What to look for in a student-centered learning environment

There’s no such thing as a universal approach to education that’ll work for everyone. No matter how inclusive or creative a system is, if it isn’t tailored to students’ preferences, interests and aptitudes, then it’ll inevitably leave some children behind, or make for a dull experience for others. That’s why newer approaches often tout themselves as student-centered, aiming to make learning more attuned to what each student needs.

This distinction between old ways and new student-driven ways is an important consideration when looking for a school for your child – it will shape the way they learn, how engaged they are, and how successful they will be in how they learn at school.

The ideal learning environment is characterized by certain elements that make it truly student-centered. In this article, we describe a few that you should look for to ensure a great place for your child to flourish.

Greater student engagement

One great way to make learning more interesting and effective is simply to make it more fun and engaging. The goal in such engaging learning isn’t just to have students reach certain preset targets of knowledge that can be tested in examination, but to also allow them to have fun and truly feel enthusiastic about what they’re studying.

Wisdom over knowledge

In today’s world of easily-accessible information, memorizing facts and figures and tables of data from textbooks is vastly less useful than honing critical and analytical thinking skills. Textbook-based memorization learning can also be boring, unengaging, and can’t exactly be tailored to student needs, while teaching critical thinking can be done in a variety of ways by effective teachers. A good environment would therefore make use of a curriculum that upholds wisdom over knowledge.

Fewer lectures, more guidance

The iconic image of a boring professor lecturing in a hall of sleepy students is slowly being pushed out in favor of more active, guided learning techniques. Teachers in a student-centered learning environment work with students as collaborators in their own education, rather than as mere receivers of a curriculum. In doing so, they are able to identify the pace of each student, help elevate them from weaknesses and take advantage of their strengths.

A student-centric school

Swiss International School Dubai is at the forefront of student-centered learning, as well as making a campus more student-centric as a whole. Our school makes use of the International Baccalaureate programme, which features plenty of opportunities for engagement and guidance, as well as a strong focus on critical thinking over memorization skills. In addition, the IB’s Learner Profile, which indicates the ideal IB-educated student, describes a child who contributes to discussions in meaningful ways, enjoy discovering new things, are highly reflective and self-critical, and are open-minded to new cultures, ideologies, and perspectives – all of which are attributes that can only be forged at the individual level, through careful collaboration with each child, and understanding of their needs.

It’s not just about the curriculum, too. SISD is a boarding school held to the highest standards of pastoral care, in which students are nurtured not only for a learning environment, but for a campus in which fellow students and the faculty are considered family. The development of each student, not just educationally but in their personality and upbringing, are paid careful attention to, allowing them to grow in their own ways.

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