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Aurora Institute

The Promise of Student-Centered Learning

Education Domain Blog

Authors: Liz Glowa

Issues: Issues in Practice, Activate Student Agency


This is the third blog in a series featuring the report Student-Centered Learning: Functional Requirements for Integrated Systems to Optimize Learning. See the first post and second post for more information.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 6.31.11 PMThe American system of education was built for a society and an economy that no longer exists. The system still in place in many districts was created in the early 1900s to serve a different time with different needs. The system of the one-to-many approach to teaching and classroom-contained instruction, as well as advancement based on age-grouping or time-based Carnegie credits rather than mastery, place limits on our children’s opportunities to learn and thrive in this changing world.

Student-centered learning models personalize learning with the use of competency-based approaches. A focus exists on student agency and ownership of learning. Students co-design how they approach their learning goals and their own learning with their teachers and ALL students are held to the same high standards and expectations. Teachers use technology tools to personalize instruction.  Educators analyze real-time data to differentiate instruction, customize learning and engage students in deeper learning. Students use technology to access resources, consider what’s next from real-time progress data in focusing their learning, to collaborate and communicate with others and to submit demonstrated evidence of their learning, often through projects and portfolios of work.

The transformation of today’s education systems to student-centered learning is of critical importance.

Although the importance of student-centered learning for effective education is well established, teachers, schools and districts struggle with its implementation. To actually put the tenets of student-centered learning into play requires a whole school and school system transformation, supported by a robust, integrated student-centered learning information ecosystem. Technology can play a powerful role in the implementation of student-centered learning if used for empowering educators, students and learning teams.

The iNACOL report Student-Centered Learning: Functional Requirements for Integrated Systems to Optimize Learning helps school and district leaders understand the functional requirements and specific needs of integrated systems for student-centered learning. The framework in this report explores the facets of designing a truly student-centered, integrated information system to drive and scale personalized learning.

For EdLeaders, this research will help you understand how your school system can identify the IT system needs to support student-centered learning. It will also explore how you can take advantage of the data and analytics such systems provide to improve practices:

  • Can your district approach this work from a student-centric view?
  • Can you walk through the “use cases” in the report students, educators and community members to ask for system functional requirements that meet the needs of educators and students?
  • How are you using design principles and data and interoperability standards to facilitate the openness, extensibility and coherent integration of functionality, needed to support the many nuances of student-centered learning?
  • How are you structuring functional requirements in proposal requests with use cases to better identify appropriate IT solutions?

A robust, integrated student-centered learning system has the potential to advance teaching and learning if the system is used to support the implementation of student-centered learning as part of a systemic, instructionally-focused plan.

It will be helpful in the field of K-12 education to have more powerful tools in the hands of educators to access data and resources in intelligent, user-friendly interfaces, to take advantage of advanced analytics and adaptive learning capabilities, to support social and collaborative learning, and to monitor student progress towards mastery of competencies. Integrated information systems designed to support student-centered learning are important to manage this educational approach within new personalized learning models. Advanced technologies can be used to support educators in instructional models that respond to each students’ needs in the hopes of dramatically improving outcomes, expanding access to educational resources and record (an abundance of) high-quality student work.

More more information, please see:

Learn more about report findings in iNACOL’s upcoming June Leadership webinar: Exploring Integrated Systems to Optimize Student-Centered Learning