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A study by Gallup shows that student engagement decreases as students move further into their academic journey (Duffy, 2013). Why is that? Many reasons are cited, including emphasis on standardized testing, lack of connection between school and the real world, and lack of engagement with students’ learning styles (Busteed, 2013). How can educators and administrators work to close this gap, creating a lasting, enjoyable learning experience? Student-centered learning is one possible solution to this problem.
At ISTE 2019, Devin Vodicka hosted a session titled “A Superintendent’s Guide to District Transformation”. He asked the audience to pick one word to describe their own learning style. Many adjectives were used: visual, continuous, hands-on, detailed, auditory, multi-sensory, and others. There was no right or wrong answer; only variety. There are clearly many different ways to learn. Student-centered learning helps engage these differences and begins to personalize the student experience, providing a more active way for students navigate their journey.
As the Nellie Mae Education Foundation describes, student-centered learning “engages students in their own success—and incorporates their interests and skills into the learning process” (Liebtag, 2017). Student-centered learning creates an environment where educators and students embrace individual learning styles, leveraging them for greater impact. This theory is tied very closely with engaged learning and project-based learning.
There are three main ways to create a student-centered learning environment: strong leadership, active participation, and love of learning.
Like most things in the classroom, student-centered learning starts with the educator. McCarthy (2015) suggests that student-centered learning starts with a shift in mindset, where a teacher transitions their main role “from directive to consultative”. This gives students more freedom to make decisions and prioritize assignments, creating a greater ownership of personal achievement (McCarthy, 2015).
When a classroom is student-centered, students take an active role in their education. Students do the bulk of the talking, guiding their own learning through discussions and projects (McCarthy, 2015). In this format, students have the freedom to explore their own interests and relate what they are learning to real world experiences according to their own learning styles (Liebtag, 2017).
3.Love of Learning
The final and most important ingredient in student-centered learning is a true love of learning. This starts with the educator and radiates all the way down to the student. Although school can (and should) be challenging, Leibtag (2017) asserts that laughter and joy provide the foundation to consistently engage students throughout the years.
With these three keys to implementation, students will be ready to engage throughout their academic journey and their life. Entrepreneurs will create future jobs, tradespeople will hone their craft, and people will find joy in becoming lifelong learners. The crazy truth is: it can all start in the classroom. Isn’t that exciting?
The Codelicious Curriculum helps students learn a foundation of computer science and STEM skills in elementary and middle schools. Students are introduced to problem solving and analytical skills in a way that encourages student-centered interaction and collaboration with empowered teachers. Learn more by visiting our website.