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| Updated: September 30, 2020

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Student-centered learning shifts the focus from teacher to student. Educators who use this approach seek to understand learners’ values and teach based on those values. Students are involved in the planning, execution and assessment of their learning, making it meaningful and applicable to their personal needs and interests.

Active participation in student-centered classrooms is shown to increase motivation, improve achievement and create a positive learning experience. If you’re looking to implement student-centered activities and practices into your classroom, check out these tips and best practices.

  • Encourage autonomy: Autonomy is an important aspect of student-centered learning. Allowing students to choose the format of their projects or assignments or how their learning will be assessed promotes independence and encourages active participation. Instead of assigning every student a book report, offer choices, such as a written report, a reenactment or skit, or a mock interview. Or, as an alternative to a multiple choice test or quiz, allow students to demonstrate comprehension by writing a reflective paper or preparing a presentation.
  • Promote interest-based choices: There’s more than one way to sharpen a pencil, and the same holds true for learning. Allowing student interests to drive learning not only fosters engagement, it promotes deeper processing and comprehension. For example, in his blog post on learner interest, education consultant John McCarthy discusses learning about architecture through the Minecraft® game and exploring science with LEGO® Robotics.

Uncover learner interests and values by surveying students and parents. You may also discover additional student interests and preferences with the use of learning profile cards. Add an element of fun to your discovery process by rewarding prizes for feedback and participation. School logo’d sportpacks, temporary tattoos, Pennants and headbands are good choices.

  • Foster collaboration: Student-centered classrooms are big on collaboration. Bouncing ideas back and forth, growing those ideas and appreciating differing points of view are just some of the benefits that come from collaboration. But, that’s hard to do when desks are lined up, facing the teacher at the front of the class. Promote collaboration by rearranging your room. Seat students at tables or group desks in clusters so students can face and interact with each other, not just the teacher. Keep it interesting by allowing students to choose where they sit or by changing your seating chart each week.

Countless other ways exist to focus on student-centered learning in your classroom. Regardless of which methods you use, parent buy-in will be of utmost importance. Consider introducing student-centered learning concepts in newsletters and at parent-teacher conferences. Encourage involvement at home, too. Much like a triangle, three parts to learning are integral to student-centered learning—students, teachers, and parents or other caring adults. Clip regular updates and home application ideas with a triangle magnet to reinforce your message.

Student-centered learning benefits students and teachers alike. Learners become active, engaged participants in their education, and educators are able to more effectively reach and teach students. It’s a win for all!

“Student-centred Learning.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. Retrieved 15 Dec. 2015.

McCarthy, John. “Student-Centered Learning: It Starts With the Teacher.” Edutopia. N.p., 09 Sept. 2015. Web. Retrieved 15 Dec. 2015.

Saafir, Afua. “7 Ways to Create a Student Centered Classroom.” A Pass Education Blog. N.p., 12 Sept. 2015. Web. Retrieved 15 Dec. 2015.

“Alternatives to Traditional Testing.”Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 15 Dec. 2015.

McCarthy, John. “Learner Interest Matters: Strategies for Empowering Student Choice.” Edutopia. N.p., 25 Aug. 2014. Web. Retrieved 15 Dec. 2015.

Powell, Marcia. “5 Ways to Make Your Classroom Student-Centered.” Education Week Teacher. N.p., 24 Dec. 2013. Web. Retrieved 15 Dec. 2015.



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