Students are taking over, and teachers approve


Maya McClain

Seniors, Angela Pandit and Danielle Nauman, working on their articles for Honors Journalism.

By Maya McClain, Pleasant Valley High School

Historically, teacher-led classrooms have been the status quo. Students have spent their school days listening to teachers lecture at them class period after class period. However, a recent fad has begun to emerge.

The new concept of student-led and student-centered classrooms has surfaced in schools across the nation and offers benefits that traditional classrooms cannot. They allow students more freedom and hands on learning experiences that will better prepare them for life after high school.

Two notable examples here at Pleasant Valley of this type of set-up are the Honors Journalism course and Publications. Both of the classes are run by students with teacher, Maureen Dyer, acting as an adviser. The Honors Journalism course has been up and running for three years now. And, while Publications started six years ago, it has evolved considerably into the student-centered classroom that it is today.

Junior, Hannah Lederman, has experienced this classroom style in both Publications and in her math class sophomore year, Advanced Algebra and Trig. “AAT was my favorite class because I decided my pace and effort each day. When I stumbled, I still had a teacher there to help me but it allowed me to be an intrinsic learner,” said Lederman.

Being a part of the publications class and working both on the print newspaper and yearbook, she has also experienced many different aspects of student-led classrooms. “I have been able to be in charge of certain things with the Shield or yearbook and it has helped prepare me for my future better than many other classes,” Lederman commented.

She admitted that sometimes the style has its drawbacks due to leadership problems, and others not meeting expectations, but all in all it has been a pleasant experience. Lederman said she would recommend the classes to her peers and underclassmen, “It is the best resource you have to prepare yourself for any future endeavors, and it gives you the freedom to express the intrinsic learner in you.”

Other classes that offer more student-led or student-centered classrooms include: The construction courses, the robotics and computer courses, the culinary courses, and others such as the AP Government, AP French, and AP lang course that incorporate student-led activities inside of more traditional classes.

Teacher, Sara Russell, teaches the AP Government course and incorporates many student-led discussions and activities inside of her more traditional classroom. Some activities include a mock congress where students write their own bills and debating them, the election/campaign unit, and the Federalist/Anti-federalist debates.

Russell believes, like in any other classes, “The key to effective activity is to make expectations very clear. Like any lesson or activity, each time you do it you find things you want to change to improve it for the next time.”

Russell agrees that student-led classrooms are beneficial. She said, “Like everything in education, there is a time and a place for these types of activities. I don’t think you can do student-led all the time, but when used they can lead to increased engagement, ownership of the activity by students, and student achievement.”

This story was originally published on Spartan Shield on December 18, 2018.