In recent years, student-centered learning has become an ever more popular buzzword. However, most teachers still fail to realize what it means exactly and what benefits it can offer their students. Even then, it can be confusing knowing how to properly implement it in their own classroom environment. Well, the first thing you need to learn is that it can be done!
Plenty of teachers have started to make the shift and to see the overwhelming benefits on offer. And don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you lose control of your classroom. Not at all. Instead, it can be seen as a cooperation exercise between you and your students as a means to better advance their learning. So, if you are a forward-thinking teacher looking to make the most of this trend, here’s everything you need to know. First up…
What is student-centered learning exactly?
As a fundamental idea, the principle behind student-centered learning is to shift the dynamic of a classroom towards student-led sessions. This starkly contradicts the traditional method of teaching, in which students are made to listen and absorb whilst teachers speak.
In student-centered learning, students take more control over how instruction is given and how lessons are taught. They have the chance to work with you in making these important decisions together.
The benefits of student-centered learning
The benefits of student-centered learning have been highly discussed and can be very wide-reaching. It all depends on the extent to which the method is used and how it is brought into the classroom.
But, assuming it is done so in an effective manner, here are the sorts of benefits you can expect to see in your students.
A greater desire to learn
By tailoring lessons more towards their preferences, students have the chance to learn in the way that fits them best and that is most enjoyable.
An enhanced ability to absorb information
This greater desire to learn leads to a greater ability to absorb the lessons being put before them.
Better leadership capabilities
When students take reign over their learning and the learning of those around them, they understand what it means to make decisions. They also learn more about making decisions based, not just on their own interests, but also from the class as a whole.
How to implement student-centered learning in the classroom
Though student-centered learning sounds good on paper, it can oftentimes prove very confusing when trying to bring it into your classroom. It goes against many of the fundamentals ways in which teaching has been carried out for hundreds of years.
But don’t worry, it can be done! Below are 3 key principles that you must buy into and encourage so as to produce a learning environment that fosters student-centered learning.
1. Give up your desire for control
Though this might sound simple, it is actually incredibly hard to achieve in reality. For years, you might have led a classroom environment in which the buck stops with you and teaching follows a rigid structure you designed. But with this new approach, you need to sacrifice this inner desire in order to achieve true student-centered learning.
The best way to achieve this is to buy into the principles behind this approach to learning and understand the benefits on offer. You also need to understand that this method is not brand new. If you feel like the classroom sometimes loses its focus then that is OK. You can act as a steady hand to lead students back on track and to remain on topic.
But you need to refrain from telling students that their approach is wrong and that you would prefer something was done your way. In time, the students will realize different methods work better and change tactic, but these lessons need to be learned together and not be preached solely from you. Only then can true student-centered learning be achieved.
2. Give students decision-making abilities
Now that you’ve passed up on some control of the decisions, it’s time to give these to your students! Don’t worry, you can still play an active role.
Instead, it is good to start making decisions jointly so that they buy into each approach just as much as you. You can give students a voice in the Why, How and What of everything.
Here’s a better look at each of these in turn:
This focuses on the fundamental reason for learning different topics. The old answer to why do I need to learn this? is because it’s going to be in the test. Well, this is simply not good enough anymore. You are forcing them to learn something purely for the reason that you have been told to teach it and so they must learn.
Instead, take some time to analyze the real value behind each lesson being taught until students understand and are passionate about wanting to learn.
The What is all about the exact subject matter discussed around a given topic. For example, say you want to teach your students how companies use the written word as a means to sell their products to customers. Initiate a discussion in which students talk about their favorite products, brands, and commercials.
Afterward, as a class, the students can decide on which advertising campaigns they’d like to dissect and better understand.
This refers to how a particular lesson is carried out. Sure, the traditional method might be to have children open a textbook, begin reading and then answer some given questions. However, this is not the only approach to learning and students have begun to notice this.
Instead, you can propose two methods of carrying out a lesson that you know work well and then allowing students to propose a third choice. If this choice makes sense and fits within academic guidelines, then you can go with that. A good example would be the class deciding on a certain software they all know and use as a means to make presentations to the rest of the class. You may not know much about this software, but you could quickly learn it and follow the class-wide preference.
3. Believe in your student’s ability to lead
Once you’ve decided on your Why, What and How, it’s time to sit back and let your students take control of their learning. This requires you to believe in their potential to step up and perform. This can often seem very daunting as you are the leader and students are there to typically be led.
At the end of the day, everyone has to become a leader at some point.
Recognize that students are reflections of us as learners
So why can’t that day be today? In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll be surprised. Students are experts at consuming content and lessons. After all, they’ve spent years doing exactly that, sat in classrooms listening to others lead them in their learning. They’ve seen it done and know how it works. All they need is the opportunity to take charge and show you what they can do.