In having the opportunity to go into different teachers’ classrooms (which I love to do by the way!), it allows me to see commonalities among them that all contribute to Effective STEM Classrooms.
This week, I want to talk about the importance of a STEM classroom (or any classroom for that matter) being student-centered. Back in the day, it was the era of sage-on-the-stage, where the teacher was the sole provider of the information and dutifully shared that information with students in a lecture style format. I’m not going to completely dismiss that model, because in rare circumstances, that is the model that is most effective, but in general, this method will likely send student engagement off a cliff.
Providing a student-centered classroom allows students to take control of their learning and be in the driver’s seat and have a say in what comes next. This is a scary proposition for some teachers because it means giving up control, but giving the students latitude to direct their own learning will pay huge dividends in the end.
So how do you work to create a student-centered classroom?
Introduce Engaging Projects– If students are engaged in the work, it will do miraculous things! It will cut down drastically on behavior issues, it will build confidence and it will let your students’ natural curiosity guide their learning.
Encourage Collaboration- Start with the furniture. Encourage collaboration by creating pods or stations in your classroom instead of rows of desks. Next, set the expectation of what good collaboration is. (Good- asking a teammate for help with a perplexing problem you’re having with your model. Bad- Asking someone in another team what movie they plan to see Friday.)
Involve Students in Assessment– At the beginning of each unit, I would frame the project for students and we’d work together to determine how they would be assessed. It builds tremendous buy-in for students and they are waaayyy more likely to be critical thinkers when comparing their work to the rubric that you developed together. The results? Incredibly higher quality work!
Hold Learning above All Else– You know how people “look like” their dogs? At the end of the school year, students look like you! If you teach them throughout the year the mantra that everything we do in our classroom is in the pursuit of learning, that will encourage them to keep their team on track, to value setbacks and to congratulate successes.
Introducing engaging projects and fostering collaboration go a long way to creating and maintaining a student-centered classroom. With these in place, the others will fall into line.