Student-Centered, Principle-Centered, & Principle-Centered Leadership

     Student-centered instruction (SCI),principle-centered, and principle-centered leadership is the subject matter of this discussion.  In order for the novice reader to understand the content of this post, I would like to start with the definition of student-centered?  Student-centered is an educational philosophy based on the notion, the idea of an instructional approach in which students “influence the content, activities, materials, and pace of learning. This learning model places the student (learner) in the center of the learning process.” (Collins & O’Brien, 2003).  Collins and O’Brien continues by stating that the instructor provides students with opportunities to learn independently and from one another and coaches those in the skills they need to do so effectively. The SCI approach includes such techniques as substituting active learning experiences for lectures, assigning open-ended problems and problems requiring critical or creative thinking that cannot be solved by following text examples, involving   students in simulations and role plays, and using self-paced and/or cooperative (team-based) learning. Properly implemented SCI can lead to increased motivation to learn, greater retention of knowledge, deeper understanding, and more positive attitudes towards the subject being taught.  
     In the article,“Leading a Community of Learners, Learning to be Moral by Engaging the Morality of Learning”, the author, Robert Starratt stated that the moral agenda of learners…is to find, own and engage their true, authentic selves. (Starratt, 2007)  This was a very new perspective regarding learning for me.  It had not heretofore occurred to me that the thought or the act of learning is a moral imperative.  However, after the rereading and contemplation of that statement and agreeing to a greater degree than when I had first read it, what came to mind was that wonderfully simple, but too awesome statement by Socrates, to “Know thyself!” And of course this lead to another statement by this same author, “…people make themselves appear ridiculous when they are trying to know obscure things before they know themselves.”  When educators understand and embrace the idea of “purpose”, then the educator might design a lesson plan that speaks to the moral agenda of the learner in determining purpose or at the very least encourage deep thought activity in answering the question, “What is my purpose?!”  The idea of engaging the learner in a line of instructional activities of deep, non-judgmental self-study would cause a change of paradigm. Starratt also stated that it is the moral agenda of…all the children in the classroom…not only of creating and fashioning ‘me’, but the agenda of creating ‘us’. Regarding a moral agenda, when classroom instruction is so designed from the perspective of being student-centered, when it involves critical thinking or the art of engaging the learner in the study of the authentic self, this would speak to the moral agenda of the student.  That moral agenda aggregated is that of finding, owning and engaging their true, authentic selves.
     Principal-centered learning, this idea is founded, built – established on the notion of what a school must do in connecting the learning experience to the agenda of the student-learner.  According to Starrat, one principal was being true to oneself.  “Each of them has an intrinsic moral agenda that belongs to them as full human beings.  That moral agenda is to find, create, own, and be true to themselves”  (Starratt, 2007).   Starratt (2007) went on to state this is namely the finding and choosing and fashioning themselves as individuals and as a human community.   It might have been best said by Shakespeare, “to thine oneself be true!”  The following quotes might best sum up my position on principle-centered leadership:  “The price must be paid and the process followed.  You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut. In the short run…you may be able to get by if you learn how to manipulate the man-made rules, to ‘play the game’…but secondary traits alone have no permanent worth in long-term relationships.  Eventually…the challenges of life will cause true motives to surface and human relationship failure will replace short-term success.  Many people with secondary greatness…lack primary greatness or goodness in their character”  (Covey, 1989).  Almost daily we are bombarded with the greatest examples of destitute or defective principal-centered leadership.  “The other person will know, by and large, whether one is fake, phony, selfish or trying to be something or someone other than who one is”  (Starratt, 2007).  It appears that it all comes down and/or back to that of service.  This has probably the best article I had read this fall.  It has a spiritual undertone and I think if educational community embraces its message, we might all return to our senses, Period, Case-Closed!

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