Child-centred learning (also called student-centred learning) is an approach to education focusing on the needs of the students. It empowers students to take responsibility for their own learning. Student-centred approaches encourage students to develop the skills to become active, responsible participants in their own learning. Student-centred learning is focused on each student’s needs, abilities, interests, and learning styles, placing the teacher as a facilitator of learning. Teachers create an environment that nurtures the curiosity of children to grow and develop into lifelong learners.
At Dickens Annex, we purposefully place students of different ages and abilities in classes with two or more grade levels. In order to facilitate a smooth and successful transition into school, Kindergarten students may or may not be placed in a single-grade class.
Within the classroom and school, students are often regrouped based on different learning abilities, rather than being taught according to grade level. Children learn differently, excel in different areas, and have different emotional maturities. The students in a multi-age classroom may remain with the same teacher for more than one year, therefore forming a ‘family’ grouping.
“A multi-age grouping facilitates a developmentally appropriate learning environment by allowing students of diverse abilities and backgrounds to proceed at their own pace” (Miller 1994, BC Ministry of Education).
“Benefits of Multi-Age classrooms include achievement gains equal to single grade classes, and increased affective learning, such as improved self-concept, increased pro-social behavior, greater responsibility and more positive attitudes toward school. Increased opportunities for leadership and peer learning are also cited” (Gutierrez and Slavin, 1992; Miller 1991 and Pardini 2005).
2. Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction involves meeting the needs and engaging learners while valuing different intelligences. Differentiation can show us how to teach the same standards to a range of learners by a variety of teaching modes.
“At its most basic level, differentiation consists of the efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom. Whenever a teacher reaches out to an individual or a small group to vary his or her teaching in order to create the best learning experience possible, that teacher is differentiating instruction” (Tomlinson, 2000).
Collaboration is at the core of the Annex. Both teachers and students participate in collaborative activities.
At Dickens Annex, school events and programming encourage cross-curricular and cross grade collaboration. To remain current in educational pedagogy, we are constantly working to meet our diverse learners’ needs through best practice. To accomplish this we hold weekly meetings, engage in professional development, and participate in book clubs. Teachers share responsibility for planning and teaching group lessons and programs. Group Language (literature-based arts), Afternoon Program (student chosen science and social studies themes), and Math Groups (ability based number concepts) are all examples of how we work and learn together.
“Children learn through collaboration with others. Social, emotional, and intellectual development is fostered through interaction with others. All significate development and learning occurs in the context of social interaction” (Vygotsky 1978, Well, 1986).
“In the primary years, human and social development is especially important because it supports and enhances children’s intellectual development” (Primary Program, BC Government).
4. Authentic Assessment
Authentic Assessment focuses on what each child can do. It is an ongoing process and is formative; it aids the planning and directs the instruction. In this form of assessment, students are asked to perform real world tasks that demonstrate meaningful knowledge and application of skills learned.
“To be effective, assessment must recognize the diversity of learners and allow for differences in styles and rates of learning. Such developmentally appropriate assessment calls for the use of a range of assessment strategies because young children are often unable to represent their understanding in conventional ways. The younger the child, the more important it is to adopt techniques other than pencil-paper tasks” (Primary Program, BC Government).
Honouring each child’s uniqueness
Individual learning needs
Responsibility for own learning
Environment of acceptance and inclusion