Student-Centered Learning in a Blended Classroom
Maximizing Student Voice and Choice with Purposeful Technology
When implemented correctly, a blended learning model is naturally student-centered: by introducing technology and allowing for flexibility in time, place, and pace of learning, students have more opportunities to influence the way learning happens. But when tackling the challenges that come with introducing new technology, it can be easy to let student-centered learning slip out of focus. Blended classrooms are about giving students the instruction that they need at the moment they need it, and in such a way that keeps them engaged and motivated. In short, they’re all about student-centered learning.
So, how can you ensure that no matter the challenges, your blended learning model keeps students at the center of instruction? There is no easy answer, but if you’re comfortable implementing technology in the classroom and confident in your relationship with your students, it’s well within reach. We’ve gathered a few tips for maintaining or maximizing student-centered learning in your blended classroom, and included some resources from teacher and blended learning expert Catlin Tucker:
Purposeful Use of Technology
One of the easiest ways to let student-centered learning slip away in your blended classroom is to introduce technology in a way that fails to make learning more meaningful than it was without the technology. No matter which model you use within the blended learning approach — flipped classroom, station rotation, or whole group rotation — be purposeful in the way you use tech. Perhaps you’re using digital tools to make learning more flexible and accessible for students, by allowing them to post online or access recorded lessons from home. Or, perhaps you’re exploring real-world applications of core concepts through activities not possible without technology. In any case, student needs should be what drive design for learning and the tools you select.
Collaboration and Leadership
If you’ve chosen a rotation model to practice digital learning, you’re already making choices that bring student-centered learning to the forefront of your blended classroom. Small group instruction guided by technology and supported by teachers puts students in the driver’s seat, allowing them to actively problem-solve and collaborate with peers. Learning is student-centered when it provides powerful instructional tools and sound academic content, but also allows students to use those tools to explore content in a way that fits their strengths and interests. The experience with teamwork and leadership that accompanies small group work is also an added bonus for college and career readiness.
Many teachers use online collaboration tools in their approach to blended learning, which allow for activities such as discussion boards and peer editing. In replacing the “sage on the stage” model with participatory lessons, teachers give students the opportunity to coach their peers, provide feedback on work, and execute complex group projects. Bringing student-centered learning to your blended classroom should build time and opportunity for students to try on new roles, and practice learning or working in ways that move far beyond the initial knowledge transfer. For an example, see how educator Catlin Tucker uses blended learning technology for peer-reviewed writing.
The last way to bring student-centered learning to your blended classroom is simple: give your students a platform to share their voice, and listen carefully to what they have to say. Online learning gives students who don’t feel comfortable speaking up in class an alternative channel to share their thoughts, and gives all students time to contribute their voices to a larger conversation in a productive way. As an educator, you can continually check in with your students to gather feedback about your chosen model for blended learning. It’s an easy but effective way to keep your classroom student-centered.
For more on fostering a student-centered learning environment in your blended classroom, and to do a deeper dive into the various models for blended learning, check out this guide featuring educator, author, and blended learning expert Catlin Tucker: