Jon Rowberry: Putting the learner at the heart of the curriculum

Adam Simpson's picture

Traditionally, curricula have been documents created by teachers and institutions for classroom implementation and actualization. So, where does the learner fit into the grand scheme of things?


Given my ‘day job’ involves working in my institution’s curriculum team, I was naturally interested to see how Jon Rowberry was placing focus more firmly on the learner. Working in the context of Sojo University in Japan, Jon gave anecdotal descriptions of how the learner has been placed at the heart of his curriculum.


English is now being prioritized in Japan, noting how until recently the approach had been quite ad hoc across the nation with very little accountability. A lot of students in Japan have, Jon shared, been through a test-driven system, so the challenges of getting learners to engage with the language and overcome preconceptions that they ‘can’t do it’ are major challenges.


Learner autonomy is important because…


- Motivation,

- Transferability to other aspects of academia,

- Fits constructivist theories,

- Strengthens relationships (L-T / L-L)


Some constraints…


Institution – exams, rules, curriculum itself


Teacher – Expectations of students and peers, lack of time


Student – lack of motivation and confidence, expectations of the student-teacher relationship


Possible solutions…


- Self-access

- Computer-assisted language learning

- Goal setting

- Personalized curriculum

- Rethinking student / teacher roles

- Extensive reading

- Rethinking task design



Jon focused on two examples:


Extensive reading: This facilitates choice; reading for pleasure is motivational; exposure to grammar and vocabulary; can facilitate learner-centred tasks in the classroom.


Jon noted how systems such as Moodle Reader can help facilitate extensive reading.


Personalization: Class time culminating in mini-presentations to peers – works to develop relationships between members of the class.




Jon rounded off by stressing the importance of trying to keep external examinations out of the core curriculm.