EDU Healthcare Blog
How Student Centered Is Your Classroom?...
In the education world, the term student-centered classroom is one we hear a lot. And many educators would agree that when it comes to 21st-century learning, having a student-centered classroom is certainly a best practice.
Whether you instruct first grade or university students, take some time to think about where you are with creating a learning space where your students have ample voice, engage frequently with each other, and are given opportunities to make choices.
Use these questions to reflect on the learning environment you design for students:
- In what ways do students feel respected, feel valued, and feel part of the whole group?
- In what ways do students have ownership of the classroom? Do they ever make decisions about resources, environment, or use of time? When? How often?
- Do they have ownership in their learning? Do they have choices and options for projects, assignments, and partners for group work?
- When are students comfortable with expressing who they are and their thoughts and ideas? When are they not?
- When do you inquire about the needs of your students? How often do you do this? How often do you check for group understanding and adjust the instruction accordingly?
- How are desks arranged? Are students facing each other? Do they have multiple opportunities each week to share with fellow classmates, and to share with a variety of classmates?
- As the instructor, what is my "air time" each class session? How much direct instruction is there? How might I change some of that directing teaching to facilitating? (Here's a post I wrote on this topic, How to Transform Direct Instruction.)
Balancing Teacher Roles
So let's talk about that last question, and specifically, direct instruction versus facilitation. When considering various teaching approaches, balance is the key word. If we turn to the work of educational researchers Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and their seminal book, Understanding by Design (UbD), they suggest educators reflect on the ways they balance the following three teaching roles:
- Facilitation: open-ended questioning, problem posing, Socratic seminar, and guided inquiry
- Direct instruction: demonstration, modeling, and lecturing
- Coaching: providing feedback, conferencing, and guided practice
How do you decide on how much of one role and not enough of another? Well, when designing learning for your students, keep this is mind: There needs to be a healthy balance between student construction of meaning and teacher guidance.
In other words, yes, you need to tell them stuff and show them how to do things, but you also need to let your learners discover, experiment, and practice even if they miss the mark or target. Educational research tell us time and time again that all learners (young or old) need time to muddle through and make meaning of new content, ideas, and concepts with some coaching and guidance, but also independently.
Time Management Tips for Educators...
Every teacher always asks for more time. These tips can bring sanity into teachers’ lives for planning, grading, communication, student behavior, and organization.
- Create a planning routine and structure that works for you and your students. Use a specific planning process, such as “Understanding by Design,” to ensure that your lessons are aligned to the standards and include only what is meaningful and purposeful. For a reflection tool that will help you determine importance in your practice.
- Create an organization system for keeping track of your lessons, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Websites and apps (e.g. Pinterest, Teacher Plan) also allow you to visually see lessons and map out your lesson plans.
- Pull out materials that you’ll need for the next day’s lessons before you go home for the day. Or, organize the weeks’ materials in different totes so that all you need is to pull out what you need when you’re ready.
- Remember that not every activity is an assessment and in need of grading. Some activities serve only as tools to help students learn or solidify concepts.
- Use a variety of assessments in the classroom including those that don’t require paper and pencil, such as dialogue or online tools. For more ideas on different types of formative assessments.
- Quickly scan and check for understanding on formative work in the classroom. Use a simple mark (check, smiley face, etc.) to show status of “grade” or progress.
- Create a monthly calendar for parent communication. On a blank calendar form, write the names of your students, placing one or two per day. Each month use the schedule to send a short note home, make a phone call, or email parents to keep them updated on how their student is doing in class.
- Resist the urge to check email throughout the day. Instead, check 2-3 times per day (before school, during lunch/planning, and after school). During those checks, scan for critical issues and address as needed. Select one time during your day to respond to other requests.
- Work with your team to upload important information on Google Docs so that necessary forms are located in one place and are accessible to all.
Have proactive measures in place to diffuse difficult situations before they happen.
Designate areas in your room for specific items such as: completed student work, work for absent students, papers to be used each day, papers that need copied, items needing lamination, etc. For more ideas on classroom organization, visit this series.