Though we know our administrators constantly mention its importance, there are often gaping holes in their explanations regarding the importance of child centered education. There is a multitude of reasons why this teaching methodology is not only important but extremely effective. However, often the importance of child centered education is overlooked as soon as a teacher tries to figure out how to navigate this method on their own, without any true guidance on how to “get it done”.
So how do you “get it done” in your classroom? How do I make my lessons child-centered? How does focusing on the importance of child centered education look like inside the walls of my classroom? These are all valid questions to ask, and hopefully, this blog post can help you navigate through the abundance of information out there about child-centered learning.
First, you must realize what child-centered learning is. It is, simply put, a style of teaching that focuses on the needs of the student, rather than trying to get them to conform to your own standards of expectations and achievement. Child-centered education gains its roots from Jean Piaget, who believed that children learn best by doing things. He said, “Learning is not achieved by teaching, but teaching is useful only as it contributes to the natural process of learning.”
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One of the first steps you are going to have to take in transitioning your classroom into a child-centered environment is building positive relationships with your students. This is the key to success in any effective and meaningful learning environment, whether it is child-centered or not. As educators, we must learn to understand our students on a personal level so that we can meet their individual needs. With this understanding, we aim to build relationships with our students that foster positive communication and allow us as teachers to better serve them.
Second, it is important that parents are involved in their child’s education at home. This will help create a strong support system for the student when they are in school. If students feel supported by their family members, they are more likely to be motivated and work harder in class. Understanding your students on a personal level and building relationships with them is a key to creating this support system.
One of the most important things to understand about child-centered education is that it does not stem from traditional learning methods, such as textbooks or lectures. Often, in the effort of wanting students to be “engaged” in their own learning, many teachers turn towards the use of technology and other “fun” methods of teaching.
While these methods are great for motivating students, child-centered education must stem from a deep understanding of your students as people, not from the way you want them to learn or be motivated. Some ways that teachers try to motivate through fun activities may actually be working against this deeper understanding of the child. Activities used to motivate students may be misused by teachers who do not fully understand their students or how to best teach them.
Another key aspect of creating a positive learning environment is that the curriculum, activities, and lessons are driven by the students’ interests. It is important that your lessons center around what your students want to learn about rather than what you want to teach them.
In this sense, a child-centered class is not necessarily a loud and chaotic one. Rather, it is a place where children feel safe enough to explore themselves and the world around them without fear of judgment or ridicule. It is a safe and nurturing environment for children to grow and learn, and it is an environment where they feel valued as unique individuals with something unique to offer the world around them.
One of the most cited examples of child-centered learning is the Sudbury Valley School. This is a school where students are in control of their own paths to learning. They choose what they want to study when they want to study it, and for how long. The school environment provides everything that students need for self-directed exploration, and the school itself does not interfere with this relationship between students and the environment.
You don’t have to teach at a niche school like this one to have the same effects in your classroom though. It is completely manageable to do this without the larger picture of an entire school dedicated to this method.
Why the Importance of Child Centered Education
The importance of child-centered education develops for many different reasons, such as:
1. Students ask questions more often in a child-centered classroom because they are exploring their own minds and interests rather than answering questions just to please teachers. At the end of the day, it is important for teachers to remember that children are not little adults – they do things in their own time.
It is then up to us as educators to create lessons and activities that hold their attention despite this slow pace. Sometimes this will be achieved through fun and engaging activities, but other times it will require that we build students up and encourage them to do their best even when it doesn’t seem fun.
2. Students will explore different methods of learning more effectively when they are the ones in control. They may choose to write out their thoughts, draw pictures of their thoughts, type out their thoughts using a computer program, or even create a video presentation. The more that students feel ownership for their own learning and the methods they use to express that learning, the higher likelihood there is that they will continue to use those methods in the future.
3. If teachers are more open to different learning styles and techniques by using them themselves, they may better understand students who struggle with traditional teaching methods. Sometimes it is easy for teachers to think that because something worked for them or their mentors that it will work for everyone else too. However, it is important to remember that not all students learn in the same way.
4. Students who feel like they are constantly being judged or evaluated by their teachers tend to shut down and avoid taking risks when exploring new things. If teachers create an environment where mistakes are allowed, children can take more risks knowing that they will be safe no matter what happens. This can lead to a greater sense of self-esteem and academic growth for students.
Students with a lower sense of self-esteem or social anxiety may flourish better in a child-centered environment, as these children will not be pushed into feeling uncomfortable by teachers who have their own agenda.
There are still going to be students who have the same needs in a child-centered classroom as they would in a teacher-led class. These include students with varying social and learning abilities, students with disabilities, and students whose first language is not English. All of these factors play an important role when exploring new ideas or additional accommodations for children.
5. Teachers who feel more comfortable in a child-centered classroom tend to be happier teachers overall because they are less stressed about constantly meeting arbitrary deadlines or sticking to the curriculum so rigidly that it doesn’t allow time for creativity, fun, or self-growth.
These are just a few reasons for the importance of child centered education when teaching. In order for these methods to be successful, it is important that teachers don’t simply give up their authority as educators and turn over all decisions to students who have no prior experience being in charge. Rather, this should be a transition of power and decision-making that is taken one step at a time.
Child-centered education today is not just something teachers have jumped on because it sounds cool. It is the result of decades of research, learning, and growth. There are many benefits to having a child-centered classroom that not only benefit students but also the teachers who teach them.
Remember, by allowing children to explore their own interests at their own pace, they will have more ownership over what they learn and how they learn it. This will lead to a greater sense of self-esteem and a deeper understanding of the material they are covering.
Child-centered education can also be beneficial because it gives students an opportunity to learn not just from their teachers, but from each other as well. This is an important part of growing up and learning how to become a productive member of society. By having the freedom to explore the different ways children learn, teachers are able to see which strategies are most effective for their students. This can help them better guide their students through new information and make learning more accessible rather than restrictive.
A child-centered classroom is not something that should be done haphazardly or halfheartedly, but instead with full dedication from teachers and students alike. Only when caregivers, educators, and children are all brave enough to explore new possibilities in education will the child-centered classroom flourish.
The Importance of Child Centered Education and the 4 Keys
Implementing child-centered methods in the classroom isn’t difficult, it just needs to ebb and flow with the students and where they are (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Being flexible is the key to making all of this work. The key is engagement. There are four keys to student engagement that I discuss in my video training challenge that releases twice per year. It is called “Finding Your Student Engagement Formula” and it walks you through those four keys and how to implement them in the classroom.
If you are interested in registering (it’s totally free), visit the Finding Your Student Engagement Formula Challenge registration page and you will be notified the next time the series is available.