Student-centered learning is a common buzz term in education. Basically, researchers and like-minded educators are attempting to impart to teachers that students must be at the center of what is being taught. This process is described as breaking the traditional stand and deliver model that has been occuring in classrooms since the dawn of time. The truth is that the teacher-centered model of educational delivery still dominates classrooms across the country despite what is known about how students learn.
But I have always thought the terms associated with this movement are funny if not ironic. We are attempting to convince teachers that their instruction should be centered on students? Where else would anyone assume teaching should be begin but with students? All learning essentially begins and ends with the student. Teachers who want to remain the center of the show can believe that learning in their classrooms is centered on them but it isn’t. Without students, there is no learning. But the truth is also that most teachers simply refuse to give up the amount of control necessary to make students the focus of what they do. For most, giving up control and allowing student interests and needs drive educational experiences comes with fear and anxiety and probably will never happen.
So, perhaps instead of attempting to change the way that teachers teach we should focus on changing the ways that students learn. If learning should be focused on students, and it should, then students have the ability to take control of the ways in which they learn. Common refrains heard from students concerning a poor grade or why they didn’t learn something are often that the teacher didn’t teach. But what if students were taught that their learning was their responsibility? We don’t teach students this or present education in a model that acknowledges this, but we know it to be true. People learn things that they either need to know or interest them. And this learning, in most areas of one’s life, is natural and free from the artificial mechanisms put in place by schools. Students must come to understand that their learning in school is no different from their learning anywhere else. If they are to learn, it’s because they learn and not because of what someone else does. The teacher is the facilitator or the presenter, but the student is the one who must take ownership and drive their own experiences and their own learning.