Student-centered learning has had slow adoption in Nigerian schools because we still are stuck on traditional teaching methods. A huge reason for this is our huge dependence on standardised testing. As I stated to the educators over the weekend, there are other methods of evaluating student achievement.


“A student is almost always motivated to practice if he leaves his lessons feeling capable.” – Frances Clark

“The good teacher…knows that the best learning environment is always student-centered, never teacher-centered.” -Yvonne Enoch and James Lyke

Over the past weekend while training more than 50 educators in Kano, I sat down to discuss with the teachers what brings them joy as educators. And, I listened to the various persons share their ideal situations in which they felt happy to be educators.

As I listened, my mind wandered to what brings me absolute joy as an educator. It’s the inner glow that lights up on a child’s face when comprehension dawns upon on him or her and which mostly occurs when I flip the classroom by allowing myself to think like them and focusing on giving them ownership of their learning.

In my maths classes, one could wonder if the class was in session on certain days of the week. On those days we would discuss the news, movies, books and their personal relationships. For a long time, I really didn’t listen to rap music until my students turned me onto the joys of the spoken word format. I then taught them about patterns and sequences in music. The difference in our work was that they were applying maths concepts to work they cared about passionately. My students were subsequently more engaged and their maths comprehension greatly improved.

This is a key example of how “student-centered learning” can be deployed to serve the various needs of different students. With this method, lessons are planned around the concerns and desires of students, not the test-taking requirements of teachers and administrators.

The thing is that students learn at different paces and through different teaching styles, as I discovered through experience. Empowering them on how they are taught, and how I would assess their work meant more involvement from them. Examples of these are in the History class, when students could pick historical characters and scrutinise main events of their era from the character’s perspective. Also, Maths students may flip the class, by watching videos that depict the concepts they will be learning about and they then explain back to their teacher those concepts during class.

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What we need to break away from is the setup in our classrooms, where our students are expected to sit and listen. It is still the old factory model, in which many are simply passive learners. What we need is an active learning environment; it revs students up and gets their motivation levels on the upswing.


Student-centered learning has had slow adoption in Nigerian schools because we still are stuck on traditional teaching methods. A huge reason for this is our huge dependence on standardised testing. As I stated to the educators over the weekend, there are other methods of evaluating student achievement.

Student-centered learning provides techniques that serve as antidote to boredom as a form of torture found too often in our schools.

What we need to break away from is the setup in our classrooms, where our students are expected to sit and listen. It is still the old factory model, in which many are simply passive learners. What we need is an active learning environment; it revs students up and gets their motivation levels on the upswing.

The crucial part of enabling creativity this way is to require more accountability. Peer coach teachers should observe each other; and slid into classrooms to watch what the educators are doing, and how students are responding to them, on the basis of which observation reports are written within three days, at least.

moving away from relying so heavily on standardised tests is part of how I moved away speedily from the top-bottom, one-size-fits-all attitude about learning.

Assessment determines what gets taught and how it’s taught. When our students are focused on just cramming and pouring out information to just pass tests and examinations, they will not be prepared for the higher-level thinking required in this 21st century.

Adetola Salau, Carismalife4U@gmail.com, an advocate of STEM education, public speaker, author, and social entrepreneur, is passionate about education reform.