“Lifelong learning is a buzzword in 21st century education. And for good reason. Becoming a seeker of lifelong learning is critical in today’s fast-changing world. Learning is not only a matter of absorbing information but a process of developing many other internal skills, like curiosity, perseverance, and the ability to tackle tough challenges.” Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Roots of Action
One of the trickiest aspects of cultivating lifelong learning is that lifelong learners are not taught. They learn by example and by trial and error. They learn by seeing adults model continuous learning habits – persistence, curiosity, constant learning. Teens have the opportunity to learn these traits from both their parents and their teachers.
Teacher as Model
Learning from teachers who model lifelong learning traits is just one way that students benefit from a student-centered classroom. Teachers who no longer act solely as a lecturer have the freedom to learn right along with their students. When teachers become active learners, students can see the curiosity and creativity their teachers possess. Students also learn that even those with authority, with advanced degrees, and with experience in a subject are still learning. This modeling fosters an atmosphere where everyone is expected to be a learner regardless of experience or past performance.
Another element of the student-centered classroom is the inclusion of flexible student grouping. Students often work in groups or pairs to complete work, develop investigations, or create experiments. Working with classmates, students develop skills in collaboration and communication, both important to lifelong learning. Building skills for successful cooperation with a variety of people is a characteristic of lifelong learners. They can work with a variety of people on a variety of projects. Student-centered learning requires students to develop these types of relationships with their classmates and rely on classmates to complete tasks. This includes acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in a collaborative group. Knowledge of the skills of all collaborators is vital to developing effective teams that work efficiently – an essential element of productive workplaces.
Many student-centered classrooms rely on student reflection at the end of every lesson or activity. Students are required to evaluate their own learning process and the progress they have made in a class session. This self-knowledge allows the student to create a course of action for continued learning. It also helps students seek assistance from mentors, models, and peers in completing assignments and learning new skills. With self-reflection students are able to understand how they learn and develop strategies for coping with difficulty and learning further information.
Freedom to Explore
Student-centered classrooms allow students a relative amount of freedom in developing their own learning experience. In many ways, this independence mirrors a workplace that will require creativity and quick thinking. The freedom to explore learning and solve problems is a valuable learning skill adaptable to a continually changing workspace. When students can create learning plans and make mistakes without feeling like a failure, they are more willing to take risks in their learning.
The student-centered classroom is a stark contrast from ordered rows of students taking notes from a lecturing teacher. It is just this kind of flexible learning and engagement that provides students with insight into how to operate in unconventional environments.
We may not know the details of the jobs of the future. However, based on the rapid changes in the current workplace, educators can be sure those new jobs will require flexibility and creative thinking. The student-centered classroom is a present-day example of what our young people might find in their future careers. Educators that can inspire in students a love of learning are launching them on a path as independent lifelong learners.