Creating a Student-Centered Learning Environment

Posted on Categories Classroom Management, Curriculum Planning, Online Learning Tools & Resources, Student Engagement

At a Glance

Explicit assignment and task completion expectations, expanded use of technology, and creation of electronic portfolios are some of the strategies instituted by an HVAC instructor who wanted to create a more student-centered learning environment.


Emphasis on theory unrelated to practice has been replaced with authentic, student-directed activities using more technology, such as Plickers, a free app that allows an entire class to answer a question and have those answers immediately appear on a classroom board. Individually or collaborating in small groups, students develop objectives for the lesson being taught, determine strategies that will help them master content, establish criteria for assessment, and deliver PowerPoint or Google Slide presentations that are open to full class discussion. Students also are required to create electronic portfolios that showcase their work in both theory activities and lab projects. Many of the strategies are supported by Technical Assistance Program (TAP) tools such as data-driven observations and conclusions based on student performance, use of MAX teaching strategies, engagement with the CTDSL, and observation of a master teacher at a different CTC.

Origin / Implementation

Recognizing students’ low assessment scores, incompletion of POS tasks, and apparent lack of engagement, Instructor Matthew Zampetti knew significant change was needed in his instructional approach. He attributed the lack of student engagement to an over-emphasis on theory and little connection between theory and practice and decided that the remedy was more student-directed activity. Besides wanting to increase student engagement, Mr. Zampetti sought to improve academic and occupational student performance, meet 21st century learning needs, and increase his own enjoyment of teaching.

In fall 2016, Mr. Zampetti determined to create what he calls a “21st century classroom.” While visiting a similar program at another CTC, the instructor witnessed higher levels of student engagement and believed part of this was due to the use of technology. In addition, Mr. Zampetti saw a different and more interactive way of running shop work in the class. Using ideas he observed, Mr. Zampetti has changed the way he teaches and requires students to create portfolios that include pictures (taken by students) of their work.

Results / Impact

Test scores are up, absenteeism is down, and students are completing significantly more POS tasks. The instructor is enjoying teaching more and said, “I will never again teach as I was taught.”


Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technical Center
Matthew Zampetti, HVAC Instructor

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