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Teaching Strategies to Create a Student-Centered Classroom

Janelle Cox

What is the difference between a student-centered classroom and a traditional classroom? A student-centered classroom is what you would think it would be, centered on the student. It’s a classroom environment where the students and teacher interact equally, where group work is highly encouraged, and a place where the students learn to collaborate with their peers. A teacher-centered classroom, (which is the traditional classroom setting) is a place where the teacher calls all of the shots, there’s more independent work among students, and collaboration is usually discouraged. Today’s teachers are moving more toward a student-centered classroom. They are learning to give up some of the control and allow students to be motivated by their interests, be part of the decision-making process, as well as all other aspects of their learning. While some teachers like to use teaching strategies that combine both approaches to make sure that all students’ needs are met, others are finding that by giving up some control, their students are thriving. Here are a few effective teaching strategies for creating a classroom that is centered on the students.

Teaching Strategies to Find out What Fuels Your Students’ Fire

What is your passion? What are you interested in? If you can figure this out, then you will know what motivates you. You can also use this to find out what drives your students. Get your students to dig deep and find out the answers to these questions. Have them take an online interest survey, or try a multiple intelligences test. The quicker they know, the quicker you can use this information to help motivate them -- or they can use it to motivate themselves.

Part of being in a student-centered classroom is to learn how to give up some control, which can be very hard for most teachers. You will need to take a back seat and allow your students to be front and center when it comes to their wants and needs. Be their guide and mentor, and help them find what fuels their fire without any judgement. Then your students can use this knowledge to create a student-centered project of their choosing, or help them learn what books may be of interest to them.

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Allow Students to Choose Their Own Project

A student-centered classroom is built upon the notion that the students are a central part of the learning process. With that said, part of creating a student-centered classroom is giving up some control and putting it on your students to decide how or what they will learn. One way to do so is to give students the option of choosing their own project. This can be an effective way to let their voice be heard. By giving the students the control of an ongoing personal project, it allows them to make daily choices. They get to continually work on a project of their choosing for as long as it takes with the outcome being a well-crafted project by them. Whether it takes them a week or three months, it was crafted by their interests and passion, which is what a student-centered classroom is all about.

Get Students’ Input

As mentioned earlier, part of being in a student-centered classroom is that you have to be ready to give up some control. Many teachers have a hard time doing this because traditionally, the teacher is the center of the classroom. However, student-centered classrooms are all about giving students control over their own learning. Another way to give students more control is to get their input. For example, you can ask students what they want their homework to be instead of just giving them a worksheet or assigning a page to read. Students tend to be more eager to do their homework when they have a say in it. You can offer your students their input on what type of homework they needed to complete, or you can give them a few options. The more input you get on your students’ own learning, the better.

Integrate Technology into Everything

In a student-centered classroom, you should fully integrate technology into your daily curriculum. In today’s classrooms, technology is no longer something that we have to look forward to, but it’s something that is a central part of our daily lives. Whether you like to use a computer, tablet, or Smartboard in your classroom, allowing your students to utilize these pieces of technology will only help to engage and motivate them to learn. When students are given the option to choose what piece of technology they like better, they will be more eager to participate in class. Try giving your students a choice and you’ll see them thrive.

Allow Student-Centered Assessment

What types of assessments do you use in your classroom? In traditional classrooms, assessment drives instruction. However, in a student-centered classroom, the students are the essential component in their own assessment. Your students’ feedback, coupled with yours, is what will help make a student-centered classroom a success. This approach relies on the two parties coming together to provide feedback and conversations on the students’ learning. By involving your students in the assessment process, you are not only building trust with the student, but you are also allowing the student to self-assess, which is a major factor in a student-centered classroom.

Today’s teachers understand that by giving their students a voice in their own learning, they are helping them gain confidence, self-awareness and motivation. These are important traits will not only help students to succeed in the classroom, but in their future, too.  

Is your classroom student-centered, teacher-centered, or a combination of both? Please share with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts and teaching strategies on this topic in the comment section below.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.