NINA SHARMA, HEAD OF LOWER SCHOOL: Learning happens anywhere, any time. In school, learning is mostly driven by curriculum that has been thoughtfully planned and designed to appropriately align with pedagogy. Foundations are laid and every year skill sets are built upon this scaffolding, resulting in productive learning and academic excellence.
Learning happens anywhere, any time.
Typically, students are inspired to learn because of an immediate desire to know how to do something, or understand a topic, and teachers are there to provide them with the resources and to give them guidance. This formal method of teaching provides the outcome desired, and students acquire the necessary skills to take them to the next level of competency. However, the power of ‘informal’ learning or ‘spontaneous’ learning should not be underestimated. Informal learning is what keeps young minds vibrant, mentally active, and interested in the world around us.
CHRIS WEAVER, DIRECTOR OF CURRICULUM & FACULTY DEVELOPMENT: The phrase student-centered learning has been around awhile. Most people understand the idea, at least in a broad sense. Student-centered means shifting the focus of instruction from the teacher to the student – and by doing so, giving students more choice, agency, and ownership.
At its root, the phrase is a reaction to another kind of classroom, one that is usually termed teacher-centered. Here the image is most often of a lecture. The teacher is at the front and shovels the content to the students who eagerly (or not so eagerly) take it in.
On a gut level, these two opposites – student-centered and teacher-centered – are attractive because they are simple and direct; you can grasp them in an instant. They aren’t, however, particularly actionable. You can put students at the front and provide lots of choice, but that doesn’t instantly translate to a rich learning experience.
The other danger of clinging too tightly to these opposing views is that they often put teachers on the defensive. After all, it’s not very pleasant to have your meaningful and important work, in all its daily nuance and complexity, so narrowly reduced.
So what is an actionable approach to student-centered learning? How we can bring teachers into the work in a way that is genuine and meaningful? What are the opportunities to bring students more fully into the process of their own learning? How can we leverage these opportunities to help students become better problem solvers, as well as more agile and independent learners?
Here are three approaches that I’ve found helpful…