Student centered learning- not focusing on tests

“A student is almost always motivated to practice if he leaves his lessons feeling capable”. -Frances Clark

“The good teacher….knows that the best learning environment is always student-centered, never teacher-centered.” -Yvonne Enoch and James Lyke

Over the weekend I trained over 50 educators at Kano and I sat down to discuss with the teachers what brings them joy as educators. I listened to the various educators share their ideal situation in which they felt happy to be educators.
As I listened, my mind wandered to what brings me absolute joy as an educator- the inner glow that lights up on a child’s face when comprehension dawns upon them and it mostly occurs when I flip the classroom- allow myself to think like them and focus on giving them ownership of their learning.
In my math classes, you would wonder if class was in session certain days of the week. We discuss the news, movies, books and their personal relationships. For a long time, I really didn’t listen to rap music until my students turned me onto the joys of the spoken word format. I taught them about patterns and sequences in music. The difference in our work was that they were applying math concepts to work they cared about passionately. My students were more engaged and their math comprehension greatly improved.
This is a key example of how “student-centered learning” can be deployed to serve the various needs of different students. With this this method, lessons are planned around the concerns and desires of students, not test taking requirements from teachers and administrators.
The thing is students learn at different paces and through different teaching styles, as I discovered via experience. Empowering them on how they are taught, and how I would assess their work meant more involvement from them. Examples of this are -: in History class, students could pick historical characters and scrutinize main events of their era from the character’s perspective. Math students may flip the class, by watching videos that depict the concepts that they will be learning about and they explain back to their teacher those concepts during class.
Student centered learning has had slow adoption in our Nigerian schools because we still are stuck on traditional teaching methods. A huge reason for this is our huge dependence on standardized testing. As I stated to the educators over the weekend, there are other methods of evaluating student achievement,
Student-centered learning provides techniques could provide an antidote to a form of torture found too often in our schools: boredom.
What we need to break away from is the setup in our classrooms where our students are expected to sit and listen. It is the old factory model, where you were a passive learner. What we need is an active learning environment, it revs students up and their motivation level climbs up.
The crucial part of enabling creativity this way is to require more accountability. Peer coach teachers observe each other; sliding into classrooms and watching what the educators do, and how students respond, then write up an observation report within three days at least.
moving away from relying so heavily on standardized tests is part of how I moved away speedily from the top-bottom, one-size-fits-all attitude about learning.
“Assessment determines what gets taught and how it’s taught. When our students are focused on just cramming and pouring out information to just pass tests and exams, they will not be prepared for the higher-level thinking required in this 21st century.

Adetola Salau; Educator / Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur / Innovator
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness. She runs an educational foundation with the mission to transform education.
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