Best Practices for Student-Centered Learning
1. Tap into the students' interests. Are they heavily into reading? Make use of the library and the wealth of available books to facilitate your lesson activities. Are they competitive, heavily kinesthetic and fun-loving? Include mobile games that allow them to think and move about. Do they derive sheer joy out of performing? Assign them tasks that give them opportunities to showcase their performances. I strongly believe--and I see this work all the time--that the key to motivate the students to learn and explore on their own is to make learning fun for them. They are not going to want to learn if the teacher constantly makes them do tasks that they don't want to do. Introducing a lesson in a way that doesn't capture their interest is the greatest failure and breakdown in learning, for the enthusiasm to want to learn more is voided by packaging learning in a distasteful manner.
2. Once you've captured the students' attention, personalize learning by providing opportunities for your students to use their learning styles in comprehending concepts. Differentiated instruction using multiple intelligences is always a great way to go about this. Recognize who your actors, writers, artists, dancers, singers, journalists, and conversationalists are and allow your students to express their understanding and learning of a concept in the way that they know best--by utilizing their innate abilities.
3. Bear in mind the theory of constructivist learning and teaching.
According to University of Saskatchewan Masters graduate Audrey Gray in her research:
A Construcivist Classroom is a Student-Centered Classroom. The student-centeredness of a constructivist classroom is clearly apparent in a reader response approach to literature. Recognizing the significance of the unique experiences that each reader brings to the reading of a selection of literature, the teacher in a response-centered approach seeks to explore the transaction between the student and the text to promote or extract a meaningful response (Rosenblatt, 1978). This places the student in a central position in the classroom since exploring this transaction seems unlikely to occur unless the teacher is willing to relinquish the traditional position of sole authority, thereby legitimating the unique experiences that all members of the class bring to the reading rather than just those experiences the teacher brings. The resulting perception and effect in the classroom is evident in students' recognition that the discussion is a legitimate one involving questions to which nobody knows the answer. It isn't a treasure hunting game where they are trying to guess what is in their teacher's head, but a process that creates meaning and knowledge.
(Read more here about constructivist teaching ideas.)