How Schools Approach Learner-centered Learning


From a very early age, parents encourage their children’s individuality. We support the exploration of unknown foods in our toddlers and young children, the venture into new hobbies and social opportunities in our preteens, and inquisitiveness into unfamiliar subjects, sports, and career paths as college-bound or career-bound high schoolers.

Expecting children to learn alongside a couple dozen peers inside a classroom in the same way and at the same pace is the antithesis of that individuality.

In the modern era, there are multiple emerging education strategies meant to cultivate learning pathways that cater to students on a more personal level and foster a stronger student engagement in their learning. One such strategy is learner-centered learning, also known as student-centered learning.

Learner-centered learning supports individuals and their unique strengths

Education experts and teachers Christopher Harrington, D. Ed., and Kristen DeBruler, D. Ed., consider learner-centered learning to have four primary components: a student’s voice, a student’s choice, competency-based progression, and continuous monitoring of a student’s needs.

In this approach to education, teachers empower students to become copilots in their school experience. Kids and their parents have a say in what coursework they choose and how much material they consume, as well as when they consume it.

The interests and strengths of the student are at the very top of the priority list in the learner-centered learning experience, as opposed to grades and other black-and-white metrics of progress. Educators and pupils are both engineers in the learning experience. In a brick-and-mortar setting, this means that multiple unique learning plans must be executed simultaneously within the walls of a single classroom.

Students are given the opportunity to explore channels of learning

One of the most important elements of a learner-centered curriculum is the freedom of choice in how the material is presented. Tailored study plans cater to different learning styles and strengths. Some students thrive with visual presentation, while others prefer quiet, focused reading.

With learner-centered learning, students are able to piece different approaches together like building blocks to create the strategy that works for them. These approaches could include project-based learning, independent study, or teacher-guided instruction, to name a few. With their own unique learning blueprint, students develop their problem-solving and applied thinking skills at the pace that works for them.

Monitoring progress in student-centered learning is just as important as it is in traditional learning. Under the idea of competency-based progression, teachers must closely watch for evidence of mastery in the student’s progress and provide feedback on their performance.

The teacher guides students either forward in their lesson plans if competency is evident or identifies what the student needs to achieve mastery in their current module. This encourages a more active learning involvement on the student’s part, as they may be expected to explain or apply what they’ve learned before they move on.

The role of learner-centered learning in online schools

There are three types of curricula typically used in schools: subject-centered, learner-centered, and problem-centered. Particularly in project-based classes, learner-centered learning helps students in brick-and-mortar schools, but the learning type has been particularly effective and popular in virtual learning environments.

When an educational institution adopts the student-centered learning philosophy, all facets of that institution—faculty, facilities, scheduling, technology, curriculum, financials, community, etc—are tailored to cater to the application of this philosophy to each and every pupil. With less facility-related operational overhead and students tuning in from wherever they are instead of reporting to a classroom, learner-centered learning has an opportunity to thrive in online schools.

Virtual schools create the option of either supplemental or complete online learning—whichever best suits the student’s circumstances. Many online institutions further center the school experience around students with self-paced courses and a fully or almost-fully asynchronous schedule. With in-person teacher schedules and facilities to operate, these just aren’t options at brick-and-mortar schools, even those with student-centered learning in their mission.

Laurel Springs School’s student-centered learning approach

In our fully-online learning environment, students are emboldened in their self-discovery. They’re inspired to utilize critical thinking and inquiry to blossom an education cultivated by and for themselves, with the guidance of our expert teaching staff. We utilize rolling admissions and asynchronous learning to apply student-centered academics in a nurturing, individualized way.

Laurel Springs’ flexible approach means that your student will master their coursework at their pace. By allowing them to learn on their own terms, we set our students up for a long career of academic success. Our admissions counselors can tell you more about what our online learning environment can do for your student.