Student-centered Teaching Tradition

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

The above photos of elementary and secondary school classrooms are snapshots of what educators would call student-centered classrooms. Because the photos are at a moment in time, we have no idea what happens over a six-hour school day in these teachers classrooms. The dead-give-aways in these photos, however, are the furniture arrangement (e.g., no rows of desks) and the small group activity (e.g., students talk and work with one another). Those two clues are often sufficient to describe the lesson–at least what is captured in a snapshot–as student-centered. Is an entire lesson done in this manner?

Hardly. Teachers are expected to cover content and skills required by the district and state and insure that students have learned both. So, more often than not, a mix of activities make up a daily lesson, depending upon the subject and grade. Mini- or maxi-lectures, textbook passages reviewed, quizzes, whiteboard exercises, independent work–all occur…

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