Classroom Focus is concerned with who is the main focus of teaching in the classroom. Essentially there are two possible foci:
- the teacher – the class is Teacher Centered
- the students – the class is Student Centered
Traditionally classes have been Teacher Centered however more recently classes have become more Student Centered. And this improves learning.
In a Teacher Centered class the teacher controls everything. The teachers decides:
- what should be taught
- how it should be taught
- when it should be taught
In other words, the classroom is based around the needs and preferences of the teacher and the administration. The students are not necessarily taught what is best for them, but rather what is deemed to be necessary for them by the teachers.
Likewise, the teaching methods are primarily designed for the teacher rather than the student and work is graded by the teacher alone.
This means the teacher controls the entire learning process.
On the other hand, Student Centered classrooms focus on the needs and abilities of the students and on topics relevant to the students lives, needs and interests.
This increases student motivation and as a result students feel they have a stake in their own learning which (it has been proven) increases their learning and performance.
The role of the teacher whilst still important is not so much a provider of knowledge as much as a facilitator. The teacher will not, for example, stand and lecture the class but rather set up situations where the students can find out for themselves the information they need.
Classroom Focus in Practice
How does this pan out in practice? Here are some ideas to make the classroom more student centered. They are not going to change a class into a perfect example of Student Centered learning overnight, but they will help students get used to the idea of the concept.
Make sure you know why your students are in the classroom. You may know, for example, that they are all there in preparation for taking the First Certificate in English examination. This might mean that although you would love to teach them about Shakespeare and spend time listening to your old Bob Dylan tapes, it is undoubtedly best for the students that they do old practice tests for the exam.
Consider them as customers in your shop: you have to give them what they need rather than what you have on offer.
See the main article, link below.
Break down the learning process. Information does not flow solely from the teacher to the students and if you have your students break up into small groups or pairs for different activities they will share knowledge between themselves. Students can learn off each other and as all good teachers know, the act of teaching is also the act of learning.
See the main article, link below.
Use examples and exercises directly related to the students; imagine you are teaching the basic prepositions then instead of saying:
The cat is under the table.
The blue bag is under Kostas’ desk.
and point to the real thing. Students will relate to this and remember more.
Keep it relevant when you talk about what happens outside the classroom as well. The country you are living in may well be hosting a major international event and your students may well be involved in some way in their own community. Thus, bring that into the class – notwithstanding the needs analysis!
To take a simple example, if a students come across a word they do not know, rather than simply tell them, get them to find out for themselves what it means. Have a dictionary in the class; get the students used to using it and when a new word comes up a student finds out what the meaning is and tells the rest of the class.
The teacher, then, does not become the sole repository of knowledge; especially in this day of internet let the students find answers for themselves.
In practice, it is not always easy to change a class from Teacher Centered to Student Centered. In some traditional educational systems your students will be used to a traditional classroom where the teacher lectures and the students take notes. The school owner may well have taught traditionally for many years and the students’ parents will perhaps expect a traditional learning for their children.
However, even small steps (like those above) can make a difference and could lead on to greater things.
Needs Analysis for TEFL – working out what your class needs to learn.
Group Work in TEFL – getting the students to work together.