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Student Centeredness: Home

research guide for the 2018 Student Success Conference

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Defining "student centered"

What makes a university authentically "student centered"? Does student centeredness suggest a certain approach to advising and instruction, a specific type of relationship between students and other groups on campus, or something else entirely? Research demonstrates that there are many possible definitions and manifestations of student centeredness in higher education today. This guide provides resources to explore several different theoretical and practical approaches to the topic, so everyone — faculty, staff, and students — can decide how to make student centeredness work for their unique goals and contexts.

At the 2018 Student Success Conference, the Carolina community is investigating the relationship between student centeredness and student success by considering the following questions:  

  • What does it mean for a public research university to be student centered, and how does this student centeredness matter to student success?
  • How has this concept been applied to undergraduate student success broadly and at Carolina?
  • What are the benefits of a student-centered approach to working with today’s undergraduates?
  • How can faculty and staff at Carolina apply concepts and strategies of student centeredness to their current work with undergraduate students?  

Conference participants can use the resources provided in this guide to inform their discussions of these questions, and also to follow up on the conference by researching topics of interest and integrating theory into their everyday practice as university faculty, staff, or students.

Featured article: "What is student centeredness and is it enough?"

The keynote for the 2018 Student Success Conference addresses a question posed by Australian researcher, college director, and professor Janet Taylor in her article for the The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education. As you read Taylor's piece, consider the many possible definitions and applications of "student-centredness," as well as the strengths and limitations of a student-centered approach.

"It is essential that students and their views continue to be considered, but using student-centred as a catch-all for a diverse range of practices may not be enough to support learning of diverse students. This paper has presented an argument not against the spirit of student-centred but for a reconsideration and clarification of the term and its use. The question is what form should this clarification take?" (44).

Student centeredness at UNC

Kelly Hogan: taking a student-centered approach to STEM instruction

By revamping her pedagogy to be more student centered, Kelly Hogan has eliminated the achievement gap for first-generation students and cut the achievement gap in half for black students in her 400-person introductory biology courses. "By closing achievement gaps, we can produce more scientists and engaged scholars," Hogan writes. She adds that a student-centered approach also benefits her as an instructor: "Moving away from the instructor-centered classroom was a much better fit for my personality. ... With my student-centered approaches in the high structure classroom, I feel totally comfortable in my own shoes. I facilitate the learning without long monologues and do what an expert in the room does best: clarify and explain. Best of all, I get a chance to engage with individual students while I take these moments to regroup before reconvening the whole class again."

Viji Sathy: improving student outcomes with a flipped classroom

Viji Sathy received a grant from UNC's Center for Faculty Excellence to redesign the course structure of Statistical Principles of Psychological Research, a large introductory statistics class. By recording online videos for students to view before class, Sathy was able to cut lectures by approximately 75 percent and devote more class time to active learning. "I liked that the format I implemented gave me more opportunities to interact with students one-on-one,” Sathy reflects. “It felt like I was more accessible to them.” After Sathy flipped her classroom, the percentage of students receiving As and Bs increased from 25.7 percent to 39 percent and historically underperforming student groups scored higher on the final exam. 

Suchi Mohanty

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Suchi Mohanty
House Undergraduate Library

Education Librarian

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Nora Burmeister

Carolina Academic Library Associate

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Cait Kennedy