Student-centered classrooms are those in which students are directly involved in discovering and accumulating knowledge for themselves. An important aspect of such classrooms is Experiential Learning, which involves co-operation and collaboration of students
with others, for an authentic, holistic and challenging approach towards learning.
Students are encouraged to use the knowledge they already possess to learn new things, which gives them time for reflection. In this student-centric approach for teaching, teachers become facilitators or just partners in learning of their students. Through curriculum design and assessment, teachers shift the focus towards performance in real-world contexts. They try to create organized and cohesive experiences to assist students to make connections to vital concepts. Student-centered teaching is a key feature of imparting effective instruction.
The evolution of student-centered classrooms can be traced back to the 1900s, and facts suggest that students learn more by self-experience and active involvement than by mere observation. Student responses are most valuable to steer lessons and create instructional strategies. Asking questions and leading students to solutions nurtures students’ natural curiosity and is recommended over simply providing them with answers. Student-centered classrooms are linked to student engagement and success. Here, students are part of constructing their own learning in a comprehensive environment that focuses on student interests. Students reflect on their own learning, share it with fellow students and teachers and apply the learning to real-life. So, when students are the focus of the learning in a classroom, they become fully engaged in the process.
To make teaching more effective, the focus needs to shift from just the teachers imparting lectures to giving the responsibility of learning to the students. The student-centered label now holds its importance for teaching strategies, teachers, classes, programs, departments and institutions. Teachers need to change their instructional practices to make teaching focused on students. There are a variety of classroom practices that can be adopted by teachers for student-centric teaching. Here’s the list of some:
Make students do their tasks on their own : Teachers are involved in doing many tasks for student learning. They offer examples, ask questions, call on students, add detail to their answers, organize content and review. Any given day, teachers are working more than their students. Due to this, students get to practice less and fail to develop essential learning skills. Teachers should ask students to organize their own tasks, accumulate knowledge on their own, be a part of group discussions and collaborate with other students to develop their learning.
Adopt explicit skill-instruction : Student-centered teachers should teach students how to think, solve problems, evaluate evidence, analyze arguments, generate hypotheses and all the learning skills that are essential to master a subject. They should not assume that students can pick up these skills on their own, because only a few students do. Teachers should focus on teaching explicitly along with the content to foster the development of learning skills.
Make students reflect on what and how they’re learning : Ask students about what they’ve learned and what methodology they adopted to gather information and learn, in casual conversations. Challenge student assumptions about learning and encourage them to accept responsibility for decisions they make about learning; like how they study for exams, when they do assigned reading, whether they revise their writing or check their answers. Include assignment components in which students reflect, analyze and critically assess what they are learning and how they are learning it. This will make students aware of themselves as learners and help them develop their learning skills in a better way.
Give students control over their learning process : Teachers make too many of the decisions about learning for students. They decide what students should learn, how they learn it, the pace at which they learn, the conditions under which they learn and then they determine how much the students have learned. This decreases students’ motivation to learn and they become dependent. Student-centered teachers should look for ways to share power with students. For instance, they might give students some choice about which assignments they complete, or make classroom policies which students can discuss, let students set assignment deadlines within a given time window or ask students to help create assessment criteria.
Facilitate collaboration among students : The knowledge gaining capacity of students is higher in a social environment. This requires social interaction, so the connection between students is important. Cooperative learning and collaboration should be encouraged. The student-centered teacher should recognize this principle of learning and actively infuse collaborative opportunities into each lesson. Collaboration provides students opportunities to learn from their peers and to gain skills that will be beneficial throughout their lives.
Make authentic assessments : When students are engaged in activities that are authentic in nature, they are more motivated to learn. Real-world assessment for learning provides student-centered classroom teachers with the challenge of moving away from paper and pencil exams. As teachers begin to provide meaningful assessment for their students, their instructional activities will begin to fold into and overlap with intended assessment. In this way, students and teachers will be encouraged to monitor their teaching and learning and to make necessary adjustments to their actions.
Practicing student-centered teaching in classrooms is not an easy task. There is balance which is required to be maintained. The practices stated above require extensive learning and practice on the part of a teacher. A successful student-centric classroom will result when the teacher is able to strike a balance while following these practices. This will empower students to take authority over their learning and result in teachers who are true facilitators of learning.