Student Centred Learning

Student Centred Learning

What does "STUDENT CENTRED" really mean?

Every year it comes clearer to me how important it is for  learning to be focused on the individual styles of your students. 

It makes understanding more interesting, relevant and  effective when your students are in charge of their own learning. 

They learn best when they are actively engaged and when the content is tailored to their level, interests and needs.

It also means being able to let go of some control and trusting your students to take charge of their own learning.

How does this work?

Of course this depends on WHAT the student is learning. 

Is it a skill? Or a theory topic?


First off we’ll start to talk about Students learning a new skill
We’ll look at 4 steps that can be taken to make the learning more Student Centred

  1. Ownership
  2. Positive Coaching
  3. Allowing them to learn
  4. Empowerment

And then we’ll move on to making lessons Student Centred in the Classroom

Wherever you are, in the pool or in the classroom, the Students must feel that they are in a safe place.
Not only safe from danger, but safe in the knowledge that they can ask any question or say anything without fear of being ridiculed.

Either way, everyone learns in a unique way. We need to allow that to happen naturally.


FULL IDC Preparation Course

Let's focus on learning a new skill

Imagine a student will learn a new skill.

We could incorporate 4 steps:

1. Ownership

We’re all familiar with the concept of an instructor giving a “briefing”

But? Is this student centred? 

Encourage active participation. Students learn best when they are actively engaged in the material.

Imagine if….   Instead of briefings coming out of the instructor’s mouth…..

One student in your class reads out the performance requirement to the other learners.  

Instead of the instructor giving the students a value – What if you were to ask the class WHY they might need to learn this skill. Get them to tell you.

This is a great way to check for understanding and also to get them thinking about the task at hand.

It also means that they are more likely to remember what they need to do as they are the ones who are saying it out loud.

Every new skill is built on a sub-skill that they’ve already learnt. So how about you get the class to tell you how they will perform the bits that they’ve already mastered? 

How might this change the way that the students feel about the new skill? – In addition you would get closer to the emotions of your students. 

2. Positive Coaching

It’s not enough to just go through the 
How, What, Where, Why, When,  of a briefing.

It’s also important to generate:

Sense of FUN



Knowledge that it’s a SAFE place. They can cock-up, re-do, practice all without fear of reprimand. 

Give the student specific praise for how they performed the sub-skill, while restating the steps. 

Give compliments specific to the skill. 

These comments register on the subconscious and encourage a better performance. 

It’s the same methods that a top sports coach might use. 

3. Allow People to Learn

Give students the time, space and freedom to practice the new skill.

Allow people to learn.

Let go of some unnecessary control. Trust your students to take charge of their own learning.

Keep supervision tight, but both Instructor and Student needs to know that they’re in a safe and controlled environment.

Give positive coaching and of course give coaching tips to help them succeed.

Be open to change. Be flexible and adapt as needed.

Be mindful that some students might want a lot of attention while others would prefer to show you how they are progressing.

4. Empowerment

Allow the students to tell you when they feel comfortable with the skill.

Some students might feel uncomfortable if they are stopped when they still feel that they need more practice.

This will give them empowerment over their learning and also help to build their confidence.


Giving students choices doesn’t mean that you have to do everything that they ask for, but it does show that you value their opinion and that you are willing to listen to them.

When giving a confined water debriefing, give specific praise to any methods they used to overcome any initial issues. 

It takes practice! (for the instructor that is!)

Believe me! 

NO…. in fact DO NOT believe me! 

Don’t believe a word that I say.

But PLEASE try this out. 

You’ll be surprised HOW it’s:





Prove it to yourself!
Instructors new to this method need time to get familiar with the steps, but when they do, they’re always amazed at how effective it is. 

Student Centred

Student Centred Learning in the classroom

Way Back in ancient Greek days. Socrates and Plato would be very familiar with this type of teaching. 

In fact some people call it “Socratic” teaching. 

This is a method of asking questions to get people to think about what they are doing or saying.

It’s based on the idea that we learn best when we figure things out for ourselves.

The same rules apply in the classroom

The focus is putting the responsibility of HOW people learn down to them.

WHAT they are learning is down to you (or more precisely PADI) but the way that everyone learns is unique.  

If you ask a student a question, they can ONLY answer it according to their own learning style. 

If it’s only YOU that is talking, then there is so much scope for misinterpretation.

You can start by asking your students more questions. Lots of questions.

And not just yes or no questions, but open-ended questions that require them to think and reflect on what they are doing.

This will help them to understand the content better and it will also help you to gauge their understanding.


Another way to use this method is to get them to explain things back to you.

This can be done in pairs or small groups, or even as a whole class.


But the important thing is that they are the ones doing the talking.

You can prompt them with questions if you need to, but let them do most of the work.

This is a great way for them to consolidate their understanding and it will also help you to identify any areas that need clarification.

Student Centred Learning

To sum up, Student Centred Learning is allowing each of students to learn using their own individual learning style. 

They learn at their own speed and in their own way.

Many Instructors instinctively feel that this will slow down the learning process and that they would need more pool or classroom time. 

But this certainly is not the case. 
Just try it! Your Students will love you for it, and you’ll find that they learn faster and far more efficiently than before, 

If You want to learn more......

If you want to learn more about effective teaching. 

My IDC Preparation Course covers everything that’s mentioned here in MUCH more detail. 
Plus much, much, oh! much more. 
(It’s a bit like me teaching a whole IDC!!)

It covers all PADI IDC Theory, give practice with PADI Standards and has over 700 questions (and answers) that will help you monitor your own progress. 

It is perfect for all instructors as well as those preparing to join our wonderful world of teaching. 

Student Centred
Last modified: 10th January 2023
Author: Steve Prior