Student Autonomy

Empowering Students In the Classroom


When I think of change that needs to happen in Education, my immediate thought goes toward student autonomy. To be autonomous as a student is to be able to independently manage the freedom one has in the classroom, while maintaining a harmonious relationship with the teacher.

For a student to be autonomous, a student must realize:

  • They have a voice
  • Their voice matters
  • It will be heard
  • It will make a difference

Here are a few practices a teacher can use to foster an atmosphere that encourages students to be autonomous in the classroom:

  1. Give students a choice: It’s important for students to have a choice in the classroom because it ignites their independence, curiosity, creativity and therefore creates critical thinkers. Give choices when it comes to topic selection, group members, material to read, deadlines, and many other things that matter in the classroom.
  2. Ask students for their opinion: There’s nothing better to build confidence than have someone ask you for your opinion. Show students that their opinion is important in the classroom, and to you! “When should the deadline for our next assignment be”? help them make that decision with you!
  3. Trust that they will make the right decision: Take the training wheels off and let go! You will be surprised to see what happens when there is less oversight. Students feel more relaxed and comfortable in an environment where there is no pressure on them to do xyz.
  4. Give students responsibilities: when students feel that you have taken great care in assigning them a task to be their sole responsibility, many of them exceed expectation during progress and upon completion. They will take charge of the task and be very proud with the end result.
  5. Provide them with feedback: Without feedback, students will not be able to build or own their confidence let alone have autonomy in the classroom. Critical feedback, when done empathetically and constructively helps build students’ awareness of their learning process. This will help them effectively manage their thoughts and ideas better in the classroom. More importantly it will build confidence in themselves by allowing them to reflect on their own thoughts and ideas.
  6. Foster a safe and friendly environment: The classroom needs to be a safe space where students can express themselves freely and openly without judgement. This mandate needs to be clarified at the beginning of the year for everyone in order for them to realize that the teacher is on their side.
  7. Speak to them as your equals: Students need to be shown the same respect and courtesy that we demand from others. They are very important people who have a voice, who can and will make a difference. They are the future generation. They need to feel empowered and respected for their thoughts and opinions in order for them to be able to manage and express them meaningfully.

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