Education is moving toward a more learner-centered model, where student needs and interests are used to develop lessons and activities.
This lesson explores how a learner-centered model is applied to the classroom.
What Is a Learner-Centered Classroom?
You’re probably familiar with the traditional classroom. At the center of this instructional model, the teacher is the provider of education and students are the recipients. The limits of this ‘teacher-centered’ model are that it fails to address the unique needs and interests of each student, and, worse, it can make students dependent on teachers for learning.
In today’s complex and changing world, the earlier students learn to become independent, lifelong learners, the more successful they will be.In a learner-centered classroom, students are the focus of education, while teachers facilitate learning and help students reflect and become responsible for their education. There are several strategies to ensure that a classroom environment is learner-centered. Let’s look at how one teacher uses each of these strategies.
Get to Know Your Students
Ms. Jackson is a 2nd grade teacher. Every year, she strives to make her classroom learner-centered. The first thing she does when school begins is start to get to know her students. In order to have a learner-centered classroom environment, you must know as much as possible about your students.Learning about your students can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Ms.
Jackson usually has her students fill out a short fact sheet about themselves, on which there are various yes or no questions written for their reading level. She also sends a more in-depth sheet home for parents or guardians to fill out.Through these sheets, Ms. Jackson learns about her students’ interests, abilities, and personalities.
She also spends the first week doing various icebreaker activities that help her get to know her students better. With all of this information, Ms. Jackson can begin to design lessons that appeal to each student in her room.
A large part of a learner-centered classroom is helping students become responsible for their own learning. To do this, Ms. Jackson engages students in activities that allow them to reflect on their learning and work, which helps them become more thoughtful about their education.
For example, Ms. Jackson will meet with students after tests to discuss their performance. Students who do well often come up with reasons why they think they succeeded. Students who might not have done as well are encouraged to think about what they can change about their learning in order to improve. Through this process, Ms. Jackson’s students develop self-reflection skills that are critical for a learner-centered classroom.
Assess for Needs
In a learner-centered classroom, assessment data should always drive instruction. Ms. Jackson uses various assessments to determine what her students need from her in order to succeed. Since the instruction is learner-centered, it is constantly being adjusted to reflect what individual students need.One type of assessment Ms. Jackson uses is an exit ticket that students fill out as they leave class. This ticket is usually a short question about something the students learned that day.
Ms. Jackson looks at these slips after the students leave and determines who understood the concept and who still needs help. She then adjusts her instruction for the following day to fulfill those needs.
Students in a learner-centered classroom are encouraged to explore avenues of thought that the teacher might not necessarily have thought of.
Students will often research information on their own or ask questions. Ms. Jackson encourages her students to explore their ideas and interests.Often, teachers are pressured to teach a certain amount of material in such little time that a break to explore every question or comment is not given. However, in a learner-centered classroom, this kind of discussion and thought is important.
Ms. Jackson has found that allowing occasional sidetracks motivates her students. If a student brings something up in the middle of discussion that is too much of a sidetrack, Ms. Jackson will ask the student to write it down and discuss it with her later in the day.
Create Flexible Groups
Ms. Jackson’s favorite activities are those that involve students working in groups to solve problems and answer questions. It’s not a coincidence that these groups are also important aspects of a learner-centered classroom. Since she knows her students well, Ms.
Jackson is able to use different groups to expose students to new ideas and learning styles.While many teachers use group work in their class, they are likely to use the same groups over and over again. However, Ms. Jackson makes sure to be flexible in her groups. She often changes the members and sizes so she can get the best results for every student.
Creating a learner-centered classroom that makes students the focus of education while the teacher facilitates learning and reflection can help motivate students to become responsible for their own education. Ms.
Jackson uses several strategies to create a learner-centered classroom:
- Getting to know students
- Promoting reflection
- Assessing for needs
- Encouraging exploration
- Flexible grouping
By implementing these strategies in your room, you too can be a master at learner-centered education.