To me, student-centered instruction is basically helping students to figure out what they need and how to get there. Too often, students in math classes just sit back and ‘do what they are told.’ Unfortunately, this means that students won’t do anything to facilitate their math learning unless it’s directed by the teacher… and for a grade. SCI in non-math classes can be lead by student-generated questions about a given topic and then researching to discover answers to the questions they posed. This is much harder in math. Many times students don’t know how to ask questions that can be ‘discoverable’, or, teachers can’t just create an activity ‘on-the-spot’ to guide students through their queries.
SCI in my classroom looks more like ‘choice.’ While our curriculum is fairly linear at the high school level, I try to get students involved and invested in their math learning. I try to highlight 3-4 different types of problems on any given day and then let students practice more of those types in any order they choose. It’s interesting to see which concepts a student chooses to work on first, because in my experience, it’s what the students deem to be ‘easy’ for them. I get a glimpse of what they feel is a strength for them. This also allows me to designate ‘experts’ as students complete the assignments… so students can turn around and help each other. SCI to me is where students are instructing other students. I try to set up my bell ringers and introductory problems to a lesson in such a way that students ‘discover’ the patterns and rules for new concepts.
SCI is student-ownership of their learning. Many times I don’t teach a ‘short cut’ or a ‘traditional’ way of doing a problem… I wait for a student to ‘discover it’ and then I name that method after that student. Not only does this improve mathitudes (math attitudes) but it also is a clear indicator to the rest of the class to whom they can go for help. I poll the class often to see who likes X’s method, who prefers Y’s method, and how many like the Mintner Method (mine LOL). I then encourage students to sit with people who like to use the same method so they can better communicate with each other… and help each other.