Student Autonomy and Empowerment

When students feel their teachers are open to their ideas and allow them to make choices regarding their learning and schoolwork, they are more engaged in school,1,2 less disruptive in class,3 and report feeling a stronger sense of belonging and connectedness to their school.3,4

Students reported feeling more connected to their school and peers when they felt that students in their school:

  • were given the chance to help make decisions.
  • had a say in how things work.
  • got to help decide some of the rules.
  • were asked by their teachers what they want to learn about.
  • got to help decide how class time was spent.4
Illustration of teacher empowering student in classroom

Student Autonomy and Empowerment

These skills can help provide students with opportunities for autonomy and empowerment in the classroom.

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  1. Hafen CA, Allen JP, Mikami AY, Gregory A, Hamre B, Pianta RC. The pivotal role of adolescent autonomy in secondary school classrooms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 2012;41(3):245-255.
  2. Ruzek EA, Hafen CA, Allen JP, Gregory A, Mikami AY, Pianta RC. How teacher emotional support motivates students: The mediating roles of perceived peer relatedness, autonomy support, and competence. Learning and instruction. 2016;42:95-103.
  3. Kiefer SM, Pennington S. Associations of teacher autonomy support and structure with young adolescents’ motivation, engagement, belonging, and achievement. Middle grades research journal. 2017;11(1).
  4. Acosta J, Chinman M, Ebener P, Malone PS, Phillips A, Wilks A. Understanding the relationship between perceived school climate and bullying: A mediator analysis. Journal of school violence. 2019;18(2):200-215.
  5. Search Institute. Building developmental relationships during the COVID-19 crisis. Published 2020. Accessed September, 2020.
  6. Michigan MTSS Technical Assistance Center. Classroom PBIS for online learning. Published 2020. Accessed September, 2020.
  7. Nordegren C. 3 reasons to use formative assessment in your virtual instruction- And tips on how to go about it. Published 2020. Accessed September, 2020.