What's the Buzz

What’s the Buzz? Student-Centered Learning


We like buzzwords in education. Even in one year, various buzzwords pass through with the authors hoping for it to catch on along the way for a nice book deal. Some work, others go by the wayside. What’s the problem with buzzwords? Or is there a problem at all. We notice the eye-rolls at each professional development where initiatives are announced. But why? We are all in it for the students. Perhaps it isn’t the initiative or buzzword, but the underlying meaning of it all. Do all of these buzzwords really introduce change? Admittedly, we have plenty that caught on – because they do bring about change in education. Unfortunately, others all mean the same thing: it’s all about the student.

Enter student-centered learning. The buzzword that actually means what it says. This buzzword is one that we’ve used before, but for some reason, could not put our finger on it. Students first! But this time, students are involved in every aspect of learning – instruction, assessment, planning. The minds of Vygotsky, Piaget, and Dewey even had the idea of giving students the ownership in learning. In Data Wise, Boudett, City, and Murnane write a book that focuses on the ACES Habits of Mind: shared commitment to Action, assessment, and adjustment, intentional Collaboration, and relentless focus on Evidence.  Don’t worry, we’ll break it all down for you. Here it is: let your students own it! Need some ideas? We got you covered!

1)  Chart the Data

Assessments are a way of educational life. Whether summative or formative – we must give them. But what if you let the students keep their own data? After each assessment, have students chart their data. Whether in a spreadsheet, a graph, or both – allow students to measure their own progress. In special education, we take progress monitoring on a regular basis, but how many times do the students have the opportunity to evaluate their own data? All of our students should have the opportunity to take ownership in their progress.

2) Assessment Choice

We’re not talking about choosing which test to take. We are talking about letting the students indicate which topics they struggle most in, and which the succeed most in. From there, teachers can re-teach those topics indicated by their students. Not only will this provide immediate formative assessment, but it will also create buy-in from the students.

3) Stakeholder Instruction

Collaborative learning, group projects, flipped classrooms. Yes, these ideas work in particular contexts. However as educators, we need to provide students with the opportunity to truly teach each other and themselves. This entails creating real-world problems to solve. Whether it is through inquiry-based learning, or you create a problem that students will actually face in school or life, these lessons create opportunities for the students to teach each other and themselves.

Do you have a lesson that demonstrates student-centered learning? Share it with us!!

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