Student-Centered Philosophies: Everything You Need to Know

These philosophies are based on the conviction that students play the most important role in education, and teachers and society serve as support systems to help students develop their individuality through education. These philosophies believe that students should work together with teachers to decide what should be learned and taught, and how these can best be achieved.

The emphasis of student-centered philosophies is on training individual students. These philosophies focus on the individuality of students and help them to realize their potential. A student-centered classroom is likely to be less structured or rigid. It may also be less concerned about drilling academics and past teaching practices while focusing more on getting the students trained for success in a rapidly changing world. Student-centered philosophies don’t see the school as an institution to control and direct the students, or one that functions to transmit and preserve the core culture. Rather, it’s viewed as an institution that functions with the students to help them realize their individuality or improve society. Progressivism and existentialism are two good examples of student-centered philosophies.

Progressivism organizes schools around the curiosity, concerns, abilities, interests, and real-world experiences of students.  Progressive educators are focused on the outcomes and don’t just impart learned facts. They are less concerned with passing on the existing culture and do their best to let students develop an individual approach to handle tasks allotted to them. Thus, they facilitate learning by helping students create meaningful questions and work out strategies to answer those questions. In a progressivist classroom, educators feel no compulsion to focus their students’ attention on a solitary discrete discipline at a time. Instead, they encourage students to work in groups on a wide array of topics that ignite their interest.

Existentialism puts the primary focus on students’ directing their own learning. The goal of this educational philosophy is to train students to develop their own exclusive understanding of life. Thus, students search for their own direction in and meaning of life, and define what’s accurate and what’s false, what’s satisfying and what’s disagreeable, and what’s enjoyable and what’s unpleasant, among others. In an existentialist classroom, the teachers typically outline what they feel is important and let the students select what they study. All students work on diverse, self-selected assignments at a pace of their own. The teachers play the role of facilitators, as they guide students in finding the most suitable methods, resources, or materials of study. 

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