What Does Student Centered Really Mean?

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student centered learing 1 The article What Does Student Centered Really Mean?  offered a good opportunity for reflecting on what I am focusing on as an instructor, and how much it is connected to the student-centered approach.

One of the quotes mentioned in the article relates to how teachers have been seen as a “sage on stage”.  As much as I know this is not a student-centered approach to learning, it is still very accepted, and somewhat expected by many peers and supervisors.  If we are dynamic and wise, we’re viewed as being a great instructor.  But really, that means we are little more than entertaining.  And sharing pearls of wisdom doesn’t lead students to think for themselves.

A second idea worth contemplating involves the high tech equipment we believe is needed in each classroom.  A PowerPoint presentation is just a prettier version of the old school overheads.  And while it has the advantages of being potentially more interesting, it really doesn’t mean we are doing anything more student-centered in our classroom.  Same goes for a smart board or any other technology that remains in the hands of the instructor.

The student-centered classroom requires us to re-think and question some of our common practices.  Instead of being the sage on stage, our passion for a subject, and our ability to guide and facilitate is demonstrated in an even more dynamic way when we share more responsibility with students.  And whether our classroom is low or high tech, the practice of teaching needs to be focused on active learning where the needs and interests of the student are respected and expressed.  If we are sage instructors, then surely it is because we create environments where the student’s creativity, brilliance, resourcefulness and confidence is given room to grow.

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One response »

  1. I love your thoughts on this. I have struggled wit it myself. I’ve always believed in teaching people the way they need to learn… and that to me is truly being student centered. Many of my assignments are individual but I encourage them to work together if that is their preferred method, but they must hand in individual assignments. I also try and get students to participate in lectures, having open discussions, and having the students teach parts of lectures themselves. In the end you can see which parts of the course are the shining moment for most students (b/c some wont shine no matter what you do for them) and I always try and send them an email in Learn mentioning it. That also seems to work wonders.

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