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To go to the course Developing Student Skills for the Constructivist Classroom

Skill-building for students in "Student-Centered" classrooms

Preliminary Investigation and Idea Formulation According to a study done by Jo Barraket (2005), when utilizing the student-centered approach in his classroom, “the experience was characterized by a high level of dialogue and interaction, the assessment results suggest overall strong engagement with the subject matter, and student feedback was very positive. One of the key strengths of this approach was that it allowed students to build common experiential ground, which provided a shared base for engaging with more technical aspects of the subject matter” (p.72). The success of student-centered learning is apparent, however, there seems to be a gap the skills needed to promote effective engagement of students in these particular classes. This project aims to instruct students in the skills necessary to engage in dialogue, promote risk-taking, and boost confidence to encourage effective and insightful classroom interaction. Many educational readings fail to address the idea that many students have not been trained in the skills necessary to allow for effective student-centered learning. Many students have only been exposed to (and therefore, most comfortable with) the teacher instructing, a few students answering any questions posed, and completing the necessary task. This project aims to expose students to this “new” role in the classroom, by building their skills and comfort as an active learner.

For the learner analysis, I will assume a target learner pool of 9th grade students.
  • I will survey these students to determine the following: current classroom interaction, attitudes/interest/motivation for the topic of student active learning, student social abilities, various constraints, and any other concerns they have. However, conducting such a survey could be problematic as I feel that students may not be truthful with their responses. They are very good at stating what the proper response should be.
  • I will also continue to research skills needed by students to interact in this classroom setting in order to observe any other pre-requisite gaps.

Narrowing my Topic

Research indicates that a student-centered approach to learning will allow for more student engagement with higher-level aspects of a topic. Research has also shown that “Students are entering college today with all-time high levels of academic disengagement in high school—they more frequently report ‘feeling bored’ in class, missing class, and spending little time on their studies outside of class” (On Course Workshop, 2000) . It is the intent of this mini-course to help secondary students learn how to become involved in class by utilizing these four strategies: active involvement, social integration, self-reflection, and personal validation” (On Course Workshop, 2000).

Needs Assessment

Part 1: Intent

Many students lack the skills necessary to successfully engage and interact in the student-centered learning environment, but when provided with the supports in developing these skills students are able to benefit from learning how to do conflict resolution, communication, leadership, time management, and so forth—According to Richard Felder, “some attention must be paid to helping them learn how to do those things” (2001, para. 4). My hypothesis is that students are lacking in basic communication and discussion strategies and skills, because of the lack of instruction in this area. My proposed solution is to provide a mini-course to help students learn strategies to effectively participate in a learner-centered classroom by offering an alternative perspective on their role as the learner.

Part 2: Gathering Information

In order to assess the possible need for a mini-course to develop student skills within the learner-centered classroom, a survey of fifty-seven ninth grade pre-advanced placement English students was conducted. This survey can be viewed by downloading File:Studentsurvey.pdf.

Part 3a: Summary

A summary of the survey results are included in the file File:Student Survey Results.pdf.

Part 3b: Revised Intent

Based on the responses to this survey, students seem to be in critical state of indecisiveness with regard to becoming active learners in the classroom and participating with their classmates Unlike my initial hypothesis, students seem to have the skills necessary to having a discussion outside of class; however, they will need to develop a different or new attitude regarding their role in the classroom as a participant. Respondents indicated that they don’t apply their conversational and discussion skills to the classroom, due to their fear of being wrong, someone else having a better answer, or not knowing the “correct” answer. Based on these results, it is apparent that students need confidence and leadership skill-building that will allow them to take the risks necessary when offering their responses in class.
Respondents also seemed to illustrate their ideas of how a classroom is traditionally run, and how comfortable they seem in this model. A number of students indicated that they felt that the teacher should run class, that they preferred to see the information being presented, and that they prefer to learn with the teacher teaching and the students listening. This outcome seems to suggest that students have adapted to and feel successful in this familiar type of classroom model. In a contradictory sense, a number of students also indicated that they know that they learn best by discovering and then discussing, however, they then said that they preferred to learn with the teacher teaching and the students listening. This would seem to indicate a motivational issue as well. Students need to see a value in the becoming the effort involved in becoming the active learner and contributor.
The largest issue that can be draw from the survey results was that the students seem to be at a brink between offering their opinions and perspectives and comfortably keeping their ideas to themselves. Largely they prefer to keep disagreements, clarifications, and thoughts to themselves, which will greatly hinder their role in a student-centered classroom. Students need to see how their personal thoughts, questions, and disagreements are valuable and critical to the learning of all students in the classroom. They seem to be lacking the conception that they are an integral part in the responsibility of adding to and improving the education that occurs in the classroom.
Therefore, there is a need for mini-course that not only builds the confidence and leadership skills of students, but also establishes a valuable means of bridging their discussion skills and strategies to the classroom.

Course Purposes and Performance Objectives

Purpose 1

To provide basic education for teachers on the value and means of establishing a student-centered learning environment.

  • In a middle or high school classroom, the teacher will demonstrate their knowledge of their students and the essential components of student-centered learning, completing the initial activities with students that inform them of the foundations of human learning as well as the relevance for learner-centered practice.

Purpose 2

To provide training in skills and strategies needed for students to promote group discussion and effective group work.

Students demonstrate effective communication and group work by:
  • adopting, with explanation, the strategies needed to be effective when researching independently as a member of the group
  • choosing to communicate effectively in a group evidenced by peer and teacher feedback, as well as written evaluation.

Purpose 3

To motivate students to use these skills in the classroom in order to promote effective communication and teach each other.

Students demonstrate their change in behaviors in class by:
  • Choosing to execute the skills learned throughout the instruction evidenced by effectively communicating with peers, choosing a topic, understanding prior knowledge, deciding what peers should know, organizing material, and choosing an effective approach
  • Generating, in writing or other visual form, an evaluation tool that can eventually be adapted into a test or a means of assessing the whole class

Task Analysis

To view the task analysis for each of the objectives, refer to this file. File:TaskAnalysisStudent-CenteredLearning.pdf

Curriculum Map

To view the curriculum map for both the prerequisite instruction for the teacher as well as the students, refer to this file. File:Student-CenteredLearningCurriculumMap.pdf
Further reference of course outline: File:CourseLevelGuidelines-StudentCenteredLearning.pdf

Reflection & Rationale

I found the most difficult part of creating the mini-course was selecting media that was going to be engaging and helpful for the learner. I decided to use images purely to engage the learner in the lesson, and save the video media for instructional purposes. I found a lot of helpful digital videos using This website allowed me to download based on the segments that I wanted. I could not imbed the file due to its size, so I chose to link to a website instead. This does take more time, but I feel like the value of the instruction is worth the wait. I found the most frustrating part of doing this course, to be the fact that the wiki page does not have an "undo" feature when deleting or navigating away for the editing page. As I have been construction this reflection, I already have had to re-type it due to this aspect of wiki. For the majority of my course, I constructed it using Microsoft Word and then copied it into wiki. This felt like double the work, but then I never had to worry about deleting my progress by mistake. Because I had so many different components to this mini-course I found that I needed to chunk my units and complete a piece each day. This allowed me to focus on the thoroughly using the sequencing modeling in the textbook for us: engaging the learner, instructing, practicing, reinforcing, and assessing.

I really enjoyed the interaction used by one of the mini-courses that we needed to evaluate as a part of the class. I thought that engagement of the learner was at its peak by allowing them to work with the material online, use pencil and paper, and well as work with their peers. Therefore, I included those aspects into my mini-course using student and teacher guides as well as supplementary hand-outs. These can be used to guide the learning as well as provide a reference for the learner to use after course completion.

I also wanted this course to be open-ended enough to where the teacher could use this online course to develop these skill no matter what the subject area. When deciding on sequencing and organization of the course, I wanted to include as much material that could be reinforced and reused as possible. For example, when students are learning to set their purpose for reading, they use a treasure hunt activity. Later in the course, they use this same activity to reflect on the strengths of their group members. Moreover, I wanted students to learn about the student-centered approach of instruction, but I didn't want them to be bombarded with definition or overview information so I imbedded it as their initial group research assessment task.

By constructing this mini-course, I have learned a lot about the importance of instructional design. A lot of decisions need to be made in order for quality learning to take place. There is definitely a balance between science and art when designing instruction. Courses need to be constructed by considering how students learn based on educational research, but they also need to edit, organize, and select materials that are going to promote the engagement and depth of learning needed to transfer these skills to the "real world."


Arizona Board of Regents. (2002). Richard Felder. In Active/Cooperative

learning: Best practices in engineering education [Interview ]. Retrieved
February 28, 2009, from Arizona Board of Regents Web site:

Barraket, J. (2005). Teaching research method using a student-centered approach?

Critical reflections on practice . Journal of University Teaching and
Learning Practice, 2(2), 64-74. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from Centre
for Educational Development and Interactive Resources (CEDIR) Web site:

Cuseo, J. (2000). On course: The case for learner-centered education. In On

course workshop. Retrieved February 28, 2009, from On Course Workshop Web