In more traditional approaches, the teacher stands in the front of the room lecturing while the students sit passively watching and (hopefully) listening. Students work individually, while cooperative learning is often discouraged. Thankfully, student centered instruction breaks through many of these boundaries, as this method of instruction focuses on the process of learning.
Student centered teaching shifts the focus from the teacher to the student. It encourages active participation on the part of the students and requires that they monitor their own thinking. Students are also expected to not only be conscious of their learning but to also assume responsibility. Student motivation generally increases with student centered learning, as does student achievement and overall satisfaction with the school experience.
There are many ways to incorporate student centered techniques into classroom resources and lessons:
1. Allow for student choice and autonomy. This might mean providing project, classroom and homework assignment options, as well as allowing students to design their own seating arrangements. Providing more types of question types in assessments also gives students the chance to make their own choices. Finally, encourage teachers to give the students a few minutes of downtime to use as they’d like (within reason of course).
2. Use open-ended questioning techniques. This practice encourages critical and creative thinking and enhances problem-solving skills. Open-ended questioning encourages clear communication and provides students with reassurance that their thoughts and ideas matter.
3. Engage in explicit instruction. Explicit instruction moves away from the skill and drill attitude of teaching. It is a much more direct and engaging method of instruction that pulls the students right into the heart of the lesson. Students are active participants in what is going on, rather than bystanders and onlookers.
4. Encourage student collaboration and group projects. When students work with each other they are learning a great deal more than just the lesson content. They are gaining an appreciation for the diversity that exists in our schools and communities. They are also learning to have respect for what may sometimes be very differing points of view. And finally, they are able to bounce their ideas back and forth with each other, creating a much greater opportunity to grow these ideas into something great.
5. Encourage student reflection. Student reflection allows students to slow things down a bit and take a step back to analyze things. It also allows time for their brains to process what they have been learning. Reflection creates space and time for individual and group growth.
6. Create individual self-paced assignments. All students don’t work at the same speed and assignments should reflect this. Allowing students to move through material at a rate that best fits their learning styles and needs makes it more likely that they will gain deeper understanding of the subject matter.
7. Get the students involved in community-based activities and service-learning projects. This helps students to see their important role in the larger world. They are given the chance to learn how valuable and fulfilling it can be to give back to others. Learning becomes more organic and less rigid. Students have the opportunity to see firsthand that learning opportunities surround us everywhere where we go.
Creating a more student centered classroom does not have to be hard for teachers. Your role as publisher can be of great help, as you incorporate many of these techniques right into the resources you are creating. See the students as an integral part of the learning process, and you’re on your way!