In the Classroom

The Acclaimed Student Centered Curriculum Model in the 21st Century Classroom

The overwhelm that so many teachers feel in terms of the student centered curriculum model is so completely unnecessary when they are given the tools to be able to succeed. All the data shows that this learning methodology is the most effective for our Generation Z students, yet there isn’t much out there about “how” to do it properly. This leads to the overwhelm and frustration that simply does not have to be. The student centered curriculum model is a great way to teach and once you have it mastered, it actually gives you more free time, makes you less stressed, and your students will excel.

Teaching is not easy, this we know for sure. But what makes it even harder is when you don’t get the guidance and structure needed to do your job well. The truth is that if you are not given what you need (i.e resources) to be able to give students what they need, then frustration just happens and it is useless. Teachers that are given the guidance on how to successfully implement the student centered curriculum model don’t have these issues, but so many of them simply aren’t given that guidance.

What students need for success

The point of the student centered curriculum model, also known as learning centricity, is to give students what they need to succeed. The reason why this model has had more success as opposed to others is because of the focus on each individual child and how he or she learns best. The student’s learning style is taken into consideration when developing the curriculum.

That does not mean that teachers are doing what their students need per se, but it means rather that they are including different teaching styles in order to meet all of their instructional needs. For example, some kids learn best by reading things on paper while others learn better visually or through simulation or hands-on experiences.

To emphasize, this does NOT mean you are creating several variations of the same material. You are simply adjusting the specific assignment (as we always adjust our assignments for our students’ needs) to be completed in a variety of ways.

While this concept is a great one, it can be quite overwhelming if you don’t know how to implement it properly. Implementing the student centered curriculum model seems like takes a lot more time and effort than any other method of teaching, but that isn’t the case when you are given instructions on how to get it done. The truth is that if you have been given the proper tools to work with, then you should be able to get the majority of it done in an hour or less.

And this doesn’t mean creating everything, but rather just laying out the structure for your students’ work throughout the year.

By doing that, you are basically giving them a mini-guide to succeeding both in your class and beyond because they will have learned how to determine what they need in order to complete their work.

Examples (with the proper tools)

Now, this is not an easy task if you are not given the proper tools to get it done, but it can be super simple when you know what to do. The goal of any good teacher is to help each student reach his or her full potential and while that seems like a super lofty goal, it can most certainly be achieved by following this model.

Just to give you a few ideas of what implementing a student centered curriculum model looks like, here are some examples:  

·          Asking students how they learn best before creating lesson plans

·          Using multimedia in your lessons for more reinforcement

·          Including how your students learn best into each assignment

·          Making time for hands-on activities throughout the year, etc.

There are so many ways to improve upon this model of teaching but if you can’t figure out where to start, it will just continue to be overwhelming. Generally speaking, less is more with all students and this model is exactly that.

Don’t complicate it, but rather include a little bit of everything so your students can succeed. Choice boards are a great way to start out with this concept.

A choice board is a tool that allows students to make their own choices about what they want to learn. You can take this one step further by allowing them to choose how they would like to complete the assignment. For instance, they can choose between reading it orally, writing about it, creating a visual display of the information, completing hands-on activities, etc.

The best part is that if students make their choices and follow through with them (instead of always relying on you to give them tasks), they will become more empowered and independent learners. And those are two traits we all want our students to have!

The Student Centered Curriculum Model

The reason choice boards are so effective in a student-led classroom is that they’re a visual reminder of the learning targets and they give students a sense of control over their assignment.   The learning targets are clearly visible to all students at all times. When you have a board with six different boxes to choose from, each kid in class has to make a choice and therefore, take control of their learning.

This process can quickly turn into a class discussion and oftentimes, students will begin to help each other out.   The boards encourage and give students the power and responsibility to ask clarifying questions and find answers for themselves.

One of my favorite things about choice boards is that they allow space for student voice. A student will absolutely put more effort into something that they had choice over and thus feel ownership of. Don’t underestimate the power of this in the student centered curriculum model.

Having confidence in the switch

It’s always a bit scary to try something new in the classroom. What if it doesn’t work? What if I look like I don’t know what I’m doing? What if it ends up being a waste of time?

Sound familiar?

I know I’ve been really anxious about trying something new in the classroom. As much as I can ramble on about student-centered learning now, it took me 5 years (without any help on the “how”) to get it right with a system that consistently worked, no matter what students were in my classroom. It took me a long time to build up my teaching “muscle memory” and to trust myself as a teacher (and as a person, honestly).

But here’s the good news: even if what you’re trying with the student centered curriculum model doesn’t work at first, you can always come up with a way to tweak it and make it work. You can’t really fail at something that you’re trying out in the classroom, especially if your intention is good.

As a teacher first starting out with a student centered curriculum model, understand that it takes courage and confidence to implement this teaching style, but the results are well worth it! Think of it this way: you are saving yourself time by not having to sit down and plan multiple variations of assignments, saving your students from learning material they already mastered a long time ago, and you’re empowering them to take control of their own learning.

While it may seem a bit scary at first because you aren’t sure how to do it or what resources are available, know that it can be done with just a little bit of research and planning ahead. You will quickly realize that the benefits far outweigh the time you put into planning this type of curriculum for your class.

The possibilities are endless and the only way to learn is by trying. It will take some practice but it can be done with a little bit of guidance. And remember, you are not alone!

There are many other teachers out there that are implementing this curriculum structure in their own classrooms and they are open to helping others learn about the benefits of a student centered curriculum model.

All that is required is some effort on your part to get it done. So why not give it a try? If you are ready to step into the classroom of the future then take my advice and learn what it takes to create this type of learning environment.

Your students will thank you for it!

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After moving from a teacher-dominated classroom to a truly student-centered one, Jenn found herself helping colleagues who wanted to follow her lead.  In 2018 she decided to expand outside of her school walls and help those out there who were also trying to figure out this fantastic method of instruction to ignite intrinsic motivation in their students.  Read more about her journey with Student-Centered World at

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