How to Create (and Implement) a Student Centered Curriculum

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A student centered curriculum is developed based on the premise that the students have both choice and the responsibility to determine what their learning needs are and how to proceed in meeting those needs. It allows them to dive deeper into context and to find ways to engage in classroom content on a deeper level than they would with a traditional teacher-centered model.

This allows them to gain a deeper knowledge base than they would with a traditional teacher-centered classroom, as they are no longer just memorizing information but are actively engaging with it, leading to a deeper understanding and more long-term success in retaining the information that has been taught.

Though it seems like it would be extremely difficult for a child to determine how he or she learns best, with the right teacher guidance and facilitation, the choices laid before them naturally differentiate for each student, and in time, they more thoroughly understand what they need to succeed in the classroom.

A student centered curriculum is not necessarily new educational materials, but materials that are packaged and delivered to the students in a different way. Many teachers are taught that they are the distributor of knowledge and that the student’s job in the classroom is to absorb and obtain that knowledge. A student centered curriculum actually changes this and makes the students the one who is in charge of controlling the success behind their learning.

At no time is the teacher absent from this process. This is a huge concern of many teachers when starting a student centered curriculum, as there is a common misconception that the teacher’s role is obsolete. A teacher who is reading a magazine in the corner while their students work on worksheets is not effectively running a student-centered classroom. 

Busywork is not student centered work.

While yes, worksheets do have their place even in a student sent her to curriculum, every assignment is presented and crafted in a way that will lead students to the same common goal of mastery of a subject area or content standard. Specific objectives are created with the end goals in mind, and the way that student choice is utilized allows the classroom to naturally differentiate without it being more work for the teacher in the classroom.

A student-centered classroom allows student engagement to go through the roof. While it might take a little bit to get buy-in from all of the students in the class, once that does occur they are willing to try anything that you put in front of them. They will also be very honest if they feel that an assignment is not meeting the goals that it needs to for their educational progress. A student centered curriculum is very fluid in that it takes each individual student’s needs but again is not any more work for the teacher in the classroom.

It can actually be argued that once a student centered curriculum is established, it is much easier for a teacher in the classroom. It is less stressful and the teacher has more time to do the important things in their lives, whether that be creating individual relationships with their students (as we know we are supposed to) or taking time in their life outside of school that traditionally has been taken up with work-related tasks.

Student centered curriculum comes down to two factors: what material the students learn and how they go about learning it. A giant part of this is making the activities in the classroom meaningful to our Generation Z students. There is a common misconception that our generation Z students are not as willing to do the work as previous generations have been. This cannot be further than the truth. As a matter of fact, our Z Gen students are often more willing to do the work, but you have to hook them before they find the content meaningful.

student centered curriculum

Why student centered curriculum resistance?

This is where some of the resistance to creating a student centered curriculum begins. Many teachers were trained to believe that the students should just comply with what goes on in school. This brings up the ever-lasting question of, “are we looking for mastery or compliance within our students”? The classroom does not have to be a song and dance or a dog and pony show to have this be successful. You just need to create meaningful moments and longer-term relationships with your students to know what gets them excited and then incorporate that into the classroom. Again, this is no more work than creating a regular lesson plan, it’s just different.

The actual contact may be the same. You’ve probably seen before that sometimes an assignment that’s done really well with previous classes just absolutely flops with the one that you have right now. This is normal and with a student centered curriculum, it is somewhat alleviated as part of the classroom process. By giving students choice with a variety of different activities throughout a unit, the students truly end up thriving.

There are also many more ways to be constantly assessing your students in terms of obtains knowledge and how well they are advancing within the curriculum. Again this is not more work, just the way that the classroom is designed allows the teacher to pay closer attention as each day progresses from a variety of ways that stem from the student centered curriculum.

Students become authentically engaged because they understand that they are just as much a part of the process as the teacher is. This also allows them to learn more of the soft skills that are needed as 21st-century competencies, especially in terms of collaboration and relationships with others. We are turning into an entrepreneurial society and this method of instruction helps the students truly become prepared for the world that awaits them.

Imagine having a fully engaged classroom and your stress level being extremely low, having more time on your hands both inside and outside of the classroom, and your student success increasing exponentially. A student centered curriculum will do just that. 

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