What do we mean when we say student-centered learning is at the heart of a Parker education? Aren’t all schools “student-centered”? It’s a question we get often, and one that deserves some unpacking. While it is true that all schools teach students, it is rare to find a school that actually puts students’ needs at the center of their instruction.
When looking at how schools prioritize learning, it is helpful to understand that most institutions are “school-centered” in their approach to educating children. For example, in a public school, it is more logistically manageable for all children in one grade to be learning the same content from the same textbook at the same time. Student interest and expression take a back seat to curriculum and assessments handed down from administration and dictated by state standards.
Similarly, ideology based private schools such as Montessori and Waldorf are also beholden first to their methodology, with the expectation that students respond to the model of education being driven by its founders. Montessori education, for example, puts a strong emphasis on their materials and how to interact with them, rather than letting children decide what to do. Children are directed towards a right way of doing things versus discovering knowledge on their own.
Here at Parker, our progressive model of education truly puts students at the center of their learning. This means that every year, in every classroom, Parker teachers respond in real time to the students they have right in front of them. Student ideas and voices are front and center in every Parker classroom. Teachers do not merely stand in front of the room and tell students what to learn. Rather, Parker teachers focus on constructing authentic experiences that respond to students’ interests and needs. The result is that students get to spend their day engaged in projects and learning that is individualized, meaningful, and connected to the real-world.
Here are just a few examples of what student-centered learning at Parker looks like: