Monday, May 4, 2009

Online Assignment #3 -- Vanessa Marfin

A student-centered environment is one in which every decision is made intentionally with the goal of promoting student learning. In a student-centered envioronment, students actively set learning goals, select methods for achieving them, and evaluate whether they have met them. In a student-centered learning environment, students understand and help define what "quality" is, and are able to use assessments to identify goals for future learning and to more fully understand themselves as learners. In this environment, all students are welcome and celebrated. Different learning styles and cultural heritages are seen as contributing to the richness of the whole, and institutional and perceptual barriers to any student's full participation in our society due to bias is confronted and corrected. Students are active participants in establishing rules and consequences. In this environment, everyone knows where everything is and takes responsibility for putting it back. When an instructional problem is presented, students can draw upon a wide variety of resources and tools, including technology, to solve the problem because everything in the classroom is owned by the students in the fullest meaning of the word "owned." In a student-centered environment, time is not wasted because students are eager to learn, know how to learn, and are invested in their learning. A student-centered environment invites parents and community members into the classroom to contribute to and celebrate students' learning.

The student-centered environment is an ideal. There are a multitude of barriers to achieving this ideal, including scarcity of planning time, inadequate resources, and suboptimal school cultures. However, the role of the teacher is to continue to pursue this ideal despite obstacles. One way the teacher gains strength for achieving the goal of the student-centered classroom is through collaboration with other professionals. By sharing knowledge and working together to solve issues in the broader society that make teaching and learning in schools difficult, the teacher can maintain passion for and belief in education.

In a student-centered environment, the teacher also becomes a student, maintaining enthusiasm for learning and commitment to reflection upon and improvement of instructional practices throughout her career.


Juli Rangel said...

Hi Vanessa,

You describe a student-centered environment very clearly. Students are active, challenged, purposeful and celebrated. What a great way to learn and grow!

I too believe there can be barriers to achieving the ideal student-centered environment. It can be overwhelming at times when you want to create better lessons or programs but are unable to because of lack of resources and/or time. And yes, perseverance and collaboration will make us stronger as well as keep us sane, so our students can make the most of every minute they spend with us.

Thanks for your thoughtful post!

Juli Rangel

rebeccabland said...

Hi Vanessa,

What stuck out to me while reading your post was that students are not guests within the classroom. Students are active participants and take ownership of their learning environment. This is a very powerful way of thinking, both for the teacher and students. I believe, as you seem to, that once students learn how to use the classroom as their resource for learning they take more meaning from their new knowledge thus solidifing it.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for bringing up this important factor of a student centered learning environment!

Katy Lungren said...

Vanessa, I always look forward to and thoroughly enjoy reading your assignment entries. I appreciate the honesty and true wisdom you bring to our cohort!

After reading the sentence, "Different learning styles and cultural heritages are seen as contributing to the richness of the whole, and institutional and perceptual barriers to any student's full participation in our society due to bias is confronted and corrected," I stopped, reread it, and got lost in a few minutes of reflection. What a powerful mental picture of a society-changing classroom your writing created in my mind. I desire for those words to describe my own classroom. Unfortunately, however, just this past week I overheard one of my African American students tell a friend he couldn't stand to be around one of his Eritrean classmates because "she smells like Africa - yuck!" and another student confess to me that she probably shouldn't participate in an activity, fearing she would hold her partner back because she was "special ed." Both situations simultaneously broke my heart and angered me to the core. I yearn to be a teacher who can lead students in understanding the richness that each classmate can contribute to the whole and one who empowers children to move beyond a label.

I hope that all of us, through these continued postings, in-class discussions, and by taking courses together over the next year or two, can learn from one another strategies to overcome obstacles and reach the ideal. Thank you so much, Vanessa, for sharing your ideas and wisdom!