50 years ago, the role of a teacher in a school was that of knowledge source—someone who had a breadth of knowledge and had been trained in their discipline, someone who was an authority on a topic. While a teacher’s education and authority is still valued, in today’s environment of information surplus, they need no longer be students’ primary sources of information. As a result, changes in the classroom are occurring at a rapid pace.
Student-centered learning transforms traditional models by shifting the role of teacher from “transmitter of information” to “facilitator of learning.” In a student-centered classroom, teachers structure experiences that foster learning, rather than compiling information that they deliver in the form of lectures. While students engage in exploration and discovery, the teacher acts as a coach, asking questions to challenge students in their thinking and help them master key skills and concepts.
Also central to student-centered learning is personalization. In its simplest form, personalization reflects a student’s learning style and how a teacher can customize lessons to how a student learns best. Does the student learn best by seeing examples? By hearing a description or explanation? By doing something (like an experiment)? Truly personalized learning builds on this by customizing learning according to a students’ prior knowledge and learning pace. For instance, instead of traditional lectures that deliver the same content to all students at the same rate, personalized learning might include a pre-test to assess what students already know, and then customized lessons based on what they still need to learn. These lessons could be traditional, paper lessons (e.g. specific chapters in a textbook) or computer-based instructions (e.g. online learning modules). The teacher’s role is to assess a student’s level, build their path for learning, and assess their mastery of the skills and content.
One way that teachers restructure their use of class time to facilitate students in different places of learning is with a flipped classroom. The flipped classroom allows the student to get any direct instruction (e.g. traditional lecture or demonstration) at home for homework. Then, in class, students would be engaging in applying their learning to new situations. For instance, a student might watch a video on how to solve a certain type of math problem, and spend class time working on those problems. With the teacher no longer required to spend all of their class time demonstrating how to solve a problem, they are able to work with students individually or in small groups to help them overcome challenges or push them to work on more advanced concepts. One of the most popular media used for the flipped classroom are videos of direct instruction. However, this could also be done with reading assignments or textbook demonstrations.
Another method teachers use to personalize learning and more creatively use their class time is through project-based learning. Project-based learning involves students exploring a real-world question or problem, and spending an extended period of time forming the background knowledge and skills to articulate a solution. For instance, in Geometry, students might be asked to design a base for astronauts on the moon. This would involve researching communications between the earth and the moon, determining the height of towers needed to maintain contact with the moon (including proper materials and adjustments for gravity), identifying the best positions of satellites for communication, and composing a well-written presentation to propose their solution to a group of evaluators (teachers). In such a project, students learn fundamental mathematics, critical thinking, and communication skills, all while engaging in a “real work.” Some of best resources for project-based learning come from the Buck Institute for Education.
Recognizing that the future careers of our students will involve harnessing the power of technology to innovate and excel, STEM education is key for all schools. STEM is an acronym that stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. More often in recent years, this acronym has been rewritten as STEAM, with Arts included. As we know, many of the most important technology developments (health care technologies, “smart” programming for phones and electronics, etc.) require the work of a designer to provide a user-friendly interface. Thus, written, visual, and even performing arts are important skills for young people.
Whether working with student-centered learning, flipped classroom, project-based learning, or STEM/STEAM, there are a few key theories in learning that could be helpful.
We are in the process of developing more in-depth content related to student centered learning and other content included in this video and we would like your input. Please complete the in-depth content survey at the end of this workshop.Thank you.