Learner-Centered Education in the Iranian EFL Context: A Glance through the Impediments

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Payame Noor University

2 Urmia University



Though learner-centered paradigm of education has long been introduced to pedagogy in general and language teaching in particular, it seems that scant heed has been given to its implementation as well as the restrictions and challenges on its way. In an attempt to shed more light on the status of learner-centered instruction in Iranian language schools, particularly as regards the impediments hindering its proper application, the current researchers selected a cohort of 240 teachers and 450 students for the questionnaire phase through convenience sampling, as well as 29 male and female language school learners and 30 EFL teachers for interview. Due to its mostly qualitative nature, the study made use of data gathered via questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. As the findings revealed, students referred to resource constraints and teachers’ tendency toward applying traditional practices as the two overriding barriers restricting proper LCE implementation. The other two prominent factors singled out by the findings obtained out of students’ attitudes were lack of clear definition of LCE and lack of familiarity resulting from improper training. As regards teachers’ perspectives of impediments, however, poor motivation on the part of teachers and parents’ lack of receptivity for LCE were identified as the most prominent barriers. Finally, in line with the interview findings, all three categories of teacher-induced, learner-induced, and context-relevant factors were reported to be responsible for limiting LCE implementation with variable degrees of influence. The study findings are thought to have practical implications for English language pedagogy in the Iranian context.


Amiri, F., & Saberi, L. (2017). The impact of learner-centered approach on Learners' motivation in Iranian EFL students. International Academic Journal of Social Sciences, 4(1), 99–109.
An, Y.J., & Reigeluth, C. (2011). Creating technology-enhanced, learner-centered classrooms: K-12 teachers’ beliefs, barriers, and support needs. Journal of Digital Learning in Technology Education, 28(2), 54–62.
Bordie, K., Lelliott, A., & Davis, H. (2002). Forms and substance in learner-centered teaching: teachers’ take-up from an in-service program in South Africa. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 541–559.
Borg, S., & Alshumaimeri, Y. (2017). Language learner autonomy in a tertiary context: Teachers’ beliefs and practices. Language Teaching Research, 23(1), 9–38.
Brown, H. D., & Lee, H. (2015). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy. New York: Pearson.
Brown, J., & White, C. J. (2010). Affect in a self-regulatory framework for language learning. System, 38, 432–443.
Dunn, K. E., & Rakes, G. C. (2010). Producing caring qualified teachers: An exploration of the influence of pre-service teacher concerns on learner-centeredness. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26, 516–521.
Fterniati, A. (2006). National curriculum reform and new elementary school language arts textbooks in Greece. International Journal of Learning, 13(4), 37–44.
Ghanbari, B., & Ketabi, S. (2011). Practicing a change in an Iranian EFL curriculum: From ivory tower to reality. Iranian EFL Journal, 7 (6), 9–13.
Gieve, S., & Clark, R. (2005). ‘The Chinese approach to learning’: Cultural trait or situated response? The case of a self-directed learning program. System, 33, 261–276.
Herranen, J., Vesterinen, V. M., & Aksela, M. (2018). From learner-centered to learner-driven sustainability education. Sustainability, 10(7), 2190.
Hymes, D. H. (1971). Competence and performance in linguistic theory. In R. Huxley & E. Ingram (Eds.), Language Acquisition: Models and Methods (pp. 3–28). London: Academic Press.
Hymes, D. H. (1972). On communicative competence. In J. B. Pride, & J. Holmes (Eds.), Sociolinguistics: selected readings. (pp. 269–293). Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Kassem, H. M. (2019). The impact of student-centered instruction on EFL learners’ affect and achievement. English Language Teaching, 12(1), 134–153.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Understanding language teaching: From method to post method. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2012). Language teacher education for a global society: A modular model for knowing, analyzing, recognizing, doing, and seeing. New York, NY: Routledge.
Lambert, C., & Minn, D. (2007). Personal investment in L2 task design and learning: A case study of two Japanese learners of English. ELIA, 7, 127–148.
Lambert, C., Philp, J., & Nakamura, S. (2016). Learner-generated content and engagement in second language task performance. Language Teaching Research, 21(6), 665–680.
Larsen-Freeman, D., & Anderson, M. (2011). Techniques and principles in language teaching. Oxford: OUP.
Larsen-Freeman, D. (2019). On language learner agency: A complex dynamic systems theory perspective. The Modern Language Journal, 103, 61–79.
Lizuka, T. (2019). Task-based needs analysis: Identifying communicative needs for study abroad students in Japan. System, 80, 134–142.
Marwan, A. (2017). Implementing learner-centered teaching in an English as a foreign language (EFL) classroom. CELT: A Journal of Culture, English Language Teaching and Literature, 17(1), 45–59.
McCoy, L., Pettit, R. K., Kellar, C., & Morgan, C. (2018). Tracking active learning in the medical school curriculum: A learning-centered approach. Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, 5, 1–9.
Moradi, M.R. & Alavinia, P. (2018). Readdressing the implementation of learner-centered education in teacher education programs. International Journal of English Language & Translation Studies, 6(4), 24–29.
Morimoto, S., & Loewen, S. (2007). A comparison of the effects of image-schema-based instruction and translation-based instruction on the acquisition of L2 polysemous words. Language Teaching Research, 11, 347–372.
Nakata, Y. (2011). Teachers’ readiness for promoting learner autonomy: A study of Japanese EFL high school teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 900–910.
Namazi, M. B., & Arjomandnia, A. (2000). Non-governmental organizations in the Islamic Republic of Iran: a situation analysis. United Nations Development Programme.
Nguyen, L. T. C., & Gu, Y. (2013). Strategy-based instruction: A learner-focused approach to developing learner autonomy. Language Teaching Research, 17(1), 9–30.
Nunan, D. (2013). Learner-centered English language education. New York and London: Routledge.
Richards, J. C. (2017). Curriculum development in language teaching (2nd Edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Robertson, A. C., & Fowler, L. C. (2017). Medical student perceptions of learner-initiated feedback using a mobile web application. Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, 4, 1–7.
Safari, P., & Rashidi, N. (2015). A critical look at the EFL education and the challenges faced by Iranian teachers in the educational system. International Journal of Progressive Education, 11(2), 14–28.
Schuh, K. L. (2004). Learner-centered principles in teacher-centered practices? Teaching and Teacher Education, 20, 833–846.
Schweisfurth, M. (2013). Learner-centred education in international perspective. Whose pedagogy for whose development? London: Routledge.
Shahmansouri, B. (2012). Studying organizational growth at the start-up stage of Iranian nongovernmental education providers. Master Thesis, Integrated Studies in Education, Dept. of Education, McGill University.
Tomlinson, B. (2011). Materials development in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Yamagata, S. (2016). Comparing core-image-based basic verb learning in EFL junior high school: Learner-centered and teacher-centered approaches. Language Teaching Research, 22(1), 65–93.