Unit 2: Creating a Student-Centered Classroom


Learning objective:

Mbtarget.pngAt the end of this unit learners will be able to evaluate a student-centered classroom and it’s connection to peer evaluation by answering 5 question multiple choice questions to identify key characteristics.

Important to Know:

  • While I refer to the content within this unit as student-centered learning, it is important to remember as you are reviewing external links and resources that student-centered learning is often referred to as learner-centered or learning-centered teaching.

Lesson 1: What is a student-centered classroom?

A student-centered classroom is one in which students are agents of their own knowledge through direct involvement, discovery of knowledge and collaboration among peers. Steeped in Constructivist strategies, student-centered classrooms focus on authentic experiences that make connections to the bigger picture outside the classroom through collaborative work in which students can diffuse and share knowledge and experiences to broaden these connections. While teachers often take a more passive role as facilitators of learning they also work as partners to students by allowing student questions and responses to steer lessons and instruction toward key concepts of learning, another quality that focuses on "the big picture".

In student-centered learning there is a large emphasis on metacognition and reflection among the students. Students are encouraged to reflect on their work and learning process and share these insights with peers creating a broader network of knowledge that utilizes higher order think skills of Bloom's Taxonomy such as evaluation, synthesis and and analysis. In Streamlined ID A Practical Guide to Instructional Design authors Larson and Lockee reference a quote from that is an impetus for using higher order thinking skills in instruction stating that "instructional strategies that use higher order thinking as a means to achieve active student engagement and metacognitive thinking show the strongest relationship to improved student achievement" (Richards, 2005).

Mbtip.jpeg Please right-click the links below (and all external links in this mini-course) and select "open in new tab". This is not essential but makes for easier navigation back to this page once the activity is complete!

  • Review the page below from IowaCORE as it gives an incredibly thorough overview of student-centered classrooms including history, pedagogy, key concepts, instruction and assessment.
Characteristics of Effective Instruction - Student-Centered Classrooms

Further reading: (optional but encouraged)

  • This booklet by Leo Jones on student-centered classrooms is an excellent resource for more in depth ideas and methodology for the topics you have just learned about. The article addresses many relevant topics in today's classrooms such as large class size, ELLs, personality and ability differences. (If your students are solely english speakers feel free to skim section or skip section 4 as it largely deals with ESL students).
Leo Jones - The Student-Centered Classroom

Lesson 2: Why create a student-centered classroom?

The time for change is now. Many believe that design elements for future education should focus on the world that students will enter into, not the world that has existed in the past. Doing this requires a paradigm shift toward new instructional and learning methods that foster skills both applicable to work in the classroom, but also in situations students will encounter outside the classroom in both social and work-based settings. Both resources below highlight essential ways that student-centered learning facilitates education that is not only relevant and meaningful, but is applicable to the 21st century world around them.

  • These guidelines by Te@chThought explain reasoning that student-centered instruction techniques are essential for fostering effective 21st century learning. The page examines the dynamic in current classrooms which is no longer lecture and memorization based but now consists of students using inquiry strategies and collaboration with peers and instructors to shape lessons. An argument is made for inclusion of problem-solving skills in education as it allows students to contribute to society in a meaningful way.
Mbnext.png4 Essential Rules of 21st Century Learning
  • Watch the video below and listen to professor Susan Sample discuss her instructional techniques and motivation for implementing student-centered learning. She speaks about using these techniques to foster an environment of collaborative learning that puts students in touch with the world outside their classroom, an important skill in 21st century learning.
Mbmovie.pngSusan Sample on student-centered learning in the 21st century (video)

Lesson 3: Peer evaluation in a student-centered classroom

  • What does a student-centered classroom have to do with peer evaluation? Let's think back to a webpage from Cornell University that you reviewed in Unit 1. Click here to access the page and re-read section 2 "Why employ peer assessment?". Note that when listing what peer evaluation can do the first word of each statement is a strong action verb:
  • Empower students to take responsibility for, and manage, their own learning.
  • Enable students to learn to assess and to develop life-long assessment skills.
  • Enhance students' learning through knowledge diffusion and exchange of ideas.
  • Motivate students to engage with course material more deeply.
Not only are these powerful verbs and motivating statements an example of what peer evaluation can do, they simultaneously demonstrate that qualities of peer evaluation closely align with many qualities of student-centered learning. Peer evaluation puts students in the drivers seat of their own learning and assessment and allows the teacher to take a more passive role. With peer evaluation students are encouraged to collaboratively create authentic and meaningful work through discovery, discussion and a sharing of ideas, all major factors in student-centered learning. Peer evaluation gives students an opportunity to perform collaborative reviews and interactions that mimic situations they will be faced with in 21st century world outside their classroom.

Learning exercise:

Now it's time to test your knowledge! Take this quiz to test what you've just learned about student-centered classrooms. Good luck!

Mbnext.png Quiz me!Mbbrain.png


Congratulations on completing Unit 2! Now that you're ready to move on to Unit 3 let's look back at this uit's objective to see if you've reached it:

Mbnext.pngObjective: At the end of this unit learners will be able to evaluate a student-centered classroom and it’s connection to peer evaluation by answering 5 question multiple choice questions to identify key characteristics.
Questions to ask yourself:
  • Did I successfully answer 5 questions identifying student-centered learning characteristics and connections to peer evaluation?

If you can answer these questions then you're ready to move on to Unit 3: What Does Peer Evaluation Look Like?

If you think you are't quite there yet, head back to the beginning of this unit and review the lesson and learning exercise.


Mbgo.png Click here to continue to Unit 3: What Does Peer Evaluation Look Like?

Mbgo.png Click here to return to the Peer Evaluation course homepage

Mbgo.png Jump to Unit 1 - Unit 4


Cornell Center for Teaching Excellence. Cornell University. 2012. Retrieved from http://www.cte.cornell.edu/teaching-ideas/assessing-student-learning/peer-assessment.html

Iconleak. (Designer). Clip, film, movie, timestamp icon. Retrieved December 7, 2014, from: https://www.iconfinder.com/icons/103860/clip_film_movie_timestamp_icon#size=128.

IowaCORE. Characteristics of effective instruction student-centered classrooms. Retrieved 7 December 2014 from http://www.iglls.org/files/classroom_brief.pdf.

Graphicsfuel. (Designer). Bullseye, dart, target icon. Retrieved December 7, 2014, from: https://www.iconfinder.com/icons/67060/bullseye_dart_target_icon.

James, M. (Designer). Arrow, bullet icon. Retrieved November 16, 2014, from https://www.iconfinder.com/icons/5080/arrow_bullet_icon.

Jones, Leo. The Student-centered classroom. 2007. New York. Cambridge University Press.

Klunk, B. "Susan Sample and Student-center Learning." Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 19 February 2009. Web. 21 November 2014.

Larson, M. B., & Lockee, B. B. (2104). Streamlined ID: A practical guide to instructional design. Routledge.

Nichols, J. teachthought. 4 Essential rules of 21st century learning. 31 March 2013. Retireved from http://www.teachthought.com/learning/4-essential-rules-of-21st-century-learning/.

[Untitled brain exercise image]. Retrieved November 16, 2014 from http://oneinabillionblog.com/2012/07/29/1-19-psychology-the-power-of-learning-theory/.

[Untitled learn image]. Retrieved November 16, 2014 from http://www.goldstareducation.com/assessment-for-learning/.

[Untitled target image]. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from https://sites.google.com/a/csdm.k12.mi.us/riversidewitte/5th--healthy-living/objectives.

[Untitled tip image]. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from http://www.kiasubride.com/top-wedding-march-in-songs/.