Assessing Student Centered Education


Schools pay much lip service to student-centered education lately.  However, actions taken by schools and school administrators frequently run contrary to actually supporting student-centered learning.  So, to raise awareness of student-centered education, we provide the assessments of schools and classrooms below. 

Last Updated: January 2010

 

Before using the assessments, we would do well to contrast student-centered education to other possible centers for education.

  1. Student-Centered:  In student-centered learning students' backgrounds and interests are key in developing instruction.  This includes considering not only students' academic backgrounds but students' temperaments and emotional needs also. Student-centered learning actively involves the student in the process.  Student-centered learning includes all ranges of cognitive abilities (Bloom's Taxonomy) and many ranges of achievement, not just the acquisition of knowledge.
  2. Curriculum-Centered: With curriculum-centered education energy is invested into ensuring that each classroom covers the authorized curriculum.  Each classroom must cover all the material and leave no material uncovered.  Each school system must standardize its curriculum so that all students may sequence through the material in the same manner.  Education tends to be limited to specific knowledge and skills defined in the curriculum.
  3. Test-Centered: Test-centered curriculum is similar to curriculum-centered, but differs in that greater emphasis will be given to the material that will be tested, testing methods, and test-taking strategies. The goal of test-centered curriculum is to get each student to score the highest possible grade on each test.  The Public School Regulatory Act (NCLB) strongly encourages schools to adopt test-centered education. 
  4. Administration-Centered: Administration-centered education is similar to test-centered in that the requirements of education are made outside of the classrooms without considering the specific needs and situations of the students within the classrooms.  Administration-centered education views students in terms of averages or roles, not as individuals with distinct needs and abilities. 
  5. Teacher-Centered: Teacher-centered education is frequently described as the opposite of student-centered.  The teacher does the work, and the students observe the teacher and take notes, and then take tests.  However, what is called teacher-centered is frequently actually curriculum-centered, test-centered, or administration-centered. 

Related pages at this site:

Details that may affect teaching and planning for student-centered education:

Individual Variables

Large Scale Variables

  • Economic cycles and factory shutdown
  • Major news events
  • Societal stresses
  • Weather effects and distractions
 

Assess Your School

Rate how well your school performs in each of the following distinctions between student-centered education and other centers for education.
Planning        
Yes: :Plans are dynamic and may change with major news events and individual student interests       No: Detailed plans are created before the teacher even meet the students
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Scheduling

       
Yes: Schedules allow for variations resulting from pacing of the projects,student moods, and checking-in       No: Schedules are worked out in detail ahead of time
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Pacing / Achievement

       

Yes: high achievers have opportunities to go deeper, more complex, and more involved

      No: high achievers cover the same material, only faster (e.g.: high achievers are in algebra 2, while low achievers are still in pre-algebra)
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Testing & Assessing        
Yes: tests are used to determine specific needs of each student, to modify schedules and plans according to those needs; Assessments provide feedback and guidance about what was successful and what to improve      

No: tests are used primarily for grading, ranking, or tracking; grading is numeric; no opportunities to improve work are offered

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Focus & Activities        

Yes: students work on developing high level skills, self-confidence, self-awareness, and quality products; student interests and questions may guide lessons

     

No: lessons are textbook-driven, focusing on low level skills in a bottom up approach; curriculum details dominate scheduling, student interests are ignored;

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Risks of Educational Strategies

Student-centered learning does have risks, but so do the alternatives.  We do not have enough resources to be fully aware of each student’s individual optimums, or to teach each student according to his individual optimum.  Demanding perfect student-centered approaches from teachers will overwhelm them with more work than they can possibly do. Also, when teachers place too much emphasis on individual styles of students, they may use up too much time and fail to cover critical material. 
On the other extreme though, when schools demand curriculum-centered or test-centered learning, teaching tends to focus on the lowest cognitive levels. Students tend to get treated as tests-scores and academic rank, not as individuals. Students tend to gain knowledge without gaining understanding.  Students tend to become bored and limit their learning to short-term memory.  Students may get higher test scores, but they don’t actually rise to higher achievement. 
Balance must be found.  Student-centered education may fail to cover important material, but curriculum-centered education may fail to promote real achievement. 

 
 

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