Learning centers are areas of a classroom set up according to subject, the current class theme or academic level. These centers provide students the opportunity to learn through engagement, observation and experimentation. With this type of differentiated learning, the teacher's role becomes that of a guide rather than educator, as she encourages students to become active participants in the learning process. Due to high praise and apparent success, learning centers are becoming more popular; however, they are not without disadvantages.
Learning Centers Are Time-Consuming
The process of setting up various learning centers within a classroom takes time. Not only does it consume the teacher's time to set up the initial centers, but the very nature of learning centers requires that they be changed several times throughout the year. Additionally, teachers are charged with the tasks of cleaning and maintaining the centers on a regular basis. During the school day, valuable time is used during the students' rotation from one center to the next, as well as when materials are put away at the end of a session.
Learning Centers Are Costly
With many schools facing yearly budget cuts, setting up learning centers has become more difficult, often resulting in the teacher spending her own money to create quality centers for the classroom. Even when shopping at dollar stores or thrift shops, the teacher is likely to spend a good deal of her own money to adequately set up four or five different centers. Keep in mind, more expenses will be incurred when the time to update the centers arrives.
Learning Centers Require Space
While learning centers appear to work well with small classes, they are a nightmare for teachers with larger classes. Learning center guidelines suggest that no more than five students work at any one station during a given period. That being the case, large classes require seven or more centers, which will likely encompass much of the classroom and leave little room for desks or tables.
Learning Centers Are Noisy
Learning centers encourage children to learn through various methods, including communication with others at their station. This leads to what some have labeled, “controlled chaos.” The noise level often rises above that which is deemed acceptable, making it difficult for the teacher to regain the students' attention. Likewise, some students have the tendency to become distracted and disoriented by the noise.
Learning Centers Affect Self-Esteem
Many feel that learning centers set up according to certain academic levels are degrading to the students and promote lack of self-esteem. Some students may quickly recognize the arrangement and compare themselves and their abilities with those of their classmates. This area of categorization also affects the teacher, who is naturally prone to spend more time with struggling students than with those who are gifted.
Learning Centers Require Special Training
Most teachers have not received training for differentiated instruction. For this reason, teachers who utilize learning centers in their classrooms must undergo specific training and a period of adjustment. This training dips into school funding and resources and requires a great deal of staff involvement outside regular school hours.
- Teacherlinx: Differentiated Learning--The Pros and Cons
- Wisconsin Education Association Council: Although Some Voice Doubts, Advocates Say Differentiated Instruction Can Raise the Bar for All Learners
- ABC Teach: Learning Centers
- NY Teachers: Benefits and Disadvantages of Using Centers in Elementary Classrooms
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