Do you focus on what the youth in your program experience or what your program offers? If you focus on what youth experience, then you are learner-centered. In learner-centered programs, the learning opportunities youth have are active, collaborative, and meaningful. They also support mastery and expand the horizons of the participant (LIAS Principles). The activities engage youth in problem solving, decision making, and thinking about the learning through review, reflections, and debriefing. Here are some key characteristics of learner-centered programs.
- All staff in the program seeks to build positive relationships with youth.
- Goals are set jointly and collaboratively with youth and staff both having input.
- Staff know what each young person is interested in learning, including each student’s talents and abilities.
- Youth are encouraged to work together and those groups change often.
- Activities are flexible to accommodate students’ individual needs.
- The program space is inviting, warm, open, and encourages all youth to participate.
- Youth are comfortable asking questions and working with adults to find the answers.
- Youth have an opportunity to “teach to learn” and share with others the knowledge, skills, and thoughts that they have.
- Program staff uses a variety of strategies and techniques to support learning in an authentic and real-world environment.
- Youth are encouraged to participate in decision-making about the program and accept leadership roles.
- The program embraces a youth development approach and understands that youth are assets to be developed.
- Strategies such as a KWL Chart, Think, Pair, Share, rubrics, portfolios, and student presentations are utilized to develop the learner.
Being a learner-centered program pays huge dividends not only for youth but for the leaders as well. Share your learner-centered activities with us so we can share those best practices with others. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org