Student-Centred Learning – Why should you use it?

As a teacher, it can be easy to revert to the tried and true method of a teacher led class. This is where the teacher is the authority and most of the class is directed at the front of the room with the teacher “teaching” the lesson and the students taking in the information. This has been the standard for years! I have certainly had it for most of my schooling and I turned out just fine! So, shouldn’t we just stick with what works? Unfortunately, this is not the case for a lot of students. They have trouble learning this way and this method does not help students to really take in and absorb what they are learning.

Student-Centred Learning

I’m reminded of the great quote by Benjamin Franklin “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” This is what student-centred learning is striving for. The more we get students involved in learning, the more they actually take-in! Gone are the days of standing at the front of the classroom. Teachers need to be incorporating students into the teaching process so that they can really get involved and usually as a by-product become engaged in the class.

What does student-centred learning look like?

  • The teacher involves the students as much as possible in the learning process by asking questions, creating activities, and getting student input.
  • The teacher acts more as an advisor and guide and steps in only when needed.
  • The students do most of the work and get involved in the lesson

Why strive for a student-centred classroom?

  • It allows students to really learn by getting involved
  • Teachers don’t need to dominate the lesson, which means you’re actually doing less in your class.
  • Students take responsibility for their learning and feel a sense of accomplishment
  • Students are engaged and active in the lessons and may even enjoy themselves!
  • Teachers guide students to the answers through questioning, rather than just giving them the answers. 
  • Students feel confident in themselves and their ability to learn. 
  • It gives them the skills to continue learning outside of the class.

How to create a student-centred classroom:

  • Have students work together to help each other while completing activities
  • Have students check their answers together before checking them as a class
  • Get students up to the board! When students finish the activity early have them write the correct answer on the board.
  • Create activity centres where students work on a particular activity in groups and then switch after a certain amount of time and move to the next activity.
  • Ask questions! Have the students answer questions while you teach so you get them involved and engaged.
  • Encourage students to correct their own mistakes before giving them the answer.
  • Have students come up with ideas for activities you’re doing in class. 
  • Rather than showing them what to do get them involved and see if they know it first! 
  • Set-up your classroom in groups rather than single file seating to
  • Create learning centres where each centre has a specific purpose and the students work together to complete it and then move to the next centre.

Let’s look at some concrete examples of how to create student-centred lessons:

Student-centred Learning in Instruction:

If you’re teaching students how to write an essay and want to teach them the proper essay structure. Rather than show them the different elements of writing an essay make it into an activity.

  1.  get an example essay and cut it up into sections. Have the students in groups put the essay in the correct order and identify the different sections (INTRODUCTION, BODY, CONCLUSION). 
  2. As a class discuss the identifying characteristics of each. What information is included in the introduction? What words do we use to introduce the topic?
  3. From there you can make a chart with vocabulary/phrases and information for each section.

This kind of work gets the students involved and thinking about the writing and identifying the key concepts on their own. They are interacting with the lesson rather than just listening to you tell them about how to write an essay.

Answering a Question:

If a student has a question about vocabulary or doesn’t understand a concept you’ve taught in class. Rather than providing them with the answer, ask them questions or give them examples to lead them to the answer. This helps engage them more and gives them a better understanding of the answer. It also helps them remember it because again, they are involved in the process. 

For example, if a student doesn’t understand a word like sympathetic. You can ask them a question: If I told you my dog died, how would you react? Possible answer: I would feel sad for you, I would ask if you are okay and try to comfort you. Teacher: Yes! This is an example of being sympathetic! What do you think it means? Student: sympathetic means to show someone you care and feel for them. Teacher: yes you’re right! Do you think you’re a sympathetic person? 

Pair or Group Work:

One of the simplest ways to have student-centred classes is to have student work together on activities. Even if you have just a simple worksheet for them to do, have them complete it in pairs. Or check their answers once they finish it. This allows students to work together to find the right answer, to discuss and interact with the activity. As a teacher you can simply monitor and provide help when needed. 

Students Contribute to the Lesson Planning Process: 

Have the students choose the lesson theme or create their own activities, role-play activities or conversational topics. This is great because they will choose subjects that relate to them and that they find interesting.  

Don’t forget, you don’t have to switch to this method of teaching all at once. Take it slow, scaffold it into your lessons and just try out different ways of involving your students in the lesson as much as you can.

Questions or comments about student-centred learning? Comment below!

I’m Eliza Ferrie an English language teacher with 11 years teaching experience and a Masters in TESOL. I am passionate about helping other teachers create their best lessons and be the best they can be in their classroom whether it be online or in-class. I provide one-on-one consultation sessions and free lesson planning resources at and offer tips and advice for lesson planning and online teaching on my Instagram at