You’ve heard about
student-centered learning. Maybe you even considered trying it in your own classroom. But what does it really mean? Student-centered learning doesn’t mean a teacher free environment. In fact, the role of a teacher is more important than ever. It requires engagement from students that must be guided by the teacher for success. The focus becomes more about creating a positive and supportive classroom that allows students to take risks and ownership with their learning.
Because it allows for more individualization, student-centered learning puts the learners' needs at the center of the process. It takes flexibility, conversations, and involvement. If that gives the impression of less structured learning, don’t worry!
There are many steps you can take to bring more student-centered learning opportunities into your classroom without losing structure.
1. Active participation
A goal for any teacher is to foster a love of learning.
If you want kids to become lifelong learners, involve them. That’s where student-centered learning comes in. When students have opportunities to make choices and contribute to learning experiences, they gain a sense of partnership with their teacher and classmates. It can be as simple as starting with a K-W-L chart (what do you know, what do you want to know, and what did you learn) or a brainstorming session. Allow for exploration through a variety of options, including writing, literature, or fine arts. Let them use technology to direct research and design presentations. Bring authentic learning experiences into the classroom that require engagement.
No two students are the same, and that’s a wonderful thing. Celebrate this by personalizing the teaching and learning that happens in your classroom. Embrace and include distinct learning needs, interests, cultural backgrounds, and tailor-made goals for success. Student-centered environments bring individualized purpose, processes, and meaning to learning. Present information in multiple ways, such as infographics or technology. For example, students can work with virtual simulations in
Gizmos or master math facts through Reflex. Encourage them to work individually, with partners, or in groups- whatever your students need!
Student-centered classrooms are based on collaboration. Constructive conversations between students should be encouraged.
Collaborative projects provide opportunities to strengthen confidence in communication along with social and emotional skills. Show kids how to aim for cooperation, not competition, as they work together. Collaboration may sound noisier than independent practice, but it allows students to work together and support one another. Give them time to plan and talk while processing new information!
4. Questioning and experimentation
All questions are good questions! You may have to begin this process as a whole group to model questioning strategies. Start with knowledge based
questions and move into analysis. Provide plenty of “think time” as you encourage students to dig deeper with their own questions. Challenge them to experiment with possible solutions. Questioning and experimentation make learning an active process instead of a spectator sport.
These aren’t just for younger students.
Stations offer spaces for all ages to participate in student-centered learning. Because stations let students try out different experiences, learning is not passive! Students are motivated and interested because each station taps into a new skill or fresh information. Get those kiddos out of their seats and move them to stations that provide everything from small group instruction to independent work with technology.
6. Flipped Classrooms
What does it mean to
flip a classroom? When teachers flip learning, they provide readings and video lectures to be viewed by students outside of class or for homework and save active learning for class time. The flipped classroom strategy allows teachers to get a glimpse into students’ thought processes and possible misconceptions before diving into assignments. Students who struggle with traditional lectures and note taking thrive because the pressure is off. No need to feel intimidated if they need to move slowly or repeat parts for better understanding. They can go back and retry problems as they begin to comprehend concepts on their own. Students come into class with basic understanding, questions, and readiness to take their knowledge to the next level.
Moving to student-centered learning may seem a little chaotic in the beginning. Direct instruction has a place in the classroom, too.
Don’t feel that you have to abandon direct instruction to create a student-centered learning environment. Think of it as another way to build a love of learning through questioning, experimenting, and developing critical thinking skills they will use in and out of the classroom! You’ll know what works best for your students, and they’ll get the hang of new procedures. Why not give it a try?