What is student-centered instruction to you? How do you define it? What does it look like in the classroom?

Hello everyone, as many of us our summers are drawing to an end, if we have not already been thinking about the next year we are definitely there now. This week’s slow chat is on one approach that I think many teacher aspire to is bringing a student centered approach to their classrooms. @chase.kirkpatrick @David and @pflynn have brought us a great week on flipping the classroom which goes a long way to bring student centered instruction to the class and is a great way to start off our discussions this week.

Lets start this week off with @tricia.mintner @Dawn_Frier1 and myself @freymuge first finding out what Student centered instruction is you to and how does it (or would) it look like in your classroom.



To me, student-centered instruction/learning is when we facilitate learning rather being the sage on the stage. It’s when we partner with them in decision-making within the learning process. One way that I supported student-centered learning in my classroom was in 1-1 conversations with my students. Instead of giving 1-way feedback, I would often ask questions that would allow them to make observations about the progress they’ve made and build from there (Ex: “Can you catch me up to speed on what you’ve done so far?” --> “What are some pieces of information that stick out to you…why? what are next steps you can take?” ) I see a huge benefit in allowing students to “discover” their place in the learning process, learning how to evaluate that themselves, and figuring out what they should do next.


I define student-centered as any method, strategy, tool you utilize to shift the focus off of you and on to the students. Although I do sometimes utilize direct instruction, I prefer to ask questions, open a dialog in groups, or use exploratory methods to get to the main point of the “lesson”. I enjoy watching students help each other and work as a team.

I set up my tables in my classroom to be group oriented, with a whiteboard tabletop and a TV so that students can project their work and discuss. I love this model because it helps prepare them for activities in the work-force: teamwork, problem-solving, communication skills etc.

Here’s my class setup in a somewhat-candid shot.


I think that student-centered instruction really relies on listening to your students and letting their needs drive where you go and how you get there. I teach primary, so there is still a lot of direct instruction that I use to teach basic reading or math skills in small groups, but beyond that we build a classroom that encourages discussion, creativity, and celebrating one another. I think that these elements allow students to be at the center of instruction and help develop content and decide on next steps.


To me, student-centered instruction is basically helping students to figure out what they need and how to get there. Too often, students in math classes just sit back and ‘do what they are told.’ Unfortunately, this means that students won’t do anything to facilitate their math learning unless it’s directed by the teacher… and for a grade. :unamused: SCI in non-math classes can be lead by student-generated questions about a given topic and then researching to discover answers to the questions they posed. This is much harder in math. Many times students don’t know how to ask questions that can be ‘discoverable’, or, teachers can’t just create an activity ‘on-the-spot’ to guide students through their queries.

SCI in my classroom looks more like ‘choice.’ While our curriculum is fairly linear at the high school level, I try to get students involved and invested in their math learning. I try to highlight 3-4 different types of problems on any given day and then let students practice more of those types in any order they choose. It’s interesting to see which concepts a student chooses to work on first, because in my experience, it’s what the students deem to be ‘easy’ for them. I get a glimpse of what they feel is a strength for them. This also allows me to designate ‘experts’ as students complete the assignments… so students can turn around and help each other. SCI to me is where students are instructing other students. I try to set up my bell ringers and introductory problems to a lesson in such a way that students ‘discover’ the patterns and rules for new concepts.

SCI is student-ownership of their learning. Many times I don’t teach a ‘short cut’ or a ‘traditional’ way of doing a problem… I wait for a student to ‘discover it’ and then I name that method after that student. :wink: Not only does this improve mathitudes (math attitudes) but it also is a clear indicator to the rest of the class to whom they can go for help. I poll the class often to see who likes X’s method, who prefers Y’s method, and how many like the Mintner Method (mine LOL). I then encourage students to sit with people who like to use the same method so they can better communicate with each other… and help each other.

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Student centred, to me, is where students do more talking than the teacher. We are not the gatekeepers of knowledge. We are the facilitators of learning. I often give my kids a problem that makes them think and communicate their thinking. They may not get the answer, there may not be an answer. Challenge, assess, then teach. Last year, by scaffolding the direction, my kids discovered all of the exponent laws on their own - I only had to consolidate what they discovered. It makes the learning more meaningful to them, and is really a constructivist approach.



Thanks for sharing this picture. Love the large whiteboard and TV for students to project their work. So cool!


Student-centered learning/instruction is giving students ownership of their learning. Rather than being the dispenser of information, the teacher is a facilitator of learning providing students the structure to discover information on their own. Also, students may move at their own pace rather than working off on the time limits of a pacing guide.

I am currently taking steps to transform my classroom into a more student-centered learning environment. I found this blog from Education Rickshaw helpful in pushing me towards this decision. I am replacing my single-student desks with tables and chairs that I had in my classroom and others I’ve purchased at estate sales and second-hand stores. It looks a little eclectic but my goal is to move away from the traditional, industrial setting to more collaborative spaces. Additionally, I am rethinking how I present information and ways to make it more student-paced and accessible.

I know this transformation is a journey and I’ve only just begun. Any helpful tips would be greatly appreciated.


I loved teaching 7th grade! In my first classroom, I bought two love seats and the kids worked really hard to be able to sit on them while we took notes and worked independently. I even had bean bags with padded lapboards on which to work!

I teach HS now, and there’s too much temptation to cheat, so I still use rows for testing. However, I teach the students how to rearrange the desks into groups of 2, 3, and 4 for other collaborative activities. Seventh grade has less accountability (at least in my district) for moving on to the 8th grade, so a full-time non-traditional setting would work.

Today’s kids need to move around, so I would look into ‘standing desks’ so kids could have an alternative to sitting while working.

A student-centered classroom is one in which the teacher is not the sole bearer of information. Where the teacher engages and inspires students to want to learn about the content. Where the teacher provides independent learning environments for students. Where the teacher uses daily/semi daily formative assessment data to differentiate instruction for students. Where the teacher forms real relationships with students and uses their interests, passions, and aspirations to help them make real connections between what they’re learning and how they will you it in their life.