In the Classroom

What are some examples of student-centered learning in K-12? Easy

Chances are, you’ve landed on this page after searching, “what are some examples of student-centered learning?”. I’m glad you did. We know that the “higher-ups” rave about student-centered learning and its benefits (there are too many to list here), but so often, there’s a lack of communication in terms of exactly what that looks like and how to make it work in your classroom.

What is student-centered learning? How do you make it happen in your classroom? While I adore the idea of student-centered learning, when I am (rightly) asked to “show me”, well…I get a bit stuck. After all, if we’re being honest….you can’t just throw out a term like that and expect it to be adequately defined and implemented. Plus, while the concept is universal, this looks a little bit different for everyone depending on how you like to teach, what you teach, and how your students learn.

It’s good that teachers (like you) are wondering what are some examples of student-centered learning. It means you care, you’re interested, and you want what’s best for your students. When you’re asking questions like, “what are some examples of student-centered learning”, you should know you’re not alone. We all want to access the best information and develop new skills that help us grow as educators.

The data suggest that student-centered classrooms are more effective than teachers who use teacher-centered or lecture formats. When prefacing a new learning activity, I often hear teachers say something along the lines of “I know this is going to be student-centered….” or “I’m going to let them explore on their own…”. In these two cases, it’s clear that the teacher has an idea about what they’re going to do with students but there’s little to no mention as to how students will explore.

What are some examples of student-centered learning? How about what they aren’t: they’re not a free-for-all. They’re not busywork. They’re not instances where you “wing it”. It takes planning, time, and dedication to make student-centered learning happen. Without structure, it’s unlikely for this type of teaching to happen.

What are some examples of student-centered learning…let’s look:

So, today we are going to take a look at a few examples of the “ever-elusive” student-centered learning!

We’re going to start with the basics – what you need in order to facilitate this type of learning with your students. Once that’s out of the way, we will take a look at four concrete examples of what student-centered learning looks like.

We’re going to start with the basics – what you need in order to facilitate this type of learning with your students. Once that’s out of the way, we will take a look at four concrete examples of what student-centered learning looks like.

What you need:

1. Multiple intelligences and activities to meet each one simultaneously (which is easier to do than you think).

2. A differentiated learning space/classroom environment – one that fosters conversations, collaboration, and creativity.

3. Let’s not forget the “soft” skills – empathy, collaboration, and active listening

4. An open space where students can work, collaborate, think deeply about content, sleep on it…just be! A place where there is no optimum way to complete an assignment, but rather a place where students are free to choose what best suits their learning style.

So, now we’ve discussed the basics and we have a good idea of what student-centered learning looks like – let’s take a look at some examples.

What are some examples of student-centered learning

#1) You need to be committed to your students’ education on a different level

If you are just starting out in the world of “student-centered learning”, this may seem obvious, but it is worth noting nonetheless. This is the foundation upon which you will build your classroom and engage your students in learning. Think about how many amazing opportunities there are to learn outside of the four walls of your classroom and make sure that you tap into as many as possible!

One way to do this is to create a list of resources for your students – ones that you have vetted and try to utilize yourself. New resources come about all the time, so find a “niche” that you really enjoy utilizing and go from there. 

Once you have a nice list of resources, it isn’t too difficult to reach out to your professional network or the creators of said resources and ask to be a part of their community in some way. If you’ve created a Pinterest board, Twitter feed, etc for your class, make sure that this information is included!

In addition to tapping into these outside resources, make sure to integrate them directly into your lessons whenever possible. This is a great way for students to get an authentic look at what you’re trying to teach, even if they aren’t always the “casual” learner who will sit down and read an article or watch a video on their own time.

So, you’ve got all the tools you need to become a master of student-centered learning – now how do you actually implement it?

For starters, create awesome (and authentic) projects! These are great for engaging students around content and connecting them with real-world problems! Then, provide multiple pathways for your students to demonstrate their understanding.

This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s less about allowing students to choose the mode with which they want to demonstrate understanding and more about providing different “pathways” for them to achieve this.

For example, let’s say that you’ve set up a project-based learning case study around the historical event of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. You might want to have students write a formal paper or create a formal, researched video. However, you should also try to incorporate other modes like group work, debate, discussion questions (that require research), and problems that need to be solved.

One of the most important aspects of student-centered learning is challenging your students to be active learners. There are so many things to learn, we need our students to critically think about what they’re learning and how they can adapt it for themselves!

This might seem like a no-brainer…after all, if you want your students to be active learners, you probably don’t want them to sit at their desks all day. However, make sure that you provide an opportunity for them to create a schedule and stick with it!

This might mean assigning classes/jobs in order for students to fill up time – for example, “class monitor”, “pencil sharpener”, etc.

If you want to get really fancy, you might even try gamifying it. Have a class meeting and ask students to come up with a unique way of keeping everyone on track! The students will have to think creatively about how they can contribute and the end result is something that most likely will never be repeated.

The fact of the matter is that there are many different ways to implement student-centered learning and you shouldn’t feel like you have to adhere to a very strict formula. If it works for your classroom, then keep doing it! And remember, as long as you focus on keeping students active learners who know how they can demonstrate their learning, you’re doing a pretty good job!

#2) You need to have a place for them to display their work (and you)

It is so important with student-centered learning that your students are able to take ownership over what they learn and then share it with others.  One of the easiest ways for this to happen is by having space where they can display their work.  One easy way to do this is through a bulletin board!

Display student work here (project-based learning, individual academic or creative projects, etc.) and allow students to be advocates for themselves by sharing what they have learned with others.    You may also want to consider having space for students to share their own work with you!

I love to have a place where my students can hang their work (and leave comments for each other) and then share with me.  I had a bulletin board that was easy to update and hang work at the end of each day.

Your students are coming into your classroom every day with a ton of knowledge – sometimes more than you!  Support them by allowing them time to work on those projects they are excited about (an online class, coding, writing a story, art piece or play, or learning a language) and allowing them time during the school day to show off what they have learned.   When you see a group of students working on something that they are passionate about, stop and listen to what they have to say!  They may be learning a lot more than math or your subject area.

One of the best ways students can engage in student-centered learning is by talking through their own individual work (the things that they are working on or projects in which they are engaged outside of school).  One thing that I did when I had a display board was to ask my students to “pin” the work they found interesting, or to comment on work they enjoyed.  The place where I had the bulletin board also made it easy for my students to post things they appreciated.  

#3) You need collaborative partnerships with other educators

One of the best ways to help students grow is by working with them, encouraging them, and providing constructive feedback on how to improve.  You can do this for your own older (or younger!) students, but it also helps if you have a team!

Get together with other teachers in your school or district who teach similar age groups or content areas.  Share your best practices and give feedback on theirs!  Sharing resources help you all be better teachers, too!

You need to be willing to learn. This may seem simple, but it is the most important!  Be curious about your own practice and always striving to improve.  The easiest way to do this is by learning from others.  

Whether you are looking for a book that will help grow your confidence in teaching, seeking out a new technology that will engage your students, or finding an additional professional development seminar to attend, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.  When you are involved in student-centered learning and collaborative partnerships with other educators, you will find more ways to help develop and grow as a teacher!

#4) You need to share student work with others…AND LET OTHERS DO THE SAME WITH YOU

One of the most important parts of determining what are some examples of student-centered learning is recognizing that the students are creating and sharing their work with people throughout the world. Another way to help facilitate this is through your own digital footprint.  

An easy way to do this is by starting a class blog. Whether you do all of your blogging on your classroom website or use one of the many great free blog sites out there, it is important that you share what students have accomplished! For me, this is one of the most exciting parts of student-centered learning because I can see what students are doing all around the world!

Another way to do this is by sharing your students’ work publicly elsewhere (i.e., on Twitter, by posting links to their websites). I’ve had teachers tell me that they are afraid of letting others see their students’ work because they don’t want anyone thinking it isn’t good enough. I understand the fear, but here’s my advice: If you want students to present their work to the world, and if you want your school and district to recognize student-centered learning as a valuable educational approach, then it’s time to let go of that fear.

Where do we find those great examples? We now see them everywhere! Digital footprints are making it easier than ever for us to recognize student-centered learning in action.

#5) You need to make sure students are able to share with each other

Sharing is one of the most important things we do as teachers.  Students need to be able to share what they know with their friends and have those friends give feedback on their work!  

The easiest way to help facilitate this is by having a Google Classroom account where you can share submissions with students for them to comment on.    Whether you are creating some sort of digital display space or simply interacting with their digital work, allowing students to share and comment with each other is critical.

Share what you do with your students and ask them to share it with others, too!  Share how you use Google Classroom or student blogs in the classroom.   Help them become digital citizens by displaying respect for others’ intellectual property!

What are some examples of student-centered learning? Sharing and collaborating with one another. This doesn’t mean cheating or just passing around answers. This means a true sharing of ideas, strategies, and work.

This is one of the most important things I have had my students do in all my years of teaching!  

By looking at what are some examples of student-centered learning, you are able to determine what type of activities are collaborative in nature. This type of teaching is about teaching students to have a growth mindset – where they don’t just receive the knowledge, but learn how to use that knowledge and apply it in real-world situations.

What are some examples of student-centered learning? There are many different opportunities for students to share their learning with their peers during class time.

#6) You need to model what students should be doing with their work

To help your students be successful, you do have to walk the talk!   Part of student-centered learning is that it can be whatever kids want it to be.  So, it is important to model sharing and interacting with your own work!   Not only does this show the importance of digital citizenship, but it also models what students should be doing with their individual academic projects!    

You are a modern educator…you know that your digital footprint is important.  What you may not realize though, is the impact it has on those in your classroom!  Students are watching you and emulating your habits.  As students grow and develop their online presence, they will need to do some research on best practices.  Help them learn some of the basics by modeling how you gather information from the internet about effective teaching methods.   The more THEY see you using digital tools in a positive manner, the more likely they are to model their own behavior after you!

Stop Driving the Teacher Struggle Bus

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Unlike overwhelming workshops, my approach guides you in real-time, providing more classroom options, reducing stress, and giving you more personal time. 

Plus, you’ll earn a 45-minute professional development certificate and have 7 days of access. 

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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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