School Culture of Student Empowerment

While many of us have been intuitively oriented toward empowerment-based teaching strategies from the outset of our careers, we may feel the need for training or support to further develop our skills and abilities in this area. Many of us are seeking opportunities to learn skills and strategies to support new ways of working.

We may find many actual or potential sources of support within our own schools and communities.

As discussed, with a little research we may sometimes discover precious services and resources provided by relevant organizations and services in the community. Support can also come in the form of like-minded individuals within our school community, be they colleagues, administrators, parents or caregivers. Identifying and approaching allies can transform our efforts to bring change to our own practise and to our school environment. At the very least, we will likely feel stronger and more confident when we are working with others with a similar perspective.

We encourage greater sharing of our perspective when we strive to model and demonstrate the value and impact of empowerment-based education.

Trying It
  • Introduce it in increments: Within our schools, we can introduce the concept of youth empowerment in increments, beginning with simple, non-threatening situations in which we enable students to take initiative and take control. From there, we can slowly build toward more highly student-driven initiatives, gradually increasing the degree of power sharing as we gain the trust and confidence of our colleagues.
  • Share successes: We can take advantage of each and every example—however big or small—of successful student-led initiatives in order to demonstrate student capacity. We can take the initiative to showcase those successes by making a presentation, or inviting students to share their experience, perhaps on a pedagogical day.
  • Share our own learning: When we develop a project, lesson plan or unit through which we have given students choices over their learning, we can share these with our colleagues. We can try to illustrate the power and benefits of students’ engagement with their learning through these examples.
  • Inviting others in: We can invite our colleagues over and over to join in our efforts to build student capacity and foster youth empowerment.

Believing in our students’ potential and their very real capacity to share power with adults is a cornerstone of student empowerment. When our school’s culture reflects and reinforces this belief, we’ve made a quantum leap towards the realization of this vision.