What is SCL?


»Student-Centred  Learning  represents both a mindset and a culture within a given higher education institution and is a learning approach which is broadly related to, and supported by, constructivist theories of learning. It is characterised by innovative methods of teaching which aim to promote learning in communication with teachers and other learners and which take students seriously as active participants in their own learning, fostering transferable skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and reflective thinking.«


Student Centred Learning is characterised by:

  • Flexibility and freedom in terms of the time and structure of learning;
  • More and better quality teachers who strive to share their knowledge;
  • A clear understanding of students by teachers;
  • A flat hierarchy within higher education institutions;
  • Teacher responsibility for student empowerment;
  • A continuous ongoing improvement process;
  • A positive attitude by teachers and students with the aim of improving the learning experience;

9 principles of SCL

Principle I: scl requires an Ongoing Reflexive Process. Part of the underlying philosophy of scl is that no one context can have one scl style that can remain applicable through time.  The philosophy of scl is such that teachers, students and institutions need to continuously reflect of their teaching, learning and infrastructural systems in such a way that would continuously improve the learning experience of students and ensure that the intended learning outcomes of a given course or programme component are achieved in a way that stimulates learners’ critical thinking and transferable skills.

Principle II: scl does not have a ›One-Size-Fits-All‹ Solution. A key concept underlying scl is the realisation that all higher education institutions are different, all teachers are different and all students are different. These all operate in very diverse contexts and deal with various subject-disciplines. Therefore, scl is a learning approach that requires learning support structures, which are appropriate to each given context, and teaching and learning styles appropriate to those undertaking them.

Principle III: Students have Different Learning Styles. Scl recognises that students have different pedagogical needs. Some learn better through trial and error, others learn through practical experience. For some learners much is learned by reading literature, others need to debate and discuss theory in order to understand it.

Principle IV: Students have Different Needs and Interests. All students have needs that extend beyond the class- room. Some are interested in cultural activities, others in sports or in representative organisations. Students can have children or can be faced with psychological conditions, illness or disability.

Principle V: Choice is Central to Effective Learning in scl. Students like to learn different things and hence any offer should involve a reasonable amount of choice. Learning can be organised in liberal formats, such as at colleges of liberal arts or choice can be offered in a more traditional, disciplinary style. 

Principle VI: Students have Different Experiences and Background Knowledge. Learning needs to be adapted to the life and professional experience of the individual concerned. For instance, if students already have considerable experience in using information and communications technology, there is no point in trying to teach them the same thing again; if they already have considerable research skills, perhaps it would be better to help them in theory. Personal experience can also be used to motivate students, for instance, by allowing students to share a personal story to illustrate a point.

Principle VII: Students should have Control Over their Learning. Students should be given the opportunity to be involved in the design of courses, curricula and their evaluation. Students should be seen as active partners who have a stake in the way that higher education functions. The best way to ensure that learning focuses more on students is by engaging students themselves in how their learning should be shaped.

Principle VIII: scl is about ›Enabling‹ not ›Telling‹. In simply imparting facts and knowledge to students (telling) the initiative, preparation and content comes mainly from the teacher. The scl approach aims to give the student greater responsibility enabling the student to think, process, analyse, synthesise, criticise, apply, solve problems, etc. . . .

Principle IX: Learning needs Cooperation between Students and Staff.It is important that students and staff co- operate to develop a shared understanding both of the problems experienced in learning, as well as their problems as stakeholders within their given institution, jointly proposing solutions that might work for both groups. In the classroom, such cooperation will have a positive effect as the two groups increasingly come to consider each other as partners. Such a partnership is central to the philosophy of scl, which sees learning as taking place in a constructive interaction between the two groups.

 More Reading

Click here to download the Student Centred Learning Toolkit developed by ESU and Education International

Click here to download the Student Centered Learning: An Insight Into Theory And Practice developed by ESU and Education International

Click here to download the Survey Analysis Time for  Student Centred Learning developed by ESU and Education International

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.