Thursday, April 3, 2014

Moving towards a Student-Centered Classroom

In trying to change a prevailing teacher-centric classroom to a more student-centric model, what are the steps that are required?  How best to help the teacher make this change?  If the teacher is willing, and able, to make the change then the first step is taken care of.  But, what if the teacher doesn't want to make the change, or can't see why a change is necessary?  How do you begin the process with that teacher without completely alienating them from the whole process?

                                                       image from Bill Ferriter

I suggest you focus on the students.  Paint a picture for the teacher of the world the students in the class are living in. Information at their fingertips, multi-modal resources to choose from, learning in ways that appeal to them, demonstrating their new learning in a method of their choosing.  Introduce the requisite skills that these students will need to possess in order to be successful in the real world.  To name but a few... critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, creativity, resiliency.  There are plenty more to be sure, but whatever is on your list, continue to engage with the teacher about the possibilities of acquiring those skills in a teacher-centric classroom.  Refrain from making this teacher specific, even though they may try to personalize the focus.  Instead, keep the focus on the students.

In a teacher-centric classroom, the information is typically delivered in a stand and deliver method, with the students receiving the information, and demonstrating their learning in a standard form of assessment chosen by someone else.  Under those conditions, is it even realistic to believe that the students will gain experience in any of the aforementioned skills? Most likely not.  

This is when you can begin to share the benefits of a student-centric classroom.  Share with the teacher the ways in a which a student in that type of classroom environment can develop those important skills.  Here is a brief list of suggestions:

  • Point out that when students participate in the creation of new knowledge by actively learning the information instead of being spoon-fed what the teacher chooses to share, that students are required to develop critical thinking abilities.  It falls to the students to decipher new information and make a decision as to whether this is relevant and pertinent to what they are learning.  Explain how the students will develop resiliency by not stopping at the first source of information, but rather, having to continue on until they have located what they are looking for.
  • Incorporating a real world problem into the mix and allowing the students the opportunity to research the background information required to understand the nature of the problem strengthens their critical thinking and resiliency abilities.  
  • Allowing the students to collaborate with others, both inside and outside of the classroom, will improve their communication skills along with their ability to collaborate.
  • Allowing the students the freedom to share their findings in a way that they feel best fits the situation will allow for their natural creativity to shine through.  As Dave Burgess puts it in Teach Like A Pirate, creativity is something that we can hone by practice- this is one way to provide opportunities for students to put in the practice.  Sure, there will be times that it doesn’t turn out how you had hoped, but this is about the students.  Besides, learning from mistakes is a sound practice.  It is recommended by many, as failure is something that helps us grow and improve.  Why wouldn’t that be okay in a classroom?  As a teacher, I know I have made countless errors in my classroom, all that has happened is that I have learned to be reflective and improve for the next time.  
These are but a few ideas that I have used this year working with teachers at my school that are making the switch to a more student-centric classroom.  What are some other ways to help teachers with this paradigm shift?  How else can we encourage teachers to make this important change for our students?  I look forward to hearing some more great ideas!

No comments:

Post a Comment