Student Learning

The New Classroom: Student-Centred Learning

2 Mins read

SCL is on the rise at universities nationwide; how does it fit into K-12 schooling? 

The way we teach has changed a lot over time. Classroom dynamics have shifted from a teacher-centred environment to a more student-centred environment. This shift can be partially accredited to the theory that students learn best when learning is contextualised. Student engagement is critical to success. Teachers can increase student engagement by creating more student-centred classrooms. 

Student-Directed Learning and Student-Centred Learning

What’s the difference between student-directed learning (SDL) and student-centred learning (SCL)? The two are very similar; both give students more autonomy in their learning, but SDL is the term used more widely in universities, while SCL is commonly referred to by the K-12 community. So what exactly is SDL or SCL? 

SDL/SCL is a learning strategy that gives students two important choices to make:

What they will learn?

How they will learn their material?

During a SDL/SCL course, instructors embrace each student’s unique personality and goals, allowing them to be decision-makers in the classroom. Students get to lead the way while instructors act as more of a guide or a coach, facilitating support as needed.

The Benefits of SDL/SCL 

SDL/SCL classrooms provide students with the opportunity to do more than memorise information from a textbook. Student-centredness increases student empowerment, critical thinking skills, and independence. A 2018 study published by the International Journal of STEM Education revealed that many educators who used this approach felt SCL supported their beliefs about their roles as educators. Additionally, a 2017 study by Breunig showed that SDL led to increased student engagement and a greater sense of responsibility in university students. 

SDL/SCL has led to increased motivation, engagement, and responsibility in students. The nature of this approach is collaborative and personalised, two aspects of education that most teachers are already supporters of. 

How You Can Implement SDL/SCL in Your Classroom

If the concept of SDL/SCL is new to you, you may be concerned about how you will make this

work with your curriculum. The curriculum will still play a vital role in your class; you’ll just be adjusting the types of activities you do to meet the student’s desires. For example, if teaching a unit on Shakespeare, instead of assigning the whole class to read and analyse an act from King Lear, you would allow students to choose any work of Shakespeare’s to analyse. This will enable you to meet specific learning outcomes such as literary analysis while giving the students freedom to personalise the lesson. 

Another way to embrace SDL/SCL is through a service-learning project. Service-learning projects connect students to a group or organisation in the community that requires help with a specific problem. To follow up on the previous example, after students have completed their projects on Shakespeare, they might volunteer to share what they’ve learned with younger students in a neighbouring school. Students can form groups and collaboratively design a short lesson on an aspect of Shakespeare they found interesting. Service-learning projects are an excellent way for students to contextualise their learning and engage with the community. 

Lastly, a critical aspect of SDL/SCL is assessment. Both students and teachers participate in vigorous assessment throughout and after the course so that the effects of student-centred learning can be better understood. What do you think about this learning strategy? Would you implement this in your classroom? 

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