Picture a student-centered classroom. Some will see students learning what they want when they want, roaming around freely, and speaking whenever they want. In reality, student-centered or student-driven learning is carefully designed to help students with varying abilities and interests experience success and become engaged learners.The significant differences between this strategy and more traditional models are found in the types of interactions and learning experiences.
The role of the teacher changes.
In a student-centered classroom, you may see more movement than in the traditional classroom. Teachers often have the role of a guide rather than an instructor. They are there to answer questions, and ultimately, to participate in the learning process. Group work is a hallmark in this classroom, and the teacher may even join a group. That's not to say there is never direct instruction. The teacher may introduce new concepts or point out information that is essential for student understanding.
Interactions among students increase.
Students may move between partners and groups, but the most common activity you will see is the discussion group. Students may be placed in pairs or groups to work through comprehension questions in a literature class or to work through new math concepts together. Teams of students may collaborate on science experiments -- either participating equally or dividing the work up by role.
Students also have time for individual work where they may focus on their own notes or journals. They complete reflections alone. There is also time for whole-class learning or discussions which may be led by the teacher or a student.
Student reflection leads to engagement
Although the discussion groups and movement among groups support the learning process in the student-centered classroom, the real reason for its success is the opportunity for student reflection. Metacognition is a hallmark of student-centered learning. Giving students time to write down and reflect upon their own learning experience increases the student’s engagement and retention of information.
When teachers develop student-centered lessons, they are creating a learning experience with the learner in mind. This type of customization also increases student engagement and intrinsic motivation.
Experiential learning encourages deep understanding.
The student-centered classroom works well in conjunction with experiential learning as it encourages students to shape their own education. In doing this, past experiences and knowledge have value, and the student is encouraged to think creatively. Opportunities for more in-depth understanding develop when students connect their personal experiences with learning activities
The student-centered classroom enhances the student's ability to retain knowledge, engage more deeply with the material, and to make meaningful connections with the outside world.