Design a student-centred curriculum for dynamic learning

Student-centred learning design promotes engagement, critical thinking and problem-solving, which leads to enhanced real-world skills. M. C. Zhang and Aliana Leong share their strategies


2 Mar 2023
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Student-centred learning design prioritises the unique needs and inclinations of each student. This pedagogical orientation in universities makes the student the focal point of the learning process, emphasising the active participation, critical examination and problem-solving skills of the learner.

In this learning environment, students are empowered to take a proactive role in their education and assume responsibility for their own learning trajectory. This can be facilitated through pedagogical strategies that include collaborative, enquiry-based and project-based learning. These methods permit students to engage with real-world issues and hone their critical-thinking skills through hands-on experiences.

A primary advantage of student-centred learning is that it provides students with the opportunity to personalise their education and concentrate on topics that are of particular interest to them. This can result in a deeper engagement with the material, which, in turn, leads to a more thorough comprehension and retention of information. Furthermore, student-centred learning can enhance motivation and creativity and foster independence in the learning process.

Another significant aspect of student-centred learning is its ability to connect the classroom with the real world. By examining real-world problems, students can gain a more profound understanding of the practical applications of the concepts they are studying. For example, in a class on customer relationship management, role play based on students’ own experiences not only increases motivation but also prepares them for future careers.

Making student-centred learning work

For student-centred learning to be successful, educators must embrace a flexible teaching style and be receptive to adapting to the needs and interests of their students. This might involve modifying teaching materials, reconfiguring the learning environment or adjusting the pedagogical strategies used.

Student-centred learning design places the unique needs and interests of each student at the forefront. Understanding students’ individual trajectories is key to personalising their learning and motivating them to develop their own intellectual identities. Promoting active engagement, critical thinking and problem-solving leads students to a deeper understanding of the material, improved retention of information, heightened motivation and enhanced real-world skills. By placing students at the centre of the learning process, university educators can cultivate a dynamic and engaging educational environment that prepares students for future success.

The student-centred classroom should give students autonomy, so they don’t rely on teachers to complete learning tasks. At the same time, teachers need to encourage students to acquire effective learning strategies and skills through reflection and communication.

Practical tips to enrich learning

Making university learning fun and interesting requires creativity, innovation and a student-centred approach. In my classes in organisation behaviour, I use different strategies. These might help you to make university learning more enjoyable:

  1. Incorporate authentic activities and projects: Hands-on activities and real-world projects can make learning more engaging and relevant. For example, students can work on group projects that involve solving real-world problems or creating a product that addresses a specific need.
  2. Encourage critical thinking and problem-solving: I encourage critical thinking and problem-solving through enquiry-based learning such as debate, case studies and real-world scenarios.
  3. Foster collaboration: Group activities, discussions and team-based projects can make university learning more enjoyable. I encourage students to speak freely in class and not judge whether their responses are right or wrong. Some gifts for students are also an incentive.
  4. Personalise learning: A variety of learning opportunities, such as online resources, self-paced modules and flexible assessment options, can make learning more personalised.
  5. Encourage creativity: Project-based learning, open-ended questions and encouraging students to think outside the box foster creativity and can also help to make university learning fun and interesting.

Learning that is fun and memorable

Beyond that, here are strategies that other disciplines can use to make university learning more enjoyable and memorable.

  1. Gamification: Incorporating game-like elements – such as points, rewards and competition – can make learning more engaging and enjoyable. For example, in a history class, students could be divided into groups and given points for participating in class discussions or for correctly answering questions.
  2. Hands-on learning: Activities such as laboratory experiments, group projects and field trips can help students connect the material to real-world experiences. For example, in a biology class, students participate in a dissection lab to learn about anatomy.
  3. Interactive lectures: Interactive lectures that incorporate activities such as group discussions, role play and brainstorming sessions can keep students engaged and increase their understanding of the material. For example, in a political science class, students could participate in a debate or mock trial to learn about the legal system.
  4. Technology integration: Technology such as online quizzes, videos and interactive simulations can make learning more interactive and engaging. For example, in a psychology class, students could take an online quiz to test their understanding of different theories.
  5. Real-world applications: Connecting course material to real-world problems or issues can make learning more relevant and interesting. For example, in a marketing class, students could participate in a marketing campaign for a local non-profit organisation.

Curiosity and motivation

By incorporating these strategies and others, university educators can make learning more enjoyable and engaging for their students. The goal is to create a dynamic and interactive learning environment that fosters student curiosity and motivation.

In conclusion, making university learning fun and interesting requires a commitment to student-centred learning and a willingness to be creative and innovative. By incorporating hands-on activities, fostering critical thinking and problem-solving, using technology, encouraging collaboration, personalising learning and promoting creativity, educators can create a dynamic and engaging learning environment that prepares students for future success.

M. C. Zhang is assistant professor and Aliana Leong is dean and professor, both at the School of Liberal Arts at Macau University of Science and Technology.

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