As hydrologists confront the future of water resources on a globalized, resource-scarce and human-impacted planet, the educational preparation of future generations of water scientists becomes increasingly important. Although hydrology inherits a tradition of teacher-centered direct instruction - based on lecture, reading and assignment formats - a growing body of knowledge derived from engineering education research suggests that modifications to these methods could firstly improve the quality of instruction from a student perspective, and secondly contribute to better professional preparation of hydrologists, in terms of their abilities to transfer knowledge to new contexts, to frame and solve novel problems, and to work collaboratively in uncertain environments. Here we review the theoretical background and empirical literature relating to adopting student-centered and inductive models of teaching and learning. Models of student-centered learning and their applications in engineering education are introduced by outlining the approaches used by several of the authors to introduce student-centered and inductive educational strategies into their university classrooms. Finally, the relative novelty of research on engineering instruction in general and hydrology in particular creates opportunities for new partnerships between education researchers and hydrologists to explore the discipline-specific needs of hydrology students and develop new approaches for instruction and professional preparation of hydrologists.