Changes in learning produce changes in teaching

In their 1995 article “From teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education”, Robert B. Barr and John Tagg claim the end of the lecture’s “privileged position”. In the new “learning paradigm” knowledge is not transferred but produced in environments and experiences by the students themselves and the institutional role of universities had shifted from providing instruction to producing knowledge.

In this context, no institutional structure can be prescribed unless it “works” by guaranteeing the desired learning outcomes. Institutions are therefore required to not simply provide access but ensure success. To do that, they should focus on outcomes instead of organizing faculty.

The two authors compare the traditional model in the light of six dimensions; mission and purposes, criteria for success, teaching/learning structures, learning theory, productivity and the nature of roles. In all of these categories, the learning paradigm seems to set a completely new example:

  1. by eliciting student discovery (mission)
  2. by improving the quality of learning and its outcomes (criteria for success)
  3. by restructuring the courses as in powerful learning environments (t/l structures)
  4. by promoting the theory that learning is student centered, constructed and gotten (lt)
  5. by shifting funding to outcomes instead of hours of instruction (prod./funding)
  6. by changing the role of instructors from lectures to designers of learning environments and methods.


The most important benefit of the learning paradigm is that it promotes the education for understanding, thus it cultivates one’s ability to bare concepts and skills on new problems and situations. This is in my opinion at the core of any designed learning environment.

Barr, R. B., & Tagg, J,  1995, ‘From teaching to learning—A new paradigm for undergraduate education’, in Change: The magazine of higher learning, 27(6), 12-26.

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