Student-Centered Learning

14 min read
Student-Centered Learning

Here is the thing; the teacher remains in charge in both a teacher-centered learning environment as well as in a student-centered learning environment. Nevertheless, both the learning systems are extremely different from one another. In fact, one may have more benefits than the other, especially when it comes to results.

Thinking about the term ‘student-centered learning’, many people think that the definition is obvious. After all, serving students and helping them achieve something is all that education is about, isn’t it? Surprisingly enough, the definition of a student-centered learning system can vary depending on who you ask. In fact, many teachers believe and will claim that their teaching style is student-centered, when it may not really be.

If you’re wondering what student-centered learning is, here is a quick refresher that covers all aspects of student-centered learning. To start off, here is what teacher-centered and student-centered learning mean:

  • Teacher-centered learning system: Teacher centered learning system refers to the more conventional and traditional approach that you see in various schools and institutions. Here, the teacher functions as the classroom lecturer and presents necessary information to students. Then, they expect students to passively perceive this information, with no room for presentation.
  • Student-centered learning system: Here, the teacher still remains the authoritative person in the classroom but the method of instruction is different. The teacher acts as a coach or guiding figure instead of playing the role of a lecturer. This allows students to actively participate in the learning process.
Student-centered learning system

Defining Student-Centered Learning?

Student-centered learning is a learning system that changes students’ roles from passive to more active ones. Unlike teacher-centered learning and other traditional ways, this form of learning system involves the students as they learn new information and gain knowledge.

In a student-centered learning environment, the former passive receivers of information become active participants who discover on their own. The teachers do not deliver information as usual and accept students to learn and implement. Rather, each student’s individual needs and abilities drive the path toward teaching and learning.

This means that it also changes the teacher’s role, even though they still remain the classroom authority. Teachers in student-centered learning systems guide and facilitate students learning through active student participation and representation.

Defining Student-Centered Learning

How Does It Work?

At the educational system level, student-centered learning requires careful and thoughtful implementation of assessment and pedagogy methods, and advanced curriculum planning practices. While these methods already exist in conventional learning systems, they must all carry a student-centric approach now. In simple words, the crafting of curriculum and teaching methods in a student-centered learning system uses technology and instruction that focuses on supporting students’ learning journey.

The two primary criteria guiding the planning of curriculum and teaching methods are:

  • What is most appropriate for the task at hand?
  • How can we design activities that can develop
    in students?

A student-centered learning system begins to form when the teachers start asking themselves the above-mentioned questions. This is because the specific interests, needs, learning styles, and abilities guide the course content, design of curriculum, and interactivity of courses.

Not only this, but the pedagogy also changes along with the learning system. A student-learning system uses a teacher-as-coach approach. Here, teachers deliver information in such a manner that provokes students to learn and teach themselves. This active participation while learning important content allows students to understand better and remember for longer.

Besides, this teaching pedagogy is a great way to acknowledge student voice as central to their overall learning experience in the classroom. This also means that students need to be active participants to make the new learning system work.

A true student-centered learning environment involves the collaborative participation of both students and teachers. Both parties cooperate and collectively create a path that suits each individual’s needs. This also means that there might be more than one pathway in a single classroom. Teachers work to create a healthy learning environment where the learning system is personal to each student.

Importance of Student-Centered Learning

Importance of Student-Centered Learning

Many people believe that the conventional teacher-centered learning system is the only way to go about it. On the other hand, many schools are starting to implement new teaching and learning methods to make them more student-central. There are many benefits of a student-centered learning environment making it a better way of teaching. Let’s briefly go over the benefits of student-centered learning.

It is extremely important for schools to switch up their traditional teaching methods and let students take responsibility for their own learning. When students begin to do so, they also learn how to leverage their capabilities. As student-centered learning progresses, students keep exploring and participating in lifelong learning. This type of learning experience allows and fosters independence in students, giving them the skill to solve real-world problems.

Student-centered learning methods also utilize technology to their benefit as it significantly allows personalized learning. Not only this, but technology also offers the opportunity to monitor each student’s progress and engagement. Teachers can also use technology to follow up with student thinking and assess their competencies digitally.

Effective student-centered pedagogy and the correct use of technology can help empower both students and teachers. This allows both parties to make their own decisions regarding learning and teaching.

Convenience vs. Effectiveness

Convenience vs. Effectiveness

One important factor that sets the two learning systems apart is the structure of educational institutes. Most schools and districts focus on operational convenience rather than instructional effectiveness.

This means a teacher-centered learning system works to provide convenience for teachers and school authorities. As a result, the learning system lacks effectiveness when it comes to instructing and guiding students.

For example, most classroom layouts, academic progression, and bell schedules seek to provide comfort and ease for teaching figures. While such factors are extremely important to school management, they steal time and effort that must be spent on serving students. So the placement of rows of desks, 45-minute blocks of periods, and time-based student advancement may not be as necessary to the growth and success of a classroom.

A student-centered learning system, on the other hand, emphasizes structuring and organizing these important things on the basis of an instructional approach. This shifts the focus from operational convenience to each student’s learning experience. Schools and districts may need to adjust the:

  • Time-based operational structures (student schedules)
  • Design of the learning spaces

It is important for teachers and school management to keep the individual needs of each student in mind rather than what is convenient for them.

Components of Student-Centered Learning

Components of Student-Centered Learning

To help you understand the system better, here are some basic components of student-centered learning:


The conventional (or traditional) teaching methods operate based on how teachers choose to work in a class. In this case, students get to choose a range of things. For example, teachers choose the design of the curriculum according to their specific needs earlier. Now, in student-centered learning, these choices are led by the needs, abilities, and learning practices of the students.

This important component of student-centered learning helps in internalizing the value of learning for students. Teachers use technology and a different pedagogy to provide students with options relating to their format of learning. For example, teachers can implement different methods such as teacher-led instruction, internships, project-based learning, and Socratic seminars. And to some extent, the element of choice can impact the learning content.

Furthermore, choice also affects the manner of assessment as it becomes more flexible for both students and teachers in a student-centered learning system. This liberty of choice regarding how they are assessed significantly impacts their performance and engagement for the better.

choice also affects the manner of assessment


As we mentioned earlier, the definition of a student-centered learning system differs from person to person. Among many things that this new learning system can be, it is a way of teaching and learning that includes the ‘voice’ of students.

This key component of the learning system is especially important to identify and address the specific needs of individual students. This form of teaching and learning ensures that teachers listen to and consider what students have to say about certain methods.

Then, they must create a learning pathway that addresses the students’ issues, concerns, and requirements. When students realize that they can comfortably voice their opinion and it is heard, they are much more likely to show ownership and responsibility for their own learning.

they must create a learning pathway

Competency-Based Progression

Next up, competency-based progression is an important component of a student-centered learning system. This critical characteristic of competency-based progression is based on the competence of predetermined standards of learning. The academic progression of student-centered learning also works on the demonstration of mastery.

As we already discussed, all students have their own individual needs, so there may be various learning pathways in a single classroom. Since students have varying capabilities and learning paces, they also learn and progress differently.

Competency-based academic progression involves a standard for each student’s expected performance. This allows them to work towards competency at their own pace on their own separate pathway. In fact, this important practice makes it the heart of student-based learning environments.

Competency-Based Progression

Monitoring Students Needs

It all finally comes down to monitoring each student’s specific needs. In fact, this key component of student-centered learning determines how teachers and school authorities manage the learning system. But how is it possible to identify and address students learning needs?

It is essential to have a dedicated process that performs continuously monitors all individual student learning pathways in a classroom. Not only this, but it also focuses on adjusting and making changes over time.

Teachers and school administration must analyze student performance data from time to time to redesign learning pathways on the basis of changing students’ changing needs. This way, schools can truly keep their students at the center to acquire the desired results.

Monitoring Students Needs

Achieving Student-Centered Learning

Here are some ways you can achieve an effective student-centered learning environment in your classroom.

Shared Decision Making

Collaboration is essential for placing students at the center of teaching and learning practices. This means that students must have a ‘voice’ in the whys, whats, and hows of designing learning experiences for them.

The ‘whys’ focus on relevance as it is important for students to understand the reasons behind why they must learn certain content. When a student understands the relevance of a subject, they are better able to value it and experience development.

The ‘what’ of shared decision-making refers to the ‘choice’ of the students regarding the focus area of educational content. You can simply ask your students what they would like to explore and study in-depth.

Next, you must involve the students in how you demonstrate the learning process. You can either provide your students with different options to choose from or let them propose learning methods that they prefer.

Shared Decision Making

Allowing Students to Take Charge

Unlike conventional ways of teaching and learning, student-centered learning environments empower the students to take charge. If you want to make your learning environment student-central, it is a good idea to give your students a chance to take charge of activities.

Whether or not your students possess content skills, let them take the opportunity to analyze and govern certain activities from time to time. After all, students are accomplished consumers of educational information, with years of experience with teaching methods and learning experiences.

Allowing Students to Take Charge

Bottom Line

A student-centered learning system differs from the conventional teaching and learning methods in a variety of ways. For the most part, it involves the active participation of students to encourage growth and development in them. While switching the learning environment does change a lot of things, the changes are not so dramatic. Students still continue to study subjects like math and English with education experts.