10 Characteristics of Student-Centered Learning

Student-Centered Learning, also known as learner-centered education, broadly encompasses methods of teaching  that requires learners to actively construct their own knowledge, and puts the responsibility for learning on the them.

The teacher still has an authoritative role, but the students and the teachers play an equally active part in the learning process.

The primary goal of the teacher is to coach and facilitate students’ learning and comprehension of the subject material.

Jack C. Richards on Learner Centered Teaching

Dr. Richards is an internationally renowned specialist in second and foreign language teaching, an applied linguist and educator, the author of numerous professional books for English language teachers, and the author of many widely used textbooks for English language students.

These are some of the views that Jack C. Richards about student-centered learning and teaching

10 Characteristics of Student-Centered Learning

These are 10 characteristics of student-centered learning:

#1 Teachers d Work Harder than their Students

In most classes, teachers are doing too many learning tasks for students. We ask the questions, we add detail to their answers. We offer the examples. We organize the content. We do the preview and the review. We should extend part of those responsibilities to the learners.

#2 Students learn from Classmates

Students can learn from and with each other. Certainly the teacher has the expertise and an obligation to share his/her knowledge, but teachers can learn from students as well.

#3 Students learn more by experiences and active involvement

Teachers nurture students’ natural curiosity as students  ask questions to complete the assignments.

#4 Students apply new learning to real-life, authentic experiences

 Classes focus more on skills that you can use in real-life. Classes that don’t have real-life application hardly ever motivate students to engage in meaningful learning.

#5 Students receive frequent directed, and timely feedback

 Another characteristic of student-centered learning and teaching is that as students complete some assignments, teachers typically ask learners or groups of learners to talk and compare their results with peers

#6 Students are Encouraged to Explain Material to Themselves and Others

 If students are creative enough, they can think about ways to introduce a topic that involves the students in the process.

The representation of the topic doesn’t have to be dominated by the teacher.

#7 Students Regularly Engage in Communication

Students need to communicate with each other and that’s why this approach to teaching bring more benefit than teacher-centered instruction. Students can introduce a topic, receive feedback from others and complete assignments collaboratively.

#8 Students Know what They are Learning and Why

Teachers who have adopted a learner-centered approach state what they expect their learners to accomplish by the end of the class and make sure they give clear instructions about the behavior and dynamics he/she expects to see in class.

#9 Students Use Personalized Technology to Produce

 Students learn by doing so technology, specially mobile phones and tablets which are easier to handle and use than computers can really boost engagement and motivation.

If you want your students to create, one of the cheapest and engaging ways is using the resources available on the internet.

#10 A higher Degree of Engagement

Students standing up and talking to others to complete some assignments creates more opportunities to talk and learn from others.

Since receptive skills are the ones necessary to learn new things,  listening to others is crucial for the successful repetition of new vocabulary.

Student-Centered Learning in the ESL Classroom

Teachers who try hard to implement a student-centered approach might take some of the following considerations:


  • Try as hard as they can to involve learners in the introduction of new vocabulary,  they understand that drills rarely produce the expected results and long grammar explanation might be quite boring. They rely on peers helping each other learn  new vocabulary.
  • Create activities that require collaborative work to be completed, they give a reason to students so they can go and talk to others and learn from them.
  • Encourage peer reviews instead of you checking whether the answer are right or wrong.
  • Place a lot of emphasis in communication, students who are in those classes rarely leave a class without making an effort to communicate. In student-centered instruction, you will not see confident students talking and shy students being quiet.
  • Spend more time monitoring and guiding rather than giving  long explanations in front of the class.
  • Reduce teacher talking time and make sure there is a several tasks that increase student talking time.
  • Introduce the vocabulary and grammar that is absolutely necessary and let students to take the initiative if they want to learn a new word.

Examples of Student-Centered Learning in the ESL Classroom

These are some examples of student-centered learning in the ESL classrooom

  • Students quiz each other by showing each other pictures and asking questions such as:
    • What’s this?
    • How do you say this in English?
    • What words come to your mind when you see this picture?
  • Students get together with others and review the answers, they can use vocabulary such as:
    • What do you think about #1?
    • What did you answer in question #2?
  • Students ask questions in order to complete a survey, teacher usually use these three sites to create forms:
    • Survey Monkey
    • Google Form
    • Microsoft Form
  • Students complete a matching, they can match pictures with words, the only twist that you have to consider is giving the pictures to student A and the words to Student B so they have a need to communicate with each other.
  • Students create materials to maximize communication and build their confidence to speak such as:
    • A collage
    • A  mindmap
    • A wordle
  • Students can create their own find someone who worksheets to use in the classroom, so instead of you creating one for them, give them an empty form so they can decide what they want to find out about their classmates, for instance
    • find someone who likes music from the 90’s
    • find someones who played in a soccer team as a child

I bet there are more learner-centered activities that you can do in the classroom, in some cases what you need to do is adding a twist to a familiar task and there you have an activity that fosters communication, collaboration and make learning more meaningful and less traditional.


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