Monday, May 11, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Christina Spencer

What is a student-focused learning environment? How do you create it? How do you sustain it?

A student-focused learning environment is a set of multi-layered experiences that work together to support the learning and emotional needs of students. As teachers work with students on a daily basis they delicately balance learning targets, classroom rules, student goals, and school agendas so that students have experiences that foster personal growth and help to imprint new information onto their memories. In my opinion, a classroom that is designed to foster student-centered learning is one that:
1. seeks out and honors student voice.
2. allows students to set personal goals and helps them to reach them at their own pace.
3. honors diversity in student learning and culture.
4. emphasizes the idea that fair doesn't mean equal.
5. acknowledges academic as well as personal successes and set-backs
6. recognizes that students lives are multi-dimensional and supports students as they balance the
challenges/rewards of school and of life.
7. allows students to create, re-create, make mistakes, and learn from mistakes.
8. provides students with the opportunity to teach and the teacher the opportunity to coach.
When teachers can provide opportunities that guide their students to create authentic experiences (academic or personal) they provide a student-focused learning environment.
My classroom is a crazy place! I have students spread-out all over the place working on all sorts of things all at the same time. I am extremely lucky to teach a two-hour block class and a one hour class that only has eight students. This provides me with the flexibility to do almost anything that students need and provide each group with opportunities that they may not receive in their other classes. I frequently allow students the opportunity to use computers for research and rewards, I give them frequent and almost instant feedback on their work, I allow them to take group assessments and learn from each other, I try to emphasize the learning process with my students and not always the product, I use humor and fun to take the edge off of complicated tasks, I create different learning experiences for different groups of students depending on their needs, I frequently give students the opportunity to learn information at their own pace, and I provide educational and emotional coaching. Many of these events happen simultaneously. It is demanding to sustain such a delicate student-focused environment. I am always trying to manage a balance of all of these activities that works best for the moment but can be reused in the future.
I have learned through trial and error that high school students are a fickle group. What worked on Monday may not work well on Tuesday. My classroom is in a constant state of motion and change. I always seek to maintain the optimum environment for my students by being in-tuned to their behaviors and emotions. Being open to their needs beyond the classroom, helps me to build relationships with them. The bond that we build helps me to sustain a positive student-centered learning environment. I have found that the magic ingredient that sustains a student-centered learning environment is the depth of student-teacher interaction. When I have been committed to building relationships and setting up circumstances where students have the opportunity to challenge themselves I have seen the most student investment in my classroom.
Being a student-focused teacher is exhausting but it is worth it!

1 comment:

Rachel Bergere said...


I really enjoyed reading your response! You made it very personal and I could picture your classroom. It certainly is student-centered, and it sounds like a fun place to be. Your students must enjoy learning and see your classroom as place where they feel respected as individual learners. I like how you stated that your classroom “provides students with the opportunity to teach and the teacher the opportunity to coach”. I like the idea of a teacher as a coach who guides students towards their learning targets. When teaching math, it can be easy to fall into the direct instructor, who stands at the front of the room, lecturing at students how to do the algorithms. I also think it’s important in math class for students to get the opportunity to teach. All too often explanations are better understood when they are coming from peers. As a math teacher, I often forget the value of having students take the “teacher” role. Thanks for reminding me!

Good luck this spring!

Rachel Bergere