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Putting Students at the Center of the Learning

August 10, 2013

Project.based.learning

Using project-based learning (PBL) as an instructional strategy, teachers are able to put students in the center of the learning and give them an opportunity to understand how disciplines shape the world in which we live or are shaped by it.  Putting students at the center, requires teachers to think about their role in the classroom differently.  Shifting from the person who distributes the knowledge to a facilitator of a process.  There are a variety of instructional strategies that can put students in the center of learning.  Here are examples of some (click on each for a link to a resource):

The table below compares and contrasts these different instructional strategies according to a set of variables: what is the teaching doing; what is the student doing; how is student learning assessed, and others.

Instructional Strategies Table.10.15.2012

Table assembled as a result of research at the Center for Teaching

Every student should have the possibility to reflect on the question: What would it look like if I were a person in this profession?  If students were given the opportunity to authentically engage with a discipline(s), they would be in a better position to get a sense of their proclivity for the discipline and interest in pursuing it.  In addition, they should be encouraged to reflect on their values relative to the values projected by professionals in the discipline.  If students were given opportunities in their schooling, as a result of schoolwork being designed to model real situations, problems, skills, and ideas, they would more likely visualize a path for entry into the profession.

How did you get interested in your profession?  Did your K-12 schooling help nurture that interest and define a path for entry into the work?  For some students, the answer is yes.  I would suspect that for the majority the answer is no.

What can we do as teachers and curriculum designers to encourage more student-centered learning, allowing students to learn like practitioners of the profession?  Here are some possibilities.  I would encourage you to reply to the post with other possibilities or examples of what you do in your classroom or school.

  • Have students work with a mentor
  • Have students shadow a professional through an internship
  • Have students examine characteristics of people who work in professions
  • Haves students interview people in a profession
  • Have students read about professionals through biographies or their writings
  • Have students develop projects and presentations that are shared with a panel of experts associated with a profession

Putting students at the center of the learning is the direction school reform should take.  We need to move away from traditional classrooms that do not connect a discipline’s content and skills to the real world.

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