Student-Centered Learning: What It Is and Why We Do It
Student-centered learning is a phrase that is bandied about extensively by educators everywhere. Edglossary.org defines student-centered learning as a “wide variety of educational programs . . . that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students.” This lies in contrast to a more traditional teacher-focused classroom where the teacher determines the modality of learning, the pace of learning, and how learning will be assessed. The student-centered classroom steps away from this model and seeks to put learning where it should be, in the hands of the individual student. A student-centered learning environment recognizes that learning is an active process and that when students are allowed some agency in this process, not only does their level of engagement improve but they take more away from the learning than just content. At its core, student-centered learning is student voices and ideas.
But the success of a student-centered classroom depends on the specific ways it is brought to life in the classroom. An effective student-centered model has specific content and skills related goals for its students to attain. This makes the objective of learning known and ensures that achievement is lasting. It also provides students with the opportunity to assume ownership for their learning. This can be accomplished by varying the mode of learning, the pace of learning, and the ways that students demonstrate their learning. Throughout this process, students are provided with ways to explore their own interests as they work to develop their understanding. Guiding this entire paradigm is a recognition on the part of teachers that all students are unique and bring individual strengths and weaknesses into the classroom. This appreciation for the individual difference is the bedrock of a student-centered classroom.
The benefits of a student-centered learning environment are numerous. Students not only learn content and skills but are also provided with the opportunity to develop their own unique interests. Students learn about how they learn best by exploring different avenues of learning. In addition, students often work with other peers in structured activities. These collaborative activities allow students to develop their ability to develop critical communication, teamwork, and social skills. Student-centered learning also steps away from high stakes testing and allows for more meaningful formative feedback as students work to develop their knowledge. Meaningful feedback throughout the learning process is essential because it serves as a guide to student learning as opposed to a final comment on how much is learned. In this model, students welcome feedback and see teachers as partners in their growth.
At Lawrence Academy, we believe that our success depends on the degree to which our teachers operate with a common understanding of how to implement a student-centered classroom. Our universal educational goal states that we strive to “Recognize, Challenge, and Support ALL students at Lawrence Academy”. This unifying statement grounds us in seeing our students as individuals and committing us to helping them have agency over their learning.