8 student centred classroom management strategies

By John Biddle

1. Allow student involvement in setting the rules

A simple and effective way to empower your students and to make them feel valued in your classroom is to give them a say when setting behavioural expectations. Because your students are directly involved in the creation of the rules or guidelines, they will be more motivated to follow the rules and less likely to be confused about what is expected in class. You can show your students the power of collaboration as they help to create a positive and safe learning environment. While they discuss their ideas and consider the needs of their classmates, your students are implicitly learning the importance of diversity and respect for different opinions in building a community.

2. Assign students roles in the classroom

Give your students greater responsibility for their classroom by creating a rotating roster for different classroom jobs. For example, two students per week can assist with handouts and collecting work and two more with cleaning the whiteboard and straightening up the room in the last 5 minutes of a class. The roster can be negotiated but the bottom line is that every student will participate. Besides saving you time, especially with bigger classes, your students will be encouraged take better care of “their” classroom and school equipment. There is also incentive for them to peer-police problems like littering and vandalizing desks.

3. Involve students in marking rubric design

When students fail to see the point or when their abilities are not valued, they will feel disengaged in the classroom and act out. A way to better cater for the diversity of learners in your class is to give them the opportunity to decide on their own marking criteria for unit assessment. They will be required to reflect on their learning and to critically evaluate what represents a high and low level of achievement for themselves. Students will have a clearer understanding of the expectations and the criteria for their own success; they will be motivated to work towards their own high standards. As your students succeed through increased agency in the learning process, they will feel valued and their self-esteem will grow.

4. Write group contracts

For group assessments, have each group devise a contract that details what each member does and when things are due. Your students should discuss their expectation of each member and detail what happens when a group member doesn’t contribute or performs below set goals. Have a section for individual reflection on the process at the end of the assessment. When you give your approval, have everyone sign it. Keep copies of the contracts and if possible, email a copy to the parents and caregivers. This practice gives students motivation to take ownership of their learning, makes them reflect on their past experiences, and teaches them to communicate ideas and expectations more articulately in their groups. They will learn to be more accountable by working towards these objectives that their group negotiated and signed-off on. You will also have documented proof to show parents and principals of a student’s knowledge of expectations, criteria and due dates, and group commentary on their participation during group work activities.

5. Use peer assessment

Using a variety of peer assessment strategies can motivate engagement, critical thinking, and learning in the classroom. Through carefully structured practice, you can teach your students how to give and receive constructive feedback to their peers. As your students become more actively engaged in the process, they will receive feedback faster and see the value in developing a deeper understanding of how they learn. When students are asked to critically evaluate their peers, they are also critically evaluating their own work in comparison to their peers. This metacognitive process helps them to become more independent in their learning. With increasing student ownership, you can foster a learning environment where your need to step in with feedback and assistance is reduced.

6. Create learning experiences that involve the community

Seeing a real-world application for what they are learning promotes student engagement because there is apparentvalue in it. You could invite a community member who you think will connect with your students on a study area to be a guest speaker. Alternatively, students can interview a community member of their choice on a topic and present their findings in class. You could ask your students to come up with solutions to a problem that they identify in their neighbourhood or promote what they see is something that should be celebrated. You can facilitate greater connectedness between the classroom and the community to help students understand their role in society and the need for cultural sensitivity and appreciation of diversity.

7. Allow the use of modern technology in the classroom

Teachers are increasingly using modern technology in the classroom to present information better and promote student involvement. This reflects the ever-evolving nature of the workplaces our students will enter after school (or even during school) and the skills that employers will be looking for. Within your school’s guidelines, try finding ways that let your students use different devices, apps or social media platforms to complete classroom activities. Setting up a virtual classroom allows students to access and submit classwork in an easy manner as well as review marking criteria, past assignments, and feedback. It can also be set up so you can see when a student looked at and started an assignment, how long it took them to complete work, and if they have plagiarised. This use of technology can provide evidence in parent-teacher meetings to demonstrate the effort a student has made during class.

8. Allow students to give feedback in different ways

Part of a teacher’s reflective process involves asking our students for feedback on their education. Student feedback can provide us with insight in to how well their needs are being met so it is important that they are all given the opportunity to express themselves in a way they feel comfortable. You ask your students questions,check-in, and have them raise their hands during class time. You can also develop questionnaires for the start, middle, and conclusion of a topic. Another idea involves using an anonymous feedback box in the classroom where written feedback can be deposited anytime. It is important that your students are clear about the purpose of these tools and how you will use what they say to help address their needs better. Your students will need to see you implement changes to see that giving you feedback was worthwhile. It can be confronting, but students will see that they’re valued in your classroom and this will create a more productive and happier learning environment.

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