The Key to SEL Success: Shifting to a Learner-Centered Approach
  • By admin
  • September 10, 2019

By Grace Shelton



I recently read a thoughtful piece from EdSurge on the difference between school-centered and learner-centered approaches to education. The author, a teacher, outed the hypocrisy of a standardized system that seeks to maximize all students’ potential and achieve equity but also labels and categorizes any student that might be seen as “different”. In other words, students with “learning disabilities” or “behavior needs” that must be given alternative methods that still allow them to succeed to the same realm as their “normal” peers.

The author states that in this world, where standardized learning is valued, these students can be thought of as “less than” when in fact, they offer their own unique set of very important skills. The learner-centered approach, conversely, acknowledges that every student is different but that each difference is an asset to the community. Students are allowed to explore outside the classroom, demonstrate proficiency through portfolio-based assessments, engage with adults in the community outside of school, etc. all in the name of finding what they are most passionate about. Students aren’t given the tools they need to pass the test in a learner-centered approach. Instead, they’re given the tools they’ll need to be happy, successful, and contributing members of society as adults.

The author goes on to say that only after this shift in educational philosophy can we then use whole-child learning practices and improve equity of academic and human experiences. So this left me to wonder, if we want to educate the next generation of thoughtful and productive people, do we need to start from the very beginning? Do we need to rebuild what education even means to us as a society before we can start implementing social-emotional learning practices at all? This might indeed be the case. Whatever the answer is to this question, it remains clear that students are all different, and those differences must be celebrated and utilized in order to fully maximize a student’s potential.