What does it mean to have a student centered classroom?
Generally, when people discuss student centered classrooms, they begin by talking about technology, how technology helps create a student centered environment.
My question to you is – “Can technology, really, be considered as one of the foundations of student centered classrooms?”
What is a student centered classroom?
The easiest definition of a student centered classroom is- “A classroom that gyrates around the needs and abilities of its students.”
It’s a learning environment that involves students with the process of learning, and engages them in experiential learning that is authentic and challenging.
A student centered classroom isn’t just about teaching and learning using technology; it’s about empowering students to take control of their learning.
In my views, it is the conversation and collaboration that happen in the classroom that constitutes the foundation of a true student centered classroom. It’s the conversation that students have in the classroom that matters the most.
An effective student centered classroom empowers students to take the control of their learning. Teachers act as facilitators, and their actions are guided by the knowledge of students’ strengths and weaknesses. The instruction offers a choice to students, stresses on learning that is experiential; helps connect new information with old, and engages students in challenging work. The assessments reflect disciplined enquiry and construction of knowledge, and college and career readiness.
Below are the five traits that truly define a student centered classroom
- Construction of learning
Students are able to connect new ideas with what they already know.
Learning is self-regulated. Students take the responsibility for their own learning, and have the opportunities to be metacognitive.
- Educator/student partnership in learning
Lessons are designed, explicitly, to match with students’ strengths and weaknesses; and the students, too, are involved with the process of decision-making.
- Collaborative learning
Collaborative learning opportunities are infused with every lesson, i.e. students are given the opportunity to learn from their peers too.
- Meaningful assessment
Assessments and learning opportunities over-lap with each other. Students and teachers, both, monitor their teaching and learning, and make adjustments to improve themselves.
A successful student centered classroom has a balance of all these attributes.
How to create a student centered classroom
Below is the list of most common tips to help teachers create a student centric learning environment.
Students can learn a lot more if they engage in conversation. Be it student-student or student-teacher, but students should be actively engaged in discussing ideas and sharing information.
Student centered lessons that complement the learning style of the classroom. Activities that are organized explicitly to allow students to use what they already know, make connections, and explore new concepts based upon their prior knowledge.
Opt for Project based learning
It makes learning more authentic and less rigid. Students have the first-hand opportunity to experience the value of what they are learning. It also gives them the opportunity to work with each other.
Encourage student-reflection in your class; it would help them analyze things. Developing metacognition skills is extremely important too; it helps the brains process what is learned, and fuels disciplined growth.
Use formative assessments
Every student is not the same. Students learn and express at their own pace. Classroom assessments should be designed to encourage reflection and learning – formative assessments give students a chance to reflect upon what they have learned, and revisit the concepts. With formative assessments, students are more likely to gain deeper understanding of what they learn.
Some consider student centered classrooms as an environment in which teachers give up the ‘control’. I do not see them as such. The most effective classroom practices, in their essence, can never grow redundant. The cognitive process of acquiring Math skills and developing Language Arts skills would always remain the same.
An effective student centered classroom does not ignore these facts. It does not ignore the value of the content or the cognition standards. Learning activities, as always, are aligned with the essential concepts and skills. It does not undervalue direct instruction either, what it really does is to make direct instruction more effective; and it helps develop a learning culture that’s more collaborative and metacognitive in nature.
Student centered classrooms work because they improve students’ motivation to learn; increase classroom engagement; allow the students to develop and utilize their own wealth of knowledge and experience; and they help students become self-sufficient, creative thinkers.