Learner-Centered Teaching: Why It Is So Essential

Amanda Martin
Amanda Martin
Elementary school music teacher; M.A.Ed. In Curriculum and Instruction
A female teacher stands by a table of students, teaching a lesson.

Learner-centered teaching places students at the forefront of the educational process. Commonly referenced as student-centered or student-led learning, teachers formulate instruction that integrates hands-on or active materials that create a memorable and meaningful learning experience.

Students are no longer simply listeners and responders but are asked to engage in learning through active and vigorous ways that are catered to their interests and ideas. Although learner-centered teaching may be slightly different from school to school, the basic foundation of the concept of a learner-centered classroom is the same. It has been proven successful repeatedly, and students and teachers can greatly benefit from its implementation.

Shifting the Focus from Teacher to Learner

There are a multitude of benefits for students participating in learner-centered teaching. The advantages detailed are not an all-inclusive list, but the benefits of student-led learning extend above and beyond the ones listed below and on into adulthood as students enter career fields.

Enhanced Thinking Skills

Student-centered teaching requires students to use numerous thinking skills as they complete hands-on learning experiences. Many of those experiences ask students to think critically and creatively. In addition to critical and creative thinking, students must analyze and evaluate information in order to problem-solve and generate solutions. Through these various forms of thinking, students are implored to look at situations and examples through a new lens, and with continued practice, students begin to enhance and expand their thinking skills for future use.

Increased Engagement

If there is one thing that most teachers desire, it is to have all students engaged and involved in the learning that is taking place. With learner-centered teaching, the ball is figuratively placed in the student’s court where materials and activities for learning are set in front of a student for immediate engagement and production. Students learn at their own pace and through experiences that are catered to their unique needs and interests. From these elements, students are encouraged to engage and respond as student attention is much more likely to be captured!

Increased Overall Learning

The benefits of learner-centered teaching all work together in a sense to create one of the biggest benefits of all, an overall increase in student achievement. Students who are actively engaged in the learning process, employ multiple thinking strategies, and participate in experiences that are tailored to their needs and interests are more likely to achieve at higher academic levels. Overall learning is guaranteed to improve when elements of student-led learning are employed. Ultimately, students gain ownership of their learning and take pride in achieving at a greater level.

Increased Teacher and Student Morale

Additionally, from the benefits listed previously, they all culminate as one to produce an overall increase in teacher and student morale. Students and teachers receive the reward of enhanced student achievement and the success of productive student-centered learning environments.

It is also imperative to understand that teachers cultivate experiences for learning, but ultimately, students are responsible for their acquisition of knowledge with limited teacher guidance. Happy students equal happy teachers (and vice versa), and from the advantages of learner-centered teaching, everyone wins when the appropriate effort is put forth!

Methods for Learner-Centered Teaching 

There are several ways in which teachers can begin the implementation of learner-centered teaching. Let’s examine some of the most popular or common methods below.

Student Choice

One of the easiest ways is to allow student choice. Teachers can do this by offering students different methods to show or prove their learning.

Active Learning

Students are more likely to remember what they learn when the experience is meaningful! Active learning is the implementation of activities that require student cooperation, individual work, and reflection on learning.

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative or group learning has been proven to increase overall student learning. Students are given opportunities to listen to the ideas of others and expand upon their own thinking using those elements; however, teachers should use a particular method of assigning groups for maximum learning benefits. Students should be grouped based on ability levels and skill sets and provided with challenges to put instruction to the “test.”

Inductive Teaching and Learning or Project-Based Learning

Inductive teaching is an interesting yet beneficial method of instructing students. In a nutshell, teachers do not present instruction through traditional methods. Instead, teachers present the end result or necessary knowledge first. Then, students are asked to practice it through varying methods. One of the best ways to do this is to present students with project-based learning assignments.

Project-based learning engages students in knowledge through completing assignments that are challenging and connected to real-world scenarios and situations. Students actively participate in learning, employ thinking skills, may work independently or in cooperative groups, and expand their knowledge on a particular topic or concept.

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