Should We Be Less Student-Centered?

The Mighty Classroom Triumvirate

In last week’s post, we cautioned against the heavy focus on “student-centered” learning. Teachers are an important piece of the equation and their professional judgement is needed.

However, as with all things there must be balance. Training and supporting teachers as a crucial component of the classroom does not mean students have to be passive learners at their desks. Neither does a student-centered approach mean that each student should be completely isolated on their own individual path, learning mainly from online resources and games.

We can have a balance between a totally teacher-centered and a totally student-centered approach. Balance is perhaps not even the right word. Rather, both can be true at the same time. We can have a healthy classroom ecosystem where the teacher, the student, and the subject matter are all honored as critical pieces to the learning environment. It’s a both/and situation, not either/or.

The Both/And

So, if our classroom can be both student-centered and teacher-centered, if it can be both teacher-centered and subject-centered, what does it look like? How are these three things held together?

What does it look like when the teacher node is in proper balance?
The teacher is a respected professional with a level of autonomy over the curriculum and discretion about how goals are achieved.

What does it look like when the student node is in proper balance?
The student is in an environment that affords them a level of ownership over their learning, as well as opportunity to apply their knowledge, and develop intra and inter-personal skills.

What does it look like when the subject matter node is in proper balance?
The subject is not treated as isolated facts to memorize out of a book but as part of a complex, fascinating network of facts, opinions, emotions, misunderstandings, overlapping and conflicting ideas, history, policy, evolving perceptions, and mistakes.

Last week, I pushed in the direction of being more teacher-centered because I think we are on a big student-centered swing at the moment. Rather than swing the other way, let’s get rid of the pendulum altogether and build strong learning environments that honor the students, the teacher, and the subject.