An empowered student is a valuable asset in the collaborative learning environment known as a classroom. Empowered students take ownership of their education and want to succeed in ways that help an instructor leverage the teaching tools available. They learn more because they learn better and approach learning with a sense of motivation and confidence because they are ready to tackle any task assigned. Thomas and Velthouse studied empowerment in the business world and created a definition in terms of the following four dimensions: meaningfulness, competence, impact, and choice. Applying these four dimensions to an academic environment holds true.
Teachers can foster empowerment among their students by applying the following suggestions:
Clarify All Assignments
Accurate descriptions of those actions required are essential if students are to be empowered and succeed. Make the tasks clear and explain what steps to take and in what order. Identify relevant resources to point students in a helpful direction.
Create Opportunities for Collaboration
Turn the classroom into a creation laboratory. Ask for student ideas and feedback. Encourage students to throw out ideas. Guide them in an exercise that brings everything together to create a final outcome. Concepts are reinforced in an energetic and engaging format. Students can apply these exercises to individual work for continued learning.
Give Students the Ability to Choose
Build in options that allow students to select material that appeals in a deeper way. Projects can be designed with different starting points. Student choices creates a sense of ownership in the outcome of the assigned project since they’ve been able to select a portion that better fits their interests.
Encourage Student Input
Give students a voice through systems that accept and encourage student feedback. In this days of social media, students can provide praise or critique in person or anonymously. Google docs, social networking sites, class blogs, etc. are all viable options that promote an open dialogue between students and faculty. This open form of communication increase the concept of partnership between students and the administration.
Also consider incorporating reasonable suggestions where possible. Students can take ownership in their academic success if they know their voice is valued and heard.
Celebrate student successes – no matter how small. Students will discover how to make learning experiences out of mistakes and use that failure as a stepping stone rather than a barrier.
Assign Meaningful and Relevant Assignments
Students learn and are more engaged when coursework is culturally relevant and applied to real-life situations. For example, teaching children about healthy finances through a fun activity that involves starting a penny jar, will get them excited and learn in a fun way. Create opportunities for students to practice what they’ve learned and apply it to real-world scenarios. Create mock environments and allow students to critique themselves. Faculty members may need assistance from professional curriculum developers to effectively capture the essence of material that relates best to the student population. Hand on or tangible assignments and examples also leave a lasting impact.
Incorporate Technology In a Meaningful Way
Incorporate your student’s affinity for technology by using it to enhance your classroom time. Broaden the student’s’ opportunity to learn by using the power of mobile and connected devices. Let your students teach you how to use any new technology that you’re less familiar with. Rather than shun new tools and disconnect, use technology to help your students relate to the course material and a deeper way.
Empowerment can be achieved with small changes that don’t cost a lot of money or take time. When done in a meaningful way, students and teachers will better appreciate their time in the classroom. The results will create a lasting foundation upon which students can continue to build.