Did you know that after listening to a lecture for 10–15 minutes, students start to disengage from a lesson?1 Student-centered learning is a pedagogical approach that moves away from this more traditional method of teaching—where teacher instruction is the focus—to putting student interests first. Let’s take a closer look at some key reasons you should integrate student-centered learning into your classroom…
1. Student-centered classrooms foster student autonomy
In student-centered classrooms, students take ownership of their own learning—taking an active role in decision making, goal setting, and lesson planning. Of course, this doesn’t mean that students can choose not to participate in math or geography if they don’t find those subjects interesting. Instead, teachers should find ways to intertwine individual interests with the key learning points of a lesson. In essence, the educator is no longer a lecturer but a facilitator, constantly assessing how they can better create learning opportunities.2
In practice, it can be as simple as giving your students a few options on how a topic could be taught and taking a class vote. Alternatively, where possible, plan a few different activities that approach the topic from different angles and ask your students which they would like to take part in. Give them the choice and autonomy to let you know how they learn best.
2. Students learn to communicate and collaborate
Communication and collaboration is at the core of all student-centered classrooms. As students are encouraged to voice their needs, they are learning how to effectively communicate with their teachers and peers. The classroom becomes a space for problem-solving and working together—students aren’t reprimanded for asking questions, they’re encouraged to.
3. Student-centered learning approaches can increase positive attitudes in the classroom
It’s much easier to absorb information and even find learning fun when the relevance of what is being taught is clear. How can we expect young people to stay positive and focused in the classroom if, frankly, they’re bored and disengaged? Student-centered learning encourages students to be intrinsically motivated, explore real-world problems that relate to their own lives and recognize that their ideas are worthy of respect.3 The result is a classroom full of students who are excited to learn, and isn’t that what it’s all about?
4. Students develop better resilience
It can be remarkably unmotivating to feel as though we aren’t succeeding, even as adults. Now, imagine how this must feel to a young person, in an environment where they know they’re supposed to be learning, watching their peers excel while perceiving themselves to be a failure. Unfortunately, this is commonplace in today’s classrooms—where the emphasis on summative assessment strategies can result in pupils comparing themselves with one another.4
Feedback in student-centered classrooms centers around formative assessment—for example, ongoing feedback and goal-setting—enabling students to identify gaps in their own knowledge and understand where they need to develop. An abundance of evidence has shown that this type of assessment cultivates long-term resilience as the students learn that, whether or not their work is correct, it is part of their learning process.5