How Student-Centered Is Your Classroom?

Do you believe in the importance of student-centered teaching?

Check out the following statements crafted by a study group of teachers, staff developers, and education thinkers. Which do you agree or disagree with?

1. Teachers as researchers

I believe that teachers are researchers and that instructional decisions are best when based on what teachers have learned and documented by observing and listening carefully to students throughout the day.

2. Teachers as learners

I believe that the way teachers approach their own learning should parallel the way children approach their learning, and school is the place where both teachers’ and students’ learning are characterized by engagement, purpose, and self-direction.

3. Appreciative view of children

I believe educators should have a positive and an expectant view of children, with an understanding that children enter school with personal histories and particular strengths that teachers should recognize and use as the foundation for working with them.

4. Struggle is where learning happens

I believe children, families, and teachers should see challenge, struggling, and mistakes as positive, creative opportunities for learning and growth.

5. Engagement

I believe students desire and have a right to autonomy, self-direction, and choice in their development of lifelong learning and engaged citizenship, and that teachers should design learning environments that foster rich opportunities for engagement.

6. Ownership of learning

I believe teachers and students should share ownership of the learning experience, whereby they collaboratively make meaningful decisions that impact the course of learning day by day.

7. Intellectual stimulation

I believe children have a desire to interact with challenging questions and inquiries of real importance to themselves, to their community, and to the world.

8. Joy

I believe that learning is based in relationships, and that interactions between teachers, families, and students should be joyful, compassionate, and authentic.

9. Teacher professional growth and collaboration

I believe that teachers develop professionally through meaningful inquiry and collaborative opportunities with colleagues, characterized by sharing observations of students, exploring instructional possibilities, and reflecting on their growth as learning teachers and teacher-leaders.

10. Interdependent learning/student collaboration

I believe children grow theories about the world around them through their collaborations and interactions with one another.

11. Family

I believe positive and integrated relationships between families and educators are crucial, and plentiful opportunities for collaboration among students, teachers, and families are essential.

12. Head and heart

I believe teachers have the opportunity to learn more about children’s ideas, experiences, and interpretations when we offer them multiple means of expression.

13. Time

I believe children need time, both within a school day and across a school year, to deeply explore topics of importance and interest.

How many of these statements did you agree with? The more you agreed with, the more student centered your classroom is likely to be. Want to grow toward a more student-centered practice? Use these belief statements as springboards for discussions with colleagues or guidelines for choosing professional books!

For more, including essays on each of these values by leading teachers and educators, read The Teacher You Want to Be, edited by Matt Glover and Ellin Oliver Keene (Heinemann, 2015).

Heinemann is dedicated to teachers. Learn more here.