In the classroom, teachers can teach with a learner-centered approach or a subject-centered approach to curriculum. In general, a learner-centered approach focuses on individual students, while a subject-centered curriculum is more about the material that is taught in class.
According to Manning and Bucher, a learner-centered curriculum places priority the student’s needs, well-being, self-esteem, and attitudes (83). The emphasis is on what the students need to be successful, and in the context of a middle school classroom, this often means attention must be paid to the development of these early adolescents. The learner-centered curriculum also goes as far as focusing on the individuality of students, not just the learners themselves. Again, in regards to development, this is important for middle school students—as individuals, all middle school students are at a different stage of development. Then when deciding how class material will be addressed, learner-centered curriculum focuses on individual students or small groups. Because of this, students get to be closer to the material they learn, and education becomes more hands-on. A fourth characteristic of learner-centered curriculum relates to the content of classroom material. According to Manning and Bucher, teachers in a learner-centered classroom focus on the “personal and social problems young adolescents might face” (83). Instead of focusing only on academic content, the lives of individual students and their experience become topics in the classroom. Finally, learner-centered curriculum allows for student input in deciding what content should be covered in class. Students are given the opportunity to contribute their ideas to the lessons teachers prepare. A classroom with too much emphasis on being-learner centered was something I experienced as a seventh grader. My geography teacher at the time was more concerned about making his class “fun” and focusing on the social lives of my classmates, and, as a result, we learned very little geography that year.
In contrast, a subject-centered curriculum focuses on the actual subject matter, not the learners in the classroom. Focus is instead placed on students’ cognitive development and how they acquire and maintain the subject matter presented in class. While a learner-centered curriculum approach looks at individual students, the subject-centered approach is more about the whole class. The large group is emphasized over the the needs of individuals, and thus it becomes more of a priority to have all students on the same page. Also, while work in a learner-centered curriculum is often completed by individuals, the subject-centered approach involves more large group lectures and discussions. The class as a whole becomes involved in the same learning process, instead of splitting students up. A fourth component of the subject-centered curriculum relates to the main ideas of lessons. While a learner-centered...