The nine research papers that launched this Jobs for the Future project renew attention to the importance of engaging each student in acquiring the skills, knowledge, and expertise needed for success in college and a career. The edited volume of these papers, Anytime, Anywhere: Student Centered Learning for Schools and Teachers (2013) is available from Harvard Education Press. The papers are currently organized under three large topics: Learning Theory, Applying Student-centered Approaches, and Scaling Up Student-centered Approaches to Learning.
What does brain research tell us about how we learn and how learning, in turn, shapes the architecture of the brain? What is the connection between the stress of poverty and the impact of emotions on learning? To answer such questions, this paper draws on recent brain research and research in cognitive science, highlighting the positive impact of student-centered learning approaches.
What motivates students to engage in learning and achieve academic success? The authors synthesize research on achievement motivation, school engagement, and student voice, concluding that the more educators use student-centered approaches to reinforce student agency, the more motivation and engagement are likely to rise.
Click here to watch a brief video of an interview with one of the paper's authors, Eric Toshalis.
Applying Student-Centered Approaches
Taking the reader inside six high schools widely regarded as exemplars of deep student learning, the authors unpack teaching practices and school structures at the heart of student-centered learning. Findings reveal commonalities among the schools, especially in allowing teachers to hone their craft through “daily acts of invention.”
Focusing on African-American males, the author describes how current school literacy practices and policies are overly generic and miss the mark. Placing student-centered learning in the context of race and gender, this paper reviews literature on factors that impede reading achievement, provides a socio-historical perspective for advancing African-American male literacy, proposes a framework of literacy instruction, and discusses implications for research, policy, and practice.
Using new perspectives on mathematics as a cultural and social activity and new research on learning outside the school, the authors ask readers to rethink the problem of mathematical achievement for all students, and for Latino/a and black students in particular. The paper argues that doing so will help those students connect how they learn in the classroom to their lives outside of school, and help reduce the “achievement gaps” that exist in our current educational system.
This paper explores how new digital technologies can be used to design curricula that are flexible enough to adapt readily to individual differences. The authors propose that universal design for learning—as the confluence of advances in the neuroscience of human variability and in multimedia technologies—can create an “ecology for learning” which provides rich, diverse, student-centered learning pathways for all students.
Scaling Up Student-centered Approaches to Learning
Personalization in secondary education supports student-centered learning and takes place through a variety of relational structures, strategies, and interventions. This paper examines how enhanced adult-youth relationships lead to increased student engagement, youth development, and academic performance. It highlights the particular importance of personalization efforts for at-risk populations and nontraditional students, and explores technical aspects of implementing personalization in schools.
Student-centered assessment is a vital underpinning to student-centered learning approaches. This paper examines five defining qualities of student-centered assessment and underscores the importance of student-centered assessment as part of a balanced system of formative, interim, and summative assessments that, taken together, provide useful detailed information to inform learning, instruction, decision making, and policy.
School districts have an important role to play in opening the door to the implementation of student-centered learning approaches and ensuring that these practices improve student achievement. Noting an absence of references to student-centered learning approaches in a subset of high-performing districts, this paper details seven key district characteristics to support innovative approaches in general, and student-centered learning approaches in particular.