What is a student-centered classroom?

What is a student-centered classroom?

Here at International TEFL Academy Costa Rica, we focus on creating student-centered classrooms to meet the needs of our English students.  In the 4-week TEFL course, we will teach you how to effectively do this and give you lots of examples, but let us explain a bit right now.

In a student-centered classroom, students are encouraged to actively participate in the learning process and to take responsibility for their own learning. Students are intrinsically motivated and want to study, because they understand the purpose and benefits of each activity. Students experience the material as they work together with their peers, and the teacher designs lessons to address different learning styles, multiple intelligences and specific needs of the students. 

What are the roles and responsibilities of a teacher?

Teacher’s Roles in a Student-Centered Classroom

The teacher can provide all the necessary information, but in order for learning to happen, students must be willing to participate. The teacher’s role is to be a facilitator:  to motivate students, involve them in activities, and create enthusiasm for studying.  The teacher can also be a mentor, a referee, an observer, and an evaluator. However, unlike in the traditional teacher-centered classroom, the teacher is not a lecturer. Actually, the teacher talking time is minimal.  We focus on giving the students opportunities to practice their skills and express their opinions.  We also need to encourage and teach the students to set goals for themselves, reflect on their learning progress and enhance their intrinsic motivation. 

Even in a student-centered classroom, the teacher is responsible for planning the lessons.   However, teaching in a student-centered classroom is actually easier than in a traditional, teacher-centered setting.  Group work may get noisy, but do not lose control over the classGive your students specific tasks to complete, and each group should present their outcome to the whole class.

If we really want our students to learn English, we need to give them many opportunities to use the language in many different real-life situations that mimic authentic scenarios.  Try to make your lessons as realistic as possible by bringing realia and authentic materials to the classroom. Make use of role plays, simulations, debates, presentations, and drama.

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Cooperation and Collaborative Learning

Cooperative learning and collaborative learning are also an intricate part of a  student-centered classroom.  Students should communicate and cooperate with their peers and use each other’s resources and skills in order to learn from each other.  They can ask each other for information, evaluate each other's work, create something together, and even teach each other. This teaches them to take responsibility for their own learning, and it increases student talking time.  Make sure the students change partners frequently so that they can be exposed to other accents, various ways of talking, and different personalities.

Learner Differences, Preferences, and Multiple Intelligences

 "The way we learn is as unique as our fingerprints."   We learn at different paces and prefer different teaching styles and activities.  We relate our learning experiences to different personal experiences we've had and material we have learned in the past.  We come from different cultures and have different strengths.  However, as the teacher, we must take all of these differences into consideration when planning our classes and do our best to accommodate, which increases the rate of success and motivation in the classroom.   

For instance, according to the VARK model of learning, created by New Zealand teacher, Neil Fleming, students tend to lean toward one of the four aspects of VARK:  visual, aural (auditory), read-write, or kinesthetic.  Visual students acquire knowledge through visual depictions of information such as graphs and timelines and benefit from illustrations and pictures, but they may have a hard time concentrating while listening to a subject being explained to them. Aural (auditory) learners benefit from lectures, audio books, and discussions, even when they do not appear to be paying attention.  Read-write learners acquire new information directly from the written word and benefit from definitions, arranging items with headings, lists, and bullet points, and rewriting information. Kinesthetic learners do well with movement, direct, hands-on experience and practice as they remember what was done, but they may have difficulty recalling what was said or seen. To find out what your VARK learning preference is take the inventory.

Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligence has revolutionized the traditional approach to education by showing that there are many types of intelligence that we can address in the classroom to improve our students’ performance. Each person has all of the intelligences, but we tend to be dominant in only one or two of them:  Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence, Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Visual-Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence, Rhythmic-Musical Intelligence, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Naturalistic Intelligence. To find out what your dominant intelligences are, take the questionnaire.  By understanding the Multiple Intelligences Theory and trying to implement it in the classroom, we make our lessons more interesting and more appealing to students with different learning preferences.

The student-centered way may be a new concept to you and your students, so start slowly by implementing this approach gradually.  Adapt your lessons and activities to focus on the needs of the students, not your preferences and interests.  Want more ideas on how to make your classroom student-centered?  Take our 4-week TEFL course

11 Things You Will Learn in Your 4-Week Costa Rica TEFL Class

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