5 Resources for Student-Centered Learning

Teachers, you have done incredible work to prepare for this year. This week we’re sharing resources on student centered learning to help.

By Hana Beach

Teachers, you have done incredible work to prepare for this year. This week we’re sharing resources on student centered learning to help. 

Student centered learning, or SCL, gives students a seat at the table to decide what they learn and how they learn it. SCL utilizes student voice to create experiences students find meaningful—because as our XQ Design Principles show, students build confidence and agency when their voices and choices hold power. This week, we’ll give you resources to take a student-centered approach this year—let’s get started! 

Wondering what topics are most relevant to your students’ lives and interests? Ask them! 

Why It Matters: Students are the experts on their own lives—so if you want to motivate and encourage them, students are your number one resource. What’s more, the very act of asking students for input positions them as co-creators in the classroom, which is crucial for engagement. You can engage students as co-creators by:

  • Taking time to build intentional relationships
  • Collecting student feedback and incorporating it into your teaching practice
  • Offering choice within the curriculum for students to pursue what they find interesting and relevant

Extra Credit: Centering Student Voice and Choice: A Book Club Guide

Bringing current events into the classroom can spark student engagement and lift up student voice.

Why It Matters: Asking students to share their opinions on issues they care about, whether it’s every day or every week, builds a culture where student voice matters. Check out this resource from the New York Times,  for daily news prompts that invite students to share their own ideas and opinions. As you bring in current events, consider:

  • What’s your goal for using current events questions?
  • Will you answer as a group or individually? In class or as homework?
  • Will you assign the question or let students choose?
  • Will the question relate to other content you’re learning?

Extra Credit: Q&A Collections: Student Voices

To center student voice, we need to understand the reasons students might not feel willing or able to speak—and what we as adults can do about it. 

Why It Matters: A student who doesn’t see themselves represented in a classroom may not feel comfortable speaking from their own experience. Likewise, a student with a learning disability may struggle to share in a classroom that only prioritizes one mode of participation. Make space for all students to have a voice in your class by:

  • Centering underrepresented voices at every level, from curriculum to your own practices for inviting student input
  • Providing multiple opportunities for class leadership that account for different learning styles
  • Rewarding risk-taking when students share, and emphasizing the value of mistakes

Extra Credit: Student Voice for Adult Allies

In the rush to make up for lost time, don’t brush past the experiences students are bringing to the classroom. 

Why It Matters: One of the best ways to promote cognitive growth is to use highly relevant material—like an interest-driven project, where students identify and build on their own experiential learning. (Check out how XQ schools create meaningful, engaged learning opportunities.) Students can focus on an experience from the summer, or they can look back further: what’s an experience they had during the pandemic that shaped their outlook? Guide students with questions like:

  • What did you learn from this experience?
  • What do you still want to know?
  • How can you plan to find out more?

Extra Credit: Greatest Hits Resources on Student-Centered Learning

One literal—but effective—way to center student voice in your classroom is making sure students are doing most of the talking. 

Why It Matters: Getting students talking is key to effective learning: it spurs thinking, helps you track student understanding, and facilitates reading and writing development. Centering student-led discussion also sets up students with real ownership of their own learning. You can foster meaningful student talk by:

  • Offering prompts that are relevant and complex
  • Modeling norms for productive conversation
  • Offering language supports, like sentence starters or assistive communication technology, for students who need them
  • Finding the right group size to spark discussion

Extra Credit: Teacher spends two days as a student and is shocked at what she learns

Want to learn more about how the American Rescue Plan can impact high schools across the country? Want to know what this funding means, how much money is coming to your state, and how you can get involved and participate in rethinking high school? 

Check out XQ’s hub on all things ARP at Choose High School Now.