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What is Student-Centered Learning?

Student centered-learning is about meeting students where they are in their learning. Different learning and engagement strategies work for different students. While an internship may provide a student with the opportunity for practical application of what they learned in the classroom and experience developing real world job readiness skills, a hands-on project in the classroom may provide independent or collaborative time to deepen understanding of a particular concept in the classroom. Student-centered learning recognizes that students learn in different ways and as such, our district needs to change to meet those needs.

To access resources for administrators and teachers on student-centered learning, click here.

What is Our Vision of Student-Centered Learning in Hartford?

At Hartford Public Schools, we aspire to provide our students with opportunities for deep learning, guided by the virtues of mastery, identity, and creativity. We aim to develop academic environments in which students build essential knowledge and skills (mastery), see themselves reflected in what they are learning and doing (identity), and have opportunities to engage in the production of new learning (creativity) (Mehta & Fine 2019). We believe that student-centered learning is how our students will achieve these ambitious goals. 

Our vision of student-centered learning is one in which teachers routinely implement four core instructional practices. These include (1) using flexible content and digital tools to personalize learning experiences for students; (2) making data-informed decisions that appropriately differentiate instructional experiences; (3) providing targeted small group instruction that is responsive to the needs of our diverse student body; and (4) allowing for student reflection and ownership to promote self-managing behavior and independence. Embedded within this model are certain non-negotiables, including utilizing a standards-based curriculum that provides a clear roadmap to success for content area specific skills, employing formative assessment strategies that provide information on a student’s progress based on standards, offering student-friendly feedback based on standards and assessments, and utilizing structures like advisory and SSPs to promote student goal-setting and reflection.

What are High School Centers of Innovation?

Through the generous support of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, we have established five High School Centers of Innovation: Bulkeley High School, Hartford Public High School, Pathways Academy of Technology and Design, Sport and Medical Sciences Academy, and Weaver High School. Each Center of Innovation has experimented with different approaches to personalizing instruction for students. Based on the implementation of different models of student-centered learning – including blended learning, competency-based learning, and personalized learning – we have solidified our understanding of what meets the unique needs and contexts of our schools. By drawing on this deep experiential knowledge, we are supporting our Centers of Innovation in the following ways:

  1. Providing ongoing professional learning to develop teacher and leader capacity with a focus on student-centered learning practices.
  2. Drawing on the guidance of national experts to provide ongoing guidance and support.
  3. Promoting collaboration across schools to develop leader and teacher best practices.

Taken together, this approach will allow school leadership to transform our system to one that is based on student-centered learning. The work will build school-level capacity and generate real-time knowledge that will continue to support our goal to put students at the center of their learning.