15 Approaches to Student-Centered Learning
Rachelle Dene Poth, teacher Riverview School District, writes: “When students have choices in how to show what they have learned, they are more likely to be engaged and excited for learning. They will feel valued, and the lesson and learning will be more meaningful because it has been made personal to them.” Read her full article here.
There are a multitude of ways to apply student-centered learning in the classroom, and all these approaches can be mixed and matched. Peruse the library below and uncover learning tactics for hands-on and student-centered learning.
Blended learning means that students don’t necessarily have to be taught in the traditional setting based on their grade level or age. When basing instruction on mastery of standards, such as in standards-referenced grading, if a student has proven mastery on a particular standard, they are encouraged and challenged to move on, and students who need extra time to master a standard are given just that… more time.
Concept-based curriculum (CBC) is an approach to curriculum design that moves away from subject-specific content and instead emphasizes “big ideas” that span multiple subject areas or disciplines. For example, in a CBC classroom, students may study the big idea of “change” in a variety of areas, from patterns in mathematics, to civilizations in social studies, to life cycles in science.
More and more classrooms are beginning to resemble Starbucks, rather than something from 100 years ago. Through flexible seating, students are taking control of their time at school. Despite the initial challenges of setting up the expectations, students thrive in collaborative open spaces. On a global level, students sit for an average of 8.5 hours a day.
There is a small but enthusiastic group of teachers and administrators who believe that kids are destined to do more than just spend their school days sitting still with their knees tucked under a desk. The flexible seating movement allows students to choose their view and seating at school. Through choice and flexibility students take ownership of their learning and experiences at school.
In developing student-led classroom lesson, a teacher explains: “I stepped back and had the students lead our classroom. It was a really good way to learn a lot more about the students, to better understand what their needs were in terms of the content material, and for the students to learn about each other. Giving students the control and the opportunity to become the creators and leaders in the class has tremendous benefits and it has been something that we have enjoyed.”
With the help of the school and larger community, Mount Lebanon School District built Makerspaces to revamp libraries and boost student engagement and hands-on learning. Their Principal writes:
What began as a challenge to reimagine our elementary school libraries has evolved into the establishment of a collaborative, creative makerspace in each of our seven elementary schools. This initiative was a natural response to the changes in how libraries are used and how research is done. School libraries are no longer quiet places to warehouse print materials or an area where students read articles and books. Libraries are lively hubs of activity where students meet to collaborate on many interdisciplinary projects and to use the amazing resources and technology available there to create and innovate.
Menus give student options for completing assignments whether by choosing which assignments to perform or the order in which they will be completed. With choices, students personalize their learning and explore their own learning styles.
Each student comes to a classroom as an individual who has developed a different type of intelligence. This means that each student has their own intelligence superiorities and weaknesses. Called a learning style, these intelligence domains determine how easily or difficultly a student can learn through a specific teaching method.
There can be more than one learning style present in a classroom. To balance learning styles and subject matter, a teacher should show students how to understand a subject which addresses one of their weak intelligence domains by applying their most developed intelligence domain.
Moreover, students who apply their strong fields of intelligences in learning activities can learn a subject that they used to hate with joy and without pressure.
Place-based learning (sometimes referred to as “PBE,” “Place-Based Education”) focuses the opportunity for learning on the cultural, economic, environmental, geographical, and community aspects derived from a specific location. Focused on anthropological and field-based studies, students immerse themselves completely in the “web” of what it means to address issues specific to a particular location. While place-based learning can focus on solving a community problem or proposing a solution, it can also be used to achieve a deeper understanding of our people.
As “PBL” can revolve around creating a “tangible product, performance, or event,” that end-goal can also be to solve a problem, whether real or simulated by the teacher. Thus, the difference between Project-Based Learning and Problem-Based Learning boils down to the end goal, while the process for both remains the same. Getting caught up in the distinction is unimportant!
Project-Based Learning (“PBL”) involves designing student learning around a sustained, real-world project. This usually includes an interdisciplinary approach, one that might involve research, mathematical computation, scientific exploration, writing, multimedia production, and other mediums of learning and expression. Potentially the most confusing part about PBL is that Project-Based Learning is different from “Projects.”
Relational learning provides opportunities for authentic connection between student and teacher and uses the knowledge gained from those relationships to push individual understanding. Examples used in the classroom revolve around student interests or maybe funny stories that happened to the teacher. Classes provide opportunities for students to share about themselves and the teacher to share their experiences as well.
RTI & MTSS
Response to Intervention is a personalized learning approach that provides supplemental instruction for students who don’t grasp material when it’s initially taught. Interventions are targeted based on the student’s need.
Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) relate to RtI and reflect the systems of supports built in to intervention approaches.
Station Learning provides students the opportunity to work with peers at similar academic levels or with similar learning needs while rotating through different stations.
A school in California is taking station rotation model for differentiated and personalized instruction. In this model, the teacher uses three to four stations that are rotated on a fixed schedule. One station is a teacher directed-instruction group; another station is a technology station that utilizes adaptive software such as IXL; and the other two stations can be independent work, task cards, or collaborative group work. The station rotation model of HET can allow the teacher to differentiate groups and tailor activities according to student needs.
“Much like flexible grouping—or differentiated instruction as a whole, really—tiered assignments do not lock students into ability boxes. Instead, particular student clusters are assigned specific tasks within each group according to their readiness and comprehension—without making them feel completely compartmentalized away from peers at different achievement levels.”
Universal Design for Learning
UDL is an approach to designing curriculum and instruction that prioritizes accessibility and inclusivity. At the heart of UDL is a belief that a classroom designed for students at the margins is better for all students. As opposed to what we typically see with differentiated instruction—with curriculum being retro-fitted to accommodate learners as their needs arise—UDL takes all learners’ needs and abilities into consideration from the beginning.
The first thing we have to do is look at student product. Do the choices we give students truly represent different ways to interpret what you’ve learned to build a product, or are we asking them to create one of a few versions of essentially the same thing?
We also need to go all the way back to, “What did the instructor, the educator, what did they intentionally design? How did they consciously examine and deliberately design for the known facets that are going to come up, whether it be resource, curricular, technological, accessibility, or language issues?”