Student Centred Learning

We’re all about the buzz words here, and this one is getting quite a bit of attention of late.

What is Student Centred Learning?

EdGlossary states that Student Centred Learning is a broad definition of a variety of teaching strategies, but is commonly narrowed down to “Teaching and learning is ‘personalised’, meaning that it addresses the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students.” It also means that students are able to make choices about their own learning, including what, how, and when they learn.

What does it look like in the classroom?

There are a wide range of models out there; but there are some more common trends that are finding their ways into the classrooms around the country. Firstly is the initiative of “Inquiry Learning” which has pushed aside the curriculum collective “Topic”, and encouraged students to be a part of the initiation of learning. In a true inquiry model, students investigate or inquire into areas of interest and construct their own learning based on questioning and research. Allowing the students to be part of the planning encourages student centred learning, and engagement and motivation follow suit shortly after. Students inquire into things they are interested in and learning is given real world context.

Another way in which I have seen student centred learning take off is using Daily 5; a literacy rotation type model in which students are given a structure in which to choose their own learning. While it is also important to have structure and limitations in Daily 5 (otherwise it becomes Daily 55!), allowing the students to choose their writing topic, their reading book, their spelling work, or even how they read, is all part of student centred learning. Individual conferencing with students allows the teacher to focus in on the student as an individual, meeting their specific needs based on observation of their reading or writing.
Students also get the choice of when they carry out different tasks, so if they don’t feel like writing straight away, they can do some reading instead, and focus on writing later on in the literacy block.
This is so much different than the ‘Guided Reading‘ approach that fills many New Zealand classrooms these days. Guided Reading requires small groups of students, all who read the same book, which is chosen by the teacher. The teacher directs the learning, based on the needs of the group.

Why is it becoming standard teaching practise?

The rise of student centred learning in pedagogical circles stems largely from one word. Relevance. We are told time and time again, that for students to fully engage, fully motivate themselves, and fully be a part of their learning, the learning has to be a real life context, and needs to be relevant for the student. It simply makes sense.

However, in practise, it requires a lot of change. Teachers need to relinquish control of the teaching, and allow students to be in charge of the learning. Its a different mindset, and requires a different approach from the teacher. The ability for the teacher to predict where the learning will go, get the students thinking through prompting and questioning, and encouraging students to push themselves, is all very different to how we were taught as children.


Your thoughts?

How else do you encourage student centred learning in the classroom?
Please leave your ideas in the comments below.