Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Natalie Bowers

A student centered classroom is one in which each decision, from how the class is arranged, to where the stapler is located to the day's lesson, is made intentionally and with the needs of individual students in mind. Student centered classrooms are rooms where the students are not just recipients and regurgitators of information, but investigators, researchers, teachers, readers, inquisitors- in short students are engaged both mentally and physically in the act of learning. Student centered classrooms are rich with level appropriate materials; the walls are plastered with anchor charts or public records of strategies; students have access to all the resources and materials they need, and there are systems and routines in place to make transitions, discipline, partner work, etc smooth and efficient.

Student centered classrooms are easy to identify- they usually feel calm and unchaotic, they are free of distracting clutter, they involve limited teacher talk and lots of collaboration- however, they are much more difficult to create. As stated before, in order to create a student centered classroom, the teacher must be very intentional. The creation of this type of classroom starts with environment. Before the start of the year, the teacher must create a classroom set-up that supports the systems and structures she intends to implement. He must make deliberate choices about desks or tables, where resources centers will be, where anchor charts will be located to best support use and learning, etc. The teacher must also be deliberate and intentional about the classroom systems and structures she intends to implement; she must know what they will be, how they will operate, and what role she expects students to play in them before the first child walks into the room. In a student centered classroom there is no ambiguity or confusion about these things. Once students arrive, a student centered class begins the work of community building through the development of class norms/rules in a democratic way. These classrooms value student input, and this is just the first of many opportunities for students to have a voice.

Next the teacher must make intentional decisions about what and how to teach. He must study student work, test scores, formative assessments, and conference notes to gather information about what students need; she must develop lessons that cater to multiple intelligences; he must provide time and structure for student collaboration, and most importantly she should not act as the purveyor of knowledge but as the facilitator of inquiry. In a student centered classroom, the teacher understands, respects and makes space for diversity, learning differences, inquiry, democracy and collaboration.

Maintaining a student centered classroom takes effort. It requires much of both the teacher and the students. In order to maintain this type of learning environment, all involved must engage in regular and frequent reflection and they must respond to this reflection with goals and action plans. This environment also requires a great deal of trust to operate in a functional manner, so it also requires consistency in discipline, lots of compliments, and continual community building. It requires a time commitment from the teacher to not only grade student work, but to look at it closely for trends and teaching points. It requires the maintenance of daily systems and routines and the adjustment of those when needed. Finally, it requires an end to “file cabinet” teaching as units will need modification based on student need and interest.

1 comment:

Juliana Kirmeyer said...

Hi Natalie! I enjoyed reading your post. I completely agree that student-centered classrooms come from a teacher's intention. These sorts of classrooms must come from planning and deliberation. It necessary to these classrooms to continue to cultivate the community - it is not a one day training of students! A friend of mine from California worked with some students in a rural community who just didn't understand the student-centered environment she was trying to create. She didn't give up, and it took some time, but the students finally "got" that she cared about their success and they embraced the responsibility for their own learning.

You also crack me up by mentioning the placement of a stapler. I actually have an assortment of staplers placed all over my room because I grew weary of having to locate one for students. So that little phrase particularly spoke to me (and made me giggle). However, there is truth there. Students need classrooms where materials and supplies are accessible because (as you mention) they are not mere regurgitaters, but actively involved in their learning.

Nice job! I am sure, like the rest of us, you will be striving to create a calm student-centered environment these next few weeks. Take care!