The dangers of student centered learning

One of the current BUZZ words this year is student centered learning. We should have a student centered programme and a student centered curriculum. When we are talking about differentiation and personalised learning I am in whole hearted agreement.

My concern, however is that while being student centered helps to target the learning and boost achievement it is also solidifying our western culture’s focus on the individual and not the collective.
What I mean by this is the danger that we make our classroom programme ‘all about the student.’ Everything is structured to meet the requirements of (cliched) ‘little jonnie’ that we encourage them to think first and foremost about themselves and their own needs.

Like everything, I think we need to have a balance. Yes, education is about preparing the individual for the future but it’s also about helping to shape a society that cares for and thinks of others. It’s about helping children mature from being egocentric to being empathetic and altruistic. After-all, to be truly functional, societies are dependent on the health of it’s communities.
Perhaps, then, we need to add a new buzz word/phrase to this years teaching lexicon – ‘community centered learning’. I’m beginning to wonder if this is my true calling?
So, what does this look like?
Yes – we should guide student learning at their pace and towards their own learning targets.
BUT – we should also be encouraging a desire for them to look for opportunities to help others around them.
Yes – we should prepare them to have a dream and fulfill their potential.
BUT – we should also be instilling a passion to be aware of the needs and concerns of their communities and how they can be a positive influence in them.
One reflection from a student of mine made my
month! She was reflecting on a co-operative group activity where they investigated a question with their classmates and created a graph from the results. It was a group that I had helped form and had not just left up to them to join. I asked them all to describe what they felt was a success for them from the project.
Her answer – “I learnt that it’s fun working with people that aren’t just my best friends!”

Pure Magic! In that tiny moment in time, my work felt done…now for tomorrow.

Teachers and teamwork

Many of us are nervous about the talk of teaching incentives and performance pay. In Australia there are moves towards teaching excellence payments – described below from the linked article.
“Under the Rewards for Great Teachers initiative, teachers who become certified at the highest level of the standards will be rewarded with $7500 for Highly Accomplished teachers and $10,000 for teachers who achieve the Lead Teacher level.”
Its all making for interesting staffroom discussion! The main fear that I hear from other teachers is the impact this will have on what makes our profession so strong – collegiality.
Teachers are usually amazing at sharing and supporting each other. If we are competing for excellence payments, what incentive do we have to encourage the teacher next door? Will we want to share the latest technique or strategy we’ve been working on with each other if we’re vying for the same reward?

It’s a valid concern. Like this video of supportive ants shows – it’s when we work together that we are at our best. I’m trusting that our colleagues will always hold on to what makes us strong!