentic when interacting with culturally diverse learners. (Chapter 3)
    • Plastic: The quality of brains that are built to handle fluctuation more than constant attention, remaining plastic, or adaptable, until we die. (Chapter 2)
    • Platinum Rule: In contrast to the golden rule, which stresses one's own preferences (do unto others as you would them do unto you), the platinum rule (do unto others as they would have you do unto them) values empathy and adaptation to differences. (Chapter 3)
    • Positive Interdependence: The overarching condition of successful cooperative learning, and indeed learner-centered instruction and other person-centered approaches. “Positive interdependence is linking students together so one cannot succeed unless all group members succeed. Group members have to know that they sink or swim together” (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998, p. 4). (Chapter 9)
    • Power: At a basic level, power simply means the ability to affect one's perspective, actions, or context. In LCI, power is ideally shared transparently between the teacher, students, and others in the educational context (e.g., administrators, parents) in keeping with the responsibilities of their roles and abilities. See also Influence and Proximity. Five types of teacher power (French & Raven, 1959/1974) include:
    • Attractive Power: The power of personability and learners' sense that teachers care about them and their interests. This form is most applicable to LCI.
    • Coercive Power: The power that draws boundaries through punishment. This form is least applicable to LCI.
    • Expert Power: Deference, attention, and emulation with teachers who know things that learners want to understand.
    • Legitimate Power: The influence that comes from being in an organizationally dominant, influential position (i.e., the role of teacher, also called role power).
    • Reward Power: The ability to influence others through reinforcement. In LCI, its use is limited to avoid deterioration of intrinsic motivation. (Chapter 5)
    • Proximity (see Influence and Proximity)
    • Pruning: In LCI, it refers to the removal of synapses not used, especially in terms of gray matter, happening throughout development prior to middle adulthood, especially in adolescence. Pruning follows the use it or lose it principle, whereby one's hardwiring changes as one grows to adapt to developmental and other life changes. (Chapter 2)
    • Publishing: The process of intentionally producing a product to publicly disseminate. It provides an opportunity for peer review, personal ownership, and recognition, and is another strategy for building a participatory community of learners (Atwell, 1998). (Chapter 4)
    • Racial Erasure: “The sentimental idea … that racism would cease to exist if everyone would just forget about race and just see each other as human beings who are the same” (hooks, 1992, p. 12). (Chapter 3)
    • Reciprocal: The goal of interpersonal relationships defined by cooperation, give–take, and mutuality, where both (or all) participants foster each other's learning and development (e.g., student success can foster better teacher relationships and instructional methods even as teachers foster student success). (Introduction)
    • Relational Trust: Among adults in the educational context (teachers with administrators, parents, each other, and others), the extent of respect, personal regard, and integrity between parents and teachers, teachers and principals, and teachers themselves. (Chapter 1)
    • Scaffolding: Conventionally known as the metal-skeleton support structure that construction workers use to help them access the next part of a building that would otherwise be out of reach. It is a link between the ground and the next brick. Similarly, scaffolding in education is the co-regulated process to guide and inculcate responsibility to help students learn and gain understanding and self-regulation. (Chapter 2)
    • Self-Regulation: A type of learning that represents an internalization of the social connections and scaffolding that have helped students learn in the past. Self-regulating students are cognitively and emotionally present, invested in getting something out of their education, and capable to do so. (Chapter 4)
    • Self-Regulatory Learning: Alertness and selectivity in receiving information (e.g., engaged listening or reading comprehension), being able to connect the information to one's own experiences and knowledge base to plan and initiate a question or learning strategy (deepening learning and searching for solutions), and continuous monitoring to self-check on whether one is successfully using information to accomplish what they want. (Chapter 2)
    • Stereotype Threat: The effect that occurs when a person enters a testing situation where a stereotype is activated; for example, students being subtly or directly informed that girls have worse math skills than boys, or that Black students have less intelligence than their White peers. (Chapter 7)
    • Synergistic Classroom: An enhanced classroom characterized by a combination of facilitative teacher behavior and active student behavior that leads to an effect greater than the sum of these two parts. (Chapter 8)
    • The Game (of school): In order to achieve success, students must follow the main rule of the game of school: The teacher is always right. (Chapter 2)
    • Transformative Learning: Being changed by what and how one learns, not just in building new long-term memories, but changing one's point of view, role in society, and potentially systems in society. (Chapter 2)
    • “Use It or Lose It” Principle: The term used across development, including early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, which exists as an opposing explanatory principle to plasticity. In other words, there are critical (vital or nearly vital) or sensitive (much easier or longer lasting) times for learning some things, one of the most obvious being language fluency. (Chapter 2)
    • Wholetheme Achievement: From the wholetheme model, traditional education is viewed as essentially other-regulated (in contrast to self-regulated) education, meaning that teachers or other authority figures specify what knowledge is and how it should be obtained. Traditional education follows the idea of input–elaboration–output: Teachers provide input to students, who ideally elaborate through practice to converge in an output of performance, such as on tests. (Chapter 7)
    • Wiki: According to http://techterms.com, “a wiki is a Web site that allows users to add and update content on the site using their own Web browser” (http://www.techterms.com/definition/wiki). Wikipedia is probably the best known wiki platform. Individuals can start their own wikis hosted on several sites for free. (Chapter 9)
    • Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): “The distance between the actual developmental level as determined through independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). In other words, the ZPD is that area where we can do something with another, more able person's assistance that we cannot yet do by ourselves. (Chapter 2)


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    About the Authors

    Jeffrey H. D. Cornelius-White, PsyD, LPC, is associate professor in the Department of Counseling, Leadership, and Special Education, Provost's Fellow for Teaching and Learning, at Missouri State University (MSU) in Springfield, and adjunct assistant professor for the Cooperative EdD Program in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri–Columbia. He is chair of the board of the World Association for Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy and Counseling, coeditor of The Person-Centered Journal, content editor of the Journal of Border Educational Research, and coeditor of the 2008 book with PCCS entitled Facilitating Young People's Development: International Perspectives on Person-Centered Theory and Practice. He has also been a Dean's Fellow, Service-Learning Fellow, and Program Director for School Counseling at MSU. His 50 publications have been mostly concerned with person-centered and social justice issues in education, psychology, and counseling. Jef is the father of two children, Evan and Avery, and partner to his wife, Cecily. He enjoys biking, swimming, reading, and playing with his kids.

    Adam P. Harbaugh is an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the Department of Middle, Secondary, and K–12 Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He primarily teaches middle and secondary methods courses. Adam holds master's and PhD degrees in curriculum and instruction and bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics. Adam is also a certified middle grades and secondary mathematics teacher with experience in middle- and high-school mathematics classrooms. Adam's publications and research interests are centered on supporting teachers' effective use of communications, problem solving, and technology in their mathematics classrooms. He is an associate editor of School Science and Mathematics Journal. Adam is the father of two children, Sarah and Jackson, and partner to his wife, Rebecca. He enjoys running, photography, racquetball, and spending time with his family.

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