Reimagining education to appeal to the individual needs of your learners can be a huge undertaking. When exploring a learner-centered approach, there is so much research and planning that it can seem overwhelming. 

One question lingering in your mind may be: What will class time look like if my learners are in charge? That question on its own might cause a huge sigh to escape your body.

The Pep Talk You Need Right Now 

First and foremost, you are an expert in the profession of education. Remember this. Trust yourself. You have brainstormed and planned hundreds of lessons for years, sometimes even down to the minute. You are in the driver’s seat. While your learners may be in charge of the path they take during class time, ultimately, you are deciding upon those paths. You also have a support system in place to help guide you in this process. Take advantage of these people – your colleagues, your PLC, whoever they may be for you. They want to see you succeed.

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov on

A Structure to Simplify and Engage

  1. Start your class with a brief lesson, demonstration, or instructional video. Brief instructional time limits information to the essentials. If you are accustomed to spending a lot of time hitting every little detail from your curriculum map or lesson plan, this can be challenging to simplify to major points. A timer can hold you accountable to help you stick within your timeframe. Try aiming for 10-15 minutes, but make adjustments for the period of time you have, whether it be a 45-minute class or a larger block period. It may take some practice, but you will get the hang of it.
  2. Transition into the work time. Once your direct instruction wraps up, guide your learners into the work session. Work sessions consume most of the class time, and may be independent, small or larger collaborative groups, exploratory and practice activities, really whatever works best for you and your learners to be actively learning. During this time, you will be able to converse more with your learners, note progress, provide individualized attention, assess, redirect, etc.
  3. Show and share. Before or after materials are cleaned up, take time to celebrate learning. In an art studio setting, this looks like a critique where learners show art completed or in-progress and talk about their art. Others may have time to ask questions and discussions are welcome. Again, that timer will come in handy to hold everyone to the time limits.
Photo by Max Fischer on

Try it Out For Size

Consider reworking one lesson and restructure your time. How can you narrow down your content to what’s most important? What is the essential information? How can your learners have more interactive learning time to apply that essential information? What fun ways can you celebrate learning at the end?