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Trends in student centered learning in K–Grade 5 classrooms

As teachers and administrators innovate to meet the needs of 21st century students, a new approach is gaining ground: student centered learning. This approach differs greatly from the one taken in the past,because it focuses on student engagement and active learning by encouraging collaboration between teachers and students. Rather than lecturing, educators structure teaching around the individualized learning needs of each student. Within this new approach, there are three sub-trends emerging in kindergarten through Grade 5 classrooms.

1) Use of digital technology

The main objective of a student centered classroom is to create a learning environment in which each child is able to actively participate in his or her own learning experience. This requires a certain level of personalization, because students are no longer the passive recipients of knowledge being transmitted by teachers standing at the front of the classroom. To create a student centered learning environment, teachers are turning to digital technology to engage students and encourage them to not only reflect on what they are learning, but also how they are learning it. The use of intelligent adaptive learning systems to accomplish this task is an emerging trend.

2) Driven by student interests

The need for students in elementary school need to learn core subject matter can inadvertently create a static learning environment. To combat this issue, educators are beginning to take student interests into account to develop student centered teaching styles. The delivery of a curriculum tailored to student interests helps motivate students by giving them some control over the learning process. In kindergarten through Grade 5 classrooms, this means allowing students to further explore their interests within a particular unit of study. The growth in popularity of this approach may be due to the fact that research has shown that students’ interests are correlated to their achievement.

3) Project-based learning

In order to execute a more student centered approach, some schools are focusing on project-based learning. Kindergarten through Grade 5 classrooms are already highly interactive, which makes them ideal for this hands-on method of teaching. This trend in student centered learning has students collaborating with each other to solve problems and apply what they are learning to real-world situations. Students learn both with and from each other. Like the technology that is used, project-based student centered learning helps to improve performance by directly supporting the curriculum developed by teachers.

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