Empowering students enables excellent learning. I once heard a principal say, “Teaching is what teachers do TO students. Learning is what students do with teachers and for themselves.” When education becomes a collaborative effort in a climate that promotes communication, critical thinking, and social and emotional well-being, students develop the confidence to think, question, and learn new information. An empowered student believes he or she is capable of learning anything. There is nothing they cannot achieve.
In the 1940s and ’50s, educational philosopher John Dewey promoted the idea that children learn best by doing. It was a radical idea that took years for educators to embrace. Unlike the previous behavioural and cognitive educational theories which focused on the instructor, collaboration and project-based learning was a student-focused method of instruction. Knowledge could be obtained by students working together as well as independently. Groups could be self-directed or facilitated by an adult who monitored the group’s focus. With collaboration, students felt like they could ask more questions, experiment with different ideas, and go beyond the limitations of a direct assignment from an instructor. Empowering students lets them think they can stretch the restrictions imposed by the teacher. Collaboration is considered one of the foundational skills of learning in the 21st century. Improve high school students’ learning through the power of collaboration.
As immigration patterns change and the Internet influences the language in a classroom and the phrases a student hears, it is critical to understand the social meaning behind the words. In Australia, the indigenous Australian people use the word deadly to mean excellent or healthy. The Indigenous-led healthy living initiative, called Deadly Choices, communicated through social networking sites to talk with local tribes about reducing sexually transmitted diseases, smoking cessation, and the risk of chronic conditions, such as diabetes. The program was designed for Social Networking Sites (SNS) because that was where it could reach the most people. Empowering students or any learner to take responsibility for their education. Modern people all over the world use social media sites to get both their news and their entertainment. Communicating through social media in Australia brings excellent results.
Developing critical thinking skills requires empowering students to become independent learners. Critical thinking occurs in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. It is something that is underdeveloped in young children and grows as they mature; however, this kind of thinking can be stunted if it is not adequately taught and modelled in the classroom. One of the leading advocates of critical thinking in the United States, Colin Seale, states, “We expressly reject the myth that certain students are “too low” for critical thinking and that certain families are “not educated enough” to foster a critical thinking environment. The real challenge is that genius is distributed equally, but opportunity is not.”
Teachers must model and allow opportunities for students to struggle with high level problem-solving so that they can learn from the experience. To evaluate and synthesise information requires practice and time. Simple recall and comprehension occur more quickly and with less effort. Empowering students gives them the confidence to believe they can solve real-world problems and apply that learning to extreme situations in the real world.
The words social and emotional are often grouped, but what do they represent when it comes to empowering students?
Social wellness means that a student respects and can interact with others, even though they may not share the same opinions. Developing the ability to listen and communicate about new ideas in a healthy manner takes practice. High school debate is an excellent opportunity for students to build their argument, understand the boundaries of civil discourse, and the rules of community engagement. Socratic seminar is a technique that can even be successful with younger students. It teaches students how to look at a problem from different perspectives. Also, it can help students learn how to interpret and analyse new information. Here is a fascinating study about the effectiveness of doing a Socratic Seminar in a science classroom.
This kind of learning fosters social wellness empowering students to take risks. Emotional Well-Being is a hot topic among educators today. A new publication, emotional poverty in all demographics, by Dr Ruby Payne, looks at the increasing number of students that turn to violence in school because they are unable to regulate their emotional well-being.
Dr Payne teaches techniques that teachers and counsellors can use to help a student learn to control their emotions and overcome their feelings of shame. Dr Payne defines shame as feeling “less than” and “separate from” the others in a group. It is something you are ashamed of that you are powerless to change, such as being bullied for your race or your height. It is different from the feeling of guilt, which is how you feel for doing something for which you can be forgiven, such as being late or forgetting your homework.
An emotionally healthy student can make mistakes and learn from them. They are Empowering students to take risks, learn, collaborate, think critically, and communicate with others. The greatest gift we can give our students is to enable them to seek the answers to the questions they have and share their learning with others. That is when we know we have done our job as teachers well.