Author Visitation Part 2: Student-centered Learning

iraq-81479_640Dear Readers,

In part 2 of sharing my visitation experience at my local high school, I want to discuss a method of teaching that I not only witnessed, but was a part of.  Mrs. Carey, the journalism teacher of the three classes I visited, conducted something called student-centered teaching. She of course has a curriculum, but she has her students give input on how they want the course to look like. She even allows them to provide feedback and give suggestions. Before I visited her classes, I was nervous and even slightly uncomfortable with the thought of lecturing in front of her students. I had even prepared a powerpoint. However, my experience was anything but and the powerpoint certainly was not needed.

The structure of my visit was very student-focused. I don’t like to talk about myself too much, so I was relieved when Mrs. Carey told me that it would be a very laid back conversation that was driven by the questions I would be asked. So, instead of standing in front of the students and lecturing to them, I sat amongst them and talked with them. It was of course more comfortable, but it was also much more personal and effective. The students were free to ask what they wanted to know and for those who had other responsibilities, they were free to work on them solely or simultaneously while listening to me.

What I love about this teaching method is that it gives students some control over what they should control: their education. Administers may see students as children, but for the most part, especially when they’re in high school, students know how they want to be taught and what works for them as well as what doesn’t work. The best thing about this method is that it signifies how teaching is indeed a partnership. A teacher may believe they have the best teaching method around, but if it’s not working for the students, then it’s not working. A teacher needs to understand their students and work with their students in order for education to be successful.

So, if student-centered teaching is so great, why isn’t it used more often? Why are policy-makers more interested in result-focused education instead? There are of course plenty of reasons, and I believe one of them to be an issue of control and power. I believe it correct to assume that some feel student-centered teaching to be a relinquishment of power and control for teachers and policy-makers. On the contrary, I believe that if students are spoken to, spoken with, and most of all, if they are heard, the teacher in turn gains much more respect and power in the classroom. The students that I visited were anything but out of control and disrespectful, and this does not mean that they don’t get unruly like all students do. Their education is just a matter of understanding the following principles:

1)   Students have a voice that need to heard.

2)   Education is a 3 way partnership: Teacher and Student, Student and Parent, Parent and Teacher

There are, of course, other successful teaching methodologies, but I believe this one to be one of the best.  To Mrs. Carey and all the other student-centered teachers out there, you’re doing a great job!

Peace and love,

Ariffa

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Posted on June 10, 2014, in About Me, Education and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Bravo!! The child knows how he or she learns best. As an early childhood educator I know that learning takes place when a child is interested, engaged, and respected. We have some great philosophies at the preschool level that could be very beneficial if taken further.
    Great post. 🙂

    • Thank you!! And I absolutely agree with you on the preschool philosophies: just because it’s “for preschool” doesn’t mean that it can’t be successfully applied elsewhere.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience! I know it was a good one because I used it often as a high school teacher during my career. One element that you didn’t mention, but that I think is important is this: the teacher has to trust the students. Most students, when this trust is communicated and acted on as this teacher had apparently done in the past, will respond as they did and learning will become a good experience for both them and the teacher. Guiding one’s own learning as they are doing is something that is not just good in the classroom but is a preparation for the student’s life-long learning!

    • Yes, trust is very important! Very often, students are not trusted to take education in their own hands. Student-centered learning proves otherwise.

  3. Listening is hard to do. Most teachers want the center of focus on themselves and giving that up is difficult because they feel the objectives of learning for that day will not be reached. But listening and responding is the teaching method of Plato. And he was a real teacher.

  4. Many education authorities are very interested in a trail of proof about what has been learned i.e. evidence. The real evidence is not on any report or mark as we know. It is in the eyes that sparkle and the light bulbs that pop on. As to the speaking. I do some public speaking and avoid props like power point . I talk about myself, my feelings and how it might relate to the audience and avois contentd and get off stage asap so I can mingle and connect. connecting with others is what lights my fire.

    • I feel the exact same way. I can’t even describe the relief I felt when I was able to sit among the students and talk with them. That may be the last time I ever create a PowerPoint for such purposes. Thanks for commenting!

  5. This sounds like an amazing class in which students learn comfortably and effectively. How wonderful that you could get in there and interact with the kids – thank you for sharing the experience with us Ariffa!

  6. Walter Boomsma

    As you may know from visiting my blog, I’m a big believer in students being involved and sharing responsibility for their education. At the same time, I think this can be carried to an extreme. There are some folks proposing and practicing “unschooling” which is a version of home schooling where the kid pretty much decides (unaided or unguided) what he or she would like to learn. That’s extremism and it’s unfair to the child/student. I’d classify it as child neglect. One of the values of an effective teacher is that he or she has some life experience and, hopefully, an understanding of life’s requirements.This business of learning is truly a shared responsibility between all involved. I heard a teacher once say “If the parents don’t support you, you’re doomed to failure.” I not too gently suggested she find another career if she really believes that. Two of the most important teaching skills are: 1. getting kids (and adults!) to believe they can learn things and 2. creating curiosity and excitement. I love the word “balance” and it has lots of application in education.

    • Thank you so much for your response. While you have points that I agree with, there are some that I respectively do not. Even so, I appreciate your comment and will dedicate a post to my response. Thank you!

  7. Good post.and comments, I mostly worked as a private teacher while traveling and homeschooling my own kids so was pretty much free to create my own curriculum etc. One thing I know is it’s no good “hammering on cold metal”.Every child is different and has a key so Interactive always works better. It can be harder to control though so it depends a little on the caliber of the teacher and how co operative the kids are to begin with. Every situation is different so while I personally believe interactive is the best it sometimes needs strong guidelines also in the beginning stages to establish mutual respect for all, It’s great you are open in trying new approaches etc. Teaching is great fun but also a great challenge.

    • Absolutely! Students need to be treated as individuals as well as listened to. This is of course one of the main issues with the education system. And yes, it is a great, great challenge and blessing. Thanks for your comment!

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