Student-Centred Learning

Probably one of the most important themes in the future of learning is how to structure school so that it allows for pursuing students´ interests and passions and providing them with a personalized experience.

Transitioning into a learner-centred environment is, however, quite a chellenge in th real life context of school. This week we will be exploring ideas and opportunities to porvide a more student-centred learning experience at the school.

Please explore the following resources:

Please answer the following questions in the Discussion Forum below.

  • Can you identify opportunities for a more student-centred experience at DWKS? Where?
  • Provide ideas and examples of how the current offerings at DWKS could evolve into a more customized/personalized experience.

16 Replies to “Student-Centred Learning”

  1. I would just like to start off by saying that I am really loving reading these articles and having the discussions. So amazing!

    So this past year was the first year our school had a daycare. As far as student centered learning, there was free time where students could chose what they wanted to do or learn about. “I” provided materials and then the students decided what they wanted to build/make/create based on the choices that were available.
    Often while speaking with them they would mention something they were really interested in. “I” would then include some of their interests somehow when I was planning for the next week.

    I put the “I”s in quotations because after reading these articles it’s apparent that the students could be more involved and im inspired to include them in the actual program planning. It could be as simple as a weekly circle time conversation where we discuss what they are interested in learning about and what materials should be included in each of the centres. Instead of me switching up the books in the reading area every week and trying to select a variety of books so that everyone has something to read that interests them, Every week, the students could choose books from the library to have in our daycare reading corner. It seems way more fun for them and honestly less hard on my brain. Win win!

    I also love the idea of the Genius Hour and I would love to include that this year so that students have a period of time set aside each week where they work on their personal projects of interest which could be presented/showcased toward the end of the school year.

    1. You have made a lot of great points and are uniquely positioned to explore self-directed learning within the day care setting as there are not specific curriculum requirements or standardized tests that I am aware of. I am really excited to see how your program continue to grow!

  2. I have learned a lot about student-centered project based learning through my involvement with Destination Imagination. A small group of students is presented with a challenge that they must solve and present in a dramatic presentation. It is a unique way for students to showcase their individual strengths and come together to reach a common goal. As a facilitator, it is very rewarding to see the tremendous student growth throughout the process and it is a very valuable learning experience for everyone. Some of the skills developed are planning, research, building, writing, creating costumes and props, time management and presentation. I would like to incorporate more project based learning into my classroom teaching. Another thing I plan to use are choice boards and learning menus. Students are more likely to be actively engaged and take pride when they are given options that work best for them.

    At our school, many teachers use learning centers and creative projects using various media. The piece on learning centers is very useful and I agree that the skills to be learned should be clearly identified. I like the idea of providing time weekly for students to work on personal interest projects through genius hour and/or Flex Fridays.

    1. Angie,
      DI popped straight into my mind too when watching the animation about the learner center movement. With DI we are very much hands off and the learner must ask for any assistance they need to build their skills to solve their task. It is amazing to see what can be achieved.

    2. I like the idea of choice boards as well!
      I agree the Destination Imagination challenges develop a ton of skills as well as the student’s confidence and pride in what they have created!

    3. I too think DI is an incredible opportunity for student-lead learning. Perhaps an after school club could be run in a similar way allowing more than the 7 DI-ers to experience the process. The flex Friday time could also follow this path.

  3. Reading these articles and thinking about all the problems they pose was a stressful experience for me. I am not as idealistic as I would like to be.

    In order to fully operate in a learner centred environmentent we need to disregard the curriculum (at least partially). To do this we could be held to account for not doing our jobs. But it would probably be better for the kids. The cognitive dissonance this causes in me gives me pause about running healing in this direction. We are in a time when the paradigm needs to shift. The legal authority to create the new paradigm lies with the Quebec government. However we are in a time where popular movements are able to influence the mainstream media and contribute to system change. At the same time fighting the system puts one at risk of becoming a victim of it. Therefore it’s important for me to try to do this in small ways. (Not all day every day).

    In math class I have tried to build in a variety of ways to practice skills, workbook, manipulative, games, online. (The only tests of their skills at the end of grade 6 however will be situational problems and application questions. Also the skills that they must master are not up for debate, but dictated.)

    I worked extremely hard (and so did the kids) on a self paced unit in math this year for fractions. Students were able to work at their own pace through a variety of videos, apps, practice pages. They had periodical assessments to check their progress. At the end of the unit they were able to schedule their own test date. Students worked individually or in groups. Some times they asked for extras help sometimes I insisted. Those finished first coached others or completed more open ended enrichment activities. This was so rich and powerful. They asked when they could do another unit like that. It was often messy and could be loud but it was overall a positive experience. (The problem for me was: if I did all my teaching like that I wouldn’t get through all the things I need to cover in the year.)

    Like Angie said, offering choice boards and menus is very empowering. That is certainly something that can be used in content based classes like GHC. In English it is a great way for kids to show understanding of what they have read, while still having control of what they create. I do this when I can. (The difficulty is: when it comes to demonstrating their ability to read a text, the only product they are ever asked for in ministry testing is a “Response to Literature” do this is what I have the responsibility to prepare them to write.)

    Creating opportunities for self directed learning is important, relevant, and motivating, but it is often an over and above your thing. I need to find small ways of fitting it in to enhance my classes and dream of the day when it can make up the majority of what I do.



    1. Russell,

      I understand and appreciate your opinion about some of the possible challenges with the student centered learning during classes. I think it’s important to just start with whatever you are comfortable with and you can always add more time if it is going well in your class. Maybe instead of an all day every day thing it could be a full period once a week or 20 mins here and there perhaps.

    2. I too was stressing a bit as I went through some of this week’s material. I have been envisioning this type of teaching and learning for many years but have difficulty how to do this and ensure the curriculum is ‘covered’ and students are ready for graduation requirement final exams.

      I do see the cross-curricular learning as a fairly easy fit for our school. In the past, Karen and I did a water unit that involved science, English and ERC at the secondary IV level. Students were excited when they made connections between the learning in the classes. Another benefit was the overlapping of learning in the two or three classes reduced the overall amount of information that they are expected to learn in the 8-10 courses that they are generally taking at one time! I liked the video showing sound waves study that incorporated science, music and tech. Sound waves are part of our grade 9 curriculum and it would be easy to do something similar. I think we could include an ELA component as well as a POP study of professions in the music industry( and others??)

      I will go back again with a ‘no worries’ attitude and find some more good stuff.

  4. I believe we do more Student-Centered-Learning at DWKS than we realize. We do it in Drama, Art, Outdoor Ed, Phys. Ed, etc.
    Like Angie mentioned, DI is just one of many fabulous ways for our students to lead, share in decision making, work in a team and show their creativity.
    I love the GENIUS HOUR idea. I have been doing something very similar with my students for many years. They love it!
    They especially love when we have our “FREE ART” class. I really get to see their creativity, their passions and their interests during this activity, and it’s extremely rewarding.
    I also believe that students do have to sit quietly during a lesson at times. It can’t always be about projects, games, learner centered activities…we cannot always rely on the students “inner motivation” to kick-in. Sorry, I’m just a bit “Old School”. I think we are doing a wonderful job at DWKS. We are a great team and we will only make things better! 🙂

    1. You’re right Klinda! Our school offers a lot! I love that Genius hour too! Think of what they could create and present to their peers and parents! Im sure some of them could teach us a thing or two

  5. I couldn’t help but think of our Friday morning advisory challenges at the High School where all activities are student lead as well as the many activities our student council prepares throughout the year.

  6. Reading these articles about how Student-Centered learning is a great way to increase student motivation and engagement is a bit scary for me. My job, as a FLS teacher to the younger grades, is to bring my student to be able to understand French and communicate. In the first cycle, they are just accumulating vocabulary and learning to understand the language. In my experience, students in the lower grades don’t speak French during project work and group work because they do not yet have the ability. It ends up being an English activity. I do some center activity times (Ateliers). The kids enjoy those times, but it always ends up being in English. This is my dilemma.

    At the end of this past school year, I had two students and parts of our daily schedule was very flexible. I would give them choices on different activities we could do and their level of engagement was much higher. This is something that I could easily incorporated in my teaching in the future. I also really liked the Think Dots that adds a fun element to “must do” activities and the Learning Menus that offer choices.

    I am already sold on Flex Fridays and like some of you already mentioned, it would be a great platform to allow students to be more in charge of their learning. It would be another great addition to what is already happening at our school. The Genius Hour is also a great idea. I will reflect on how I could incorporate it in my class in a way that first cycle students could showcase their learnings (song, story, drama piece, etc.) of French vocabulary on a certain theme they decide on.

  7. This week’s activity urged me to watch a video that the MELS and Tele-Quebec did in 2003. At that time the QEP was new and called the “Reform”. Some of you know this well. Anyway I was part of the production and spoke to what we had been doing at PHS w.r.t. teams and organizing towards changing “the” pedagogy. I look young and enthusiastic and am all charged up with knowledge and enthusiasm….I must say I have been through cynical periods since those days however I believe like never before that improvement in Learning Design for Students is now much more feasible. The one thing I learned at Pontiac High in leading the Cycle I Project (and many times at DWKS) was that we need to go from where we’re at….and as you all have mentioned we have a lot in place to build upon……especially our curriculum that is future oriented, competency based and socio-constructivist…..challenges remain like the “heavy” assessments in our system as Russell described…..yet together we can succeed.

  8. This team at DWKS is awesome – your comments, honesty and ideas are inspiring. I agree that students must be included in planning, implementing and assessing their learning. I’m going to work hard in trying to match student interests in the skills they need to learn. I do this in some areas already but see the importance in including this way of teaching as much as possible because it is so important in student engagement. For example when learning about percent, taxes, etc. I often provide the students with a menu from a popular restaurant or the weekly flyers so they can choose items and then make a bill. I like the idea of giving students options – 3 is a good number, not too many but also not limited. I too find the student centered learning method of teaching stressful. I use it a lot in science at the elementary level and while it is a bit chaotic the student learning is amazing. I think we need to start small and aim for big! I also like the idea of allowing the students to learn the way they learn best. I know Christine often gives the students these options – work in a small group, in pairs or individually. Basing our student centered learning on the individuals interest I feel is key. Perhaps we could create a survey to administer to students at the beginning of the year in advisory to determine each persons interests and then use these interests in their learning. There were a few ideas, statistics and quotes that really stood out to me:
    – 98% of kindergarten students are divergent thinkers and this decreases significantly as they proceed through school (sad statistic)
    – “Collaboration is the stuff of growth.”
    – “Good learning happens in groups.”
    – “Believe in student capacity to lead.”
    – “Done is better than perfect.”
    I really liked the idea of a collaborative project which was based on the student’s interest. This was done at the Portfolio School. Three themes were chosen from their interests and then all units stemmed from here. The collaborative project could then be presented as part of our Spring Celebration. I also liked the Genius Hour idea. We have something similar in our IP project in Sec. V and of course Destination Imagination. Why not have IP in all grades? Why not let all students try the DI initiatives? Let’s include it in Flex Fridays. I have heard so much through our learning hub about how important creativity is for success in life and yet our school system is not set up for encouraging creativity. Let’s change that!

  9. Student-Centered Learning

    After reading this information about student-centered learning, we at DWKS have talked about this many times. I believe we do this type of learning and have incorporated this style within our schedules. As mentioned by others, it has been demonstrated through DI, Outdoor Ed, Arts, IP, and once in while within our core subjects. The PDF ‘School Look Fors’ I liked a lot because of the guidelines to the clear picture it provides.

    Something that caught my attention is that “a learner-centered approach to education requires instruction to be strategically designed to meet students’ individual developmental needs and interests”. Students would benefit so much from this. However, this is not easy to achieve and is the stressful part that has been mentioned a few times.

    With technology taking over an important part of our teaching environment, and very strict guidelines due to the pandemic, student-centered learning could be become a challenge or on the flip side could become the practice.

    Taking a day such as flex Fridays could possibly allow more of this to happen at our school. I truly believe creativity is a huge part of growing in order to learn, to improve, and to succeed. Allowing our students to have opportunities to do this would certainly promote independence and ownership of their learning

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