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Unpacking Each Feature of Student-Centered Schools

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Pedagogy is the method or “how” of teaching. Effective pedagogy activates students' prior knowledge, connects to their experiences, scaffolds the learning process, requires students to apply new knowledge to real-world situations, and is adaptive to students' needs. Teachers in student-centered schools often act as facilitators of learning rather than the gatekeepers of knowledge; they provide meaningful experiences for students to engage with topics in collaborative settings all the while probing and prompting students to go deeper and uncover their own understandings. Through student-centered pedagogy, students also have the opportunity to practice and strengthen the skills they will need for college and career success, including analytical and communication skills. Students also need the skills to collaborate with others on complex and multi-task projects and to be adaptable, so that they will be able to apply their skills to jobs and fields of study that do not yet exist. These skills can be built by supporting students’ leadership capacities and autonomy within the classroom, emphasizing the importance of students connecting with and applying what they are learning and providing opportunities for students to solve complex, real-world problems in collaboration with others.


Questions for reflection:

Pedagogical Approach

1)     What strategies do you use to facilitate rather than direct student learning?

2)     How do you support students in learning how to direct their own learning?

3)     What are the range of strategies you use with your students to reinforce and deepen their learning?

4)     How true is this statement about your approach to pedagogy: “If students don’t learn the way you teach, then teach the way students learn”?

5)     Are students doing the heavy lifting in the classroom, or is class time predominantly teacher-directed?


Opportunities for Student Collaboration

6)     What strategies do you use to facilitate peer-to-peer learning?

7)     How are you facilitating the development of students’ collaboration skills? How do you structure group learning opportunities so that students have clear roles and are all mutually accountable?

8)     What percentage of time do students have the opportunity to discuss, talk, interact with one another, and/or engage in dialogue? To what extent is this student talk a driver of learning?


Student Voice

9)     What kinds of opportunities do students have to defend their learning?

10)  How do teachers monitor students’ intrinsic drive? Do students attribute their success to intrinsic or extrinsic factors?

11)  How do students evaluate their own work? What kind of learning does that produce?

12)  In what ways are students asked to develop their oral communication and public presentation skills?


Demonstration of Learning

13)  How do you provide students with multiple ways to demonstrate their learning? How often do you employ this strategy?

14)  How do you structure instruction in ways that convey there is not one correct answer?

15)  In what ways does your classroom encourage risk-taking and embracing mistakes?

16)  How is learning structured so that students are asked to solve authentic, real-world problems?

17)  How is learning structured so that students are asked to apply a concept in a new context?

18)  In what ways do you structure your instruction so that students are responsible for producing and demonstrating their knowledge versus regurgitating information or repeating what the teacher has said?


School-Wide Instructional Philosophy

19)  What kinds of practices does your school have in place that ensures that students are held to common expectations from class to class?

20)  Is there adequate time for deep inquiry and investigation, group learning, presentation and defense of learning, and off-campus learning? If not, how could such time be created?


PDF of all Reflection Questions

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