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In recent years, student-centered learning has become an ever more popular buzzword.

However, most teachers still fail to realize what it means exactly and what benefits it can offer their students. Even then, it cannot be very clear knowing how to properly implement it in their classroom environment. Well, the first thing you need to learn is that it can be done!

Plenty of teachers have started to make the shift and to see the overwhelming benefits on offer. And don’t worry; it doesn’t mean you lose control of your classroom. Not at all. Instead, it can be seen as a cooperation exercise between you and your students to improve their learning. So, if you are a forward-thinking teacher looking to make the most of this trend, here’s everything you need to know.

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What is student-centered learning exactly?

As a fundamental idea, the principle behind student-centered learning is to shift the dynamic of a classroom towards student-led sessions. This starkly contradicts the traditional method of teaching, in which students are made to listen and absorb while teachers speak.

In student-centered learning, students take more control over how instruction is given and how lessons are taught. They can work with you in making these important decisions together.

The benefits of student-centered learning

The benefits of student-centered learning have been highly discussed and can be very wide-reaching. It all depends on the extent to which the method is used and how it is brought into the classroom. But, assuming it is done so effectively, here are the sorts of benefits you can expect in your students.

A greater desire to learn

By tailoring lessons more towards their preferences, students have the chance to learn in the way that fits them best, and that is most enjoyable.

An enhanced ability to absorb information

This greater desire to learn leads to a greater ability to absorb the lessons being put before them.

Better leadership capabilities

When students take reign over their learning and the learning of those around them, they understand what it means to make decisions. They also learn more about making decisions based not just on their interests but also on the class.

How to implement student-centered learning in the classroom

Though student-centered learning sounds good on paper, it can often prove confusing when bringing it into your classroom. It goes against many fundamental ways teaching has been carried out for hundreds of years.

But don’t worry, it can be done! Below are three key principles you must buy into and encourage to produce a learning environment that fosters student-centered learning.

1. Give up your desire for control

Though this might sound simple, it is incredibly hard to achieve. For years, you might have led a classroom environment where the buck stops with you and teaching follow a rigid structure you designed. But with this new approach, you need to sacrifice this inner desire to achieve true student-centered learning.

The best way to achieve this is to buy into the principles behind this approach to learning and understand the benefits on offer. You also need to understand that this method is not brand new. If you feel like the classroom sometimes loses focus, then that is OK. You can act as a steady hand to lead students back on track and to remain on topic.

But it would be best if you refrained from telling students that their approach is wrong and that you would prefer something was done your way. In time, the students will realize different methods work better and change tactics, but these lessons need to be learned together and not be preached solely from you. Only then can true student-centered learning be achieved.

2. Give students decision-making abilities

Now that you’ve passed up on some control of the decisions, it’s time to give these to your students! Don’t worry. You can still play an active role. Instead, it is good to start making decisions jointly, so they buy into each approach just as much as you. You can give students a voice in the Why, How, and What of everything.

Here’s a better look at each of these in turn:

The Why

This focuses on the fundamental reason for learning different topics. The old answer to why do I need to learn this? is because it’s going to be in the test. Well, this is not good enough anymore. You are forcing them to learn something because you have been told to teach it, so they must learn.

Instead, take some time to analyze the real value behind each lesson being taught until students understand and are passionate about wanting to learn.

The What

The What is about the subject matter discussed around a given topic. For example, say you want to teach your students how companies use the written word to sell their products to customers. Initiate a discussion in which students talk about their favorite products, brands, and commercials.

Afterward, as a class, the students can decide on which advertising campaigns they’d like to dissect and better understand.

The How

This refers to how a particular lesson is carried out. Sure, the traditional method might be to have children open a textbook, begin reading, and answer some given questions. However, this is not the only approach to learning, and students have begun to notice this.

Instead, you can propose two methods of carrying out a lesson that you know works well and then allow students to propose a third choice. If this choice makes sense and fits within academic guidelines, then you can go with that. A good example would be the class deciding on the software they all know and use to make presentations to the rest of the class. You may not know much about this software, but you could quickly learn and follow the class-wide preference.

3. Believe in your student’s ability to lead

Once you’ve decided on your Why, What, and How, it’s time to sit back and let your students take control of their learning. This requires you to believe in their potential to step up and perform. This can often seem very daunting as you are the leader, and students are there to be led typically.

Everyone has to become a leader at some point.

Recognize that students are reflections of us as learners

So why can’t that day be today? There’s a good chance you’ll be surprised. Students are experts at consuming content and lessons. After all, they’ve spent years doing that, sitting in classrooms and listening to others lead them in their learning. They’ve seen it done and know how it works. All they need is the opportunity to take charge and show you what they can do.