Shifting Roles Enable Student-centered Learning

Published oct. 09, 2012

On Friday, October 5, I participated virtually in the Education Week-sponsored meeting, Ed Tech 2013: Powering Up Success. As I’m based in Boston and the event took place in Detroit, I was happy to have a low-cost way to participate. The conference proved to be engaging and informative. The agenda was packed with experts; but more importantly, it featured practitioner leaders from the field speaking candidly about the benefits and challenges of transitioning districts from a face-to-face to a blended-school model.

A few school leaders shared the notion that schools need to leverage student knowledge when it comes to incorporating technology into the classroom. As one speaker put it, students are less afraid to “push the button” and can act as in-class IT troubleshooters. I loved this discussion—it is a great example of how technology integration can put the student in control of his or her own learning and also enable teachers to learn from their students. Technology helps to facilitate the notion that everyone in the classroom (whether that classroom is virtual or physical) is a learner.

Personalized learning, or student-centered learning, supports this notion of flexible roles for both teachers and students in the classroom. Barbara Cervone and Kathleen Cushman highlight how student-centered teachers see themselves as continual learners in their paper: Teachers at Work: Six Exemplars of Everyday Practice. They also stress the importance of a culture that employs common planning time and classroom observation as tools for innovation. Using these structures consistently and in a supportive manner (i.e., non-evaluative) are key to helping teachers reflect and respond to their students' needs and shape their own continual learning agenda. Students also thrive when given leadership roles, are reminded that they bring knowledge and expertise into the classroom, and have the time to partake in self-guided knowledge discovery in any learning environment.

Good practice often reflects what the research says, and the research usually supports what school leaders and educators are already doing. It was heartening to make connections between research and practice as a participant of this great virtual conference.

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Photograph courtesy What Kids Can Do, Inc., 2011