A student-centred classroom is one in which students have authentic voice and choice over what and how they learn. Instructional decisions are made by the teacher until students are ready in a gradual release of responsibility model; once students are prepared for that responsibility, they are allowed far greater freedom to shape their education in collaboration with their peers and their teacher.
You'll notice the definition has two parts; this is something we learned the hard way.
We believe that all students are capable of taking charge of their education, but that some require more time in order to be ready for it. This is the kind of classroom that runs itself for a substitute teacher. But it takes time.
And it's scary. For teachers who are used to controlling the weather in their classroom, it represents a major change to suddenly invite students into the weather-making. There are days that have such violent storms that you forget what the sun felt like. Then there are days where the sun comes out and you see how giving students responsibility for their own learning was absolutely the right choice.
Here are a few reasons we run a student-centred class:
- Students who are spoon-fed information end up hating school and often leave with few transferable skills
- Deep learning is both experiential learning and learning that taps into things we already know and are interested in. We remember things better when we can connect them to something that is interesting to us or we have to figure it out for ourselves. We actually build neural pathways like that: anything we already like or can do have neural networks that are complex and well-travelled. By tapping into those existing neural networks, we create connections that are far more memorable than if we had formed them from nothing
- Students get an opportunity to fail...lots of opportunities to fail, actually. But failure in this environment has few consequences, and it's far better than failing when someone is paying you to succeed. Student-centred classrooms focus on revising and finding new iterations that are more useful and successful than first attempts
- The purpose of school should be to prepare students to be life-long learners and give them tools that can help them continue to learn, no matter their life path. A student-centred classroom transitions from the factory model of education to the more broad purpose of making life-long learners
"Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself."