What is Student-centered Learning?

Student-centered approaches to learning are drawn from the mind/brain sciences, learning theory, and research on youth development, and are essential to students’ full engagement in achieving deeper learning outcomes.

 The four tenets of student-centered approaches to learning challenge the current schooling and education paradigm:

  • Learning Is Personalized;
  • Learning Is Competency-Based;
  • Learning Takes Place Anytime, Anywhere; and
  • Students Exert Ownership Over Their Learning.

Why Student-centered Learning?

To prepare for our future as a nation in an increasingly global and fast-changing society, dramatic change in our educational system is needed to enable all students to learn, not just some.

Students at the Center explores the role that student-centered approaches can play to deepen learning and prepare young people to meet the demands and engage the opportunities of the 21st century. This synthesis of research renews attention to the importance of engaging each student in acquiring the skills, knowledge, and expertise needed for success in college and a career. Student-centered approaches to learning, while recognizing that learning is a social activity, pay particular attention to the importance of customizing education to respond to each student’s needs and interests.

The broad application of student-centered approaches to learning has much in common with other education reform movements including closing the achievement gaps and providing equitable access to a high-quality education, especially for underserved youth. Student-centered approaches also align with emerging work to attain the promise and meet the demands of the Common Core State Standards through achieving deeper learning outcomes (master core academic content, think critically and creatively to solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, learn how to learn, and develop academic mindsets).

Tools & Resources

Jobs for the Future launched Students at the Center by commissioning teams of distinguished scholars to synthesize existing research on student motivation and engagement, cognitive development, school improvement, and efforts to take effective teaching practices to scale. The project has since commissioned its second set of white papers, analyzing research and describing policy strategies that promise to support deeper learning in the nation’s schools.

Working in partnership with university researchers, school and district leaders, and classroom teachers alike, Students at the Center develops and curates tools and other resources to help practitioners implement student-centered approaches in schools, districts, and other settings.

Students at the Center continues to expand the knowledge base for student-centered approaches and deeper learning outcomes, and we continue to adapt that research to the needs of policymakers, empowering them to solve critical and persistent problems in U.S. education.

Students at the Center synthesizes and adapts for practice current research on key components of student-centered approaches to learning that lead to deeper learning outcomes. Our goal is to strengthen the ability of practitioners and policymakers to engage each student in acquiring the skills, knowledge, and expertise needed for success in college, career, and civic life.  The edited volume of Students at the Center research papers Anytime, Anywhere: Student-Centered Learning for Schools and Teachers (2013) is available from Harvard Education Press.  This Jobs for the Future project is supported generously by funds from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Jobs for the Future

Nellie Mae Education Foundation

Hewlett Foundation