Mindshift to Learner-Centered Environments

Just putting technology in students’ hands doesn’t make the environment learner-centered. Change takes time. Actually change takes years. When you put a program together and ask teachers to change how they teach in one year, it’s just not going to happen. I put up a Scoop-it on Apps for the Student-Centered Classroom and it became my most popular Scoop-it quickly. Why? Because it’s all about the apps. I have techno-lust. I love new apps and learning about new technology, but really changes in the classroom.

I created other Scoop-its on Creativity, Innovation, and Change and Making Learning Personal that have followers looking for something different than apps. Well, maybe they are looking for apps and tools too, but the ideas for those apps focus on a changing learning environment.

I am very lucky to have coaching jobs where I facilitate change. Yesterday I saw some Aha moments from some of the teachers where they had all day to collaborate and rethink their learning strategies. Live Oak Elementary in San Ramon, CA is a large school with 6-7 teachers at each grade level. So the school provided them subs for the 3rd grade teachers so they could plan and share and learn without interruptions. What a concept!

I just read “10 Big Problems with Lecture-Based Learning” that is targeted for higher ed but applies to all learning environments.
The 10 points in this article include…

  1. It’s passive.

  2. It doesn’t engage every learning style.
  3. It facilitates rote learning above all else.
  4. It’s biased.
  5. It precludes discussion.
  6. It’s not the right fit for every subject.
  7. Minimal student feedback.
  8. Not every teacher excels at public speaking.
  9. Not every attention span lasts that long.
  10. It only nurtures a limited range of skill sets.

I suggest reading the article above for more information and just don’t think teachers and professors are going to give up lecturing. Since I said it takes time, we need to rethink how we approach different topics. Student or learner-centered means that learning is personalized for the student. The student drives their learning. It is different than a teacher differentiating learning for each student. When you differentiate instruction, the teacher is working even harder now creating multiple lesson plans for the different types of learners in their classroom. Personalization means the student is curating their learning, finding learning appropriate and relevant learning objects for their topic.

What I suggest is moving slowly to a more learner-centered environment by designing collaborative projects that build in inquiry and student voice and choice. This first project the teachers are creating at Live Oak is still mostly teacher-centric. The teachers are choosing the topic and standards met, designing the driving question, determining groups, roles, tasks, and assessments. Students are working in groups, choosing the types of products. The teachers are creating a collaborative website and link it to their class website. This is the first step toward learner-centered environments.

The power of designing the same project together is that the teachers will do action research on what worked and what didn’t work for each teacher. This feedback will help them design the next project. The mindshift only works if teachers and students are immersed in the process, do the work, see how it works, learn and reflect on the results (not the test scores only) but if students were able to demonstrate evidence of learning and were engaged in the learning process. I think this is cool!

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