For the past 35 years, the prevailing narrative about America’s public education system is that it is “broken.” Reform efforts have failed to find a fix because they fundamentally misunderstand this reality: the system is not broken. It is doing exactly what it was designed to do-educate the masses in a standardized fashion that completely disregards who students are as individuals.
In a new report by Education Evolving, author Krista Kaput makes the case for student-centered learning, a schooling design that shifts the model from adult-centered and standardized to student-centric and individualized. Specifically, the learning is personalized to the students’ interests, learning styles, cultural identities, life experiences, and personal challenges.
Drawing from a wide array of research, Kaput examines the history and current context of student-centered learning, and outlines the following seven principles of student-centered learning with examples of how they look in practice.
Principle #1: Positive Relationships – Students have relationships with adults and peers who care about, believe in, and hold them to high expectations
Principle #2: Whole Child Needs – Students’ biological, physiological, and safety needs are met
Principle #3: Positive Identity – Students are fully embraced for who they are and develop a sense of positive identity and belonging
Principle #4: Student Ownership and Agency – Students have freedom to exercise choice in pursuing interests, with teachers serving as guides and facilitators
Principle #5: Real-World Relevant – Students solve real-world problems and learn skills they will use in their own lives
Principle #6: Competency Progression – Students progress by demonstrating mastery and receive support as needed
Principle #7: Anytime, Anywhere Learning – Students learn in the community, at internships, on weekends, during extracurriculars, etc.
When these principles are realized, Kaput argues that the result is learning that is equitable, relevant, and rigorous.