Skip to main content

Empowering Students with Voice and Choice

We want students to be creative, critical thinkers. We want them to rewrite the rules as life-long learners and critical thinking citizens. It’s a mindset of self-direction and student ownership and it begins by empowering students with voice and choice. Scroll down to find articles, videos, and free resources to get started on your design thinking journey.

From Compliance to Engagement to Empowerment

We often talk about what it means to move from compliance to engagement. It’s the idea of creating an environment where students want to learn rather than have to learn. This is that top level of engagement, where students are highly committed and highly focused. But I wonder how often we stop there, with committed and focused students who aren’t getting the chance to own their learning.

If we want students to be creative, self-directed learners, we need to go beyond student engagement and into empowerment. They need to own the learning. My friend George describes this as a continuum based upon student agency.


Note that highly engaging environments often promote empowerment because they focus on student agency and ownership. The moment you add student ownership to student engagement, you have empowerment.

Some quick nuance here. Compliance isn’t always a bad thing. When the fire drill goes off, I want students to comply. Engagement isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes I want to engage students in learning something that they will find intriguing and interesting. After all, the highly engaging environment of the pioneer museum led the students to a place where they wanted to own their learning. But too often, students in school remain in a space between compliance and engagement, never getting the opportunity to own their learning.

Articles on Choice and Empowerment

The following are the articles I’ve written on what it means to empower students with voice and choice. Note that I continue to update this and revise this, so be sure to bookmark this page an come back to revisit it periodically.

The Benefits  to Students

Making the Shift

Instructional Strategies for Student Choice

Student Ownership of the Assessment  Process

Examples of Student-Centered Projects and Strategies

Video Playlist

What Is Included:

  • Sample student-centered projects , complete with videos, slideshows, lesson plans, and a student notebook
  • The Empower Blueprint eBook
  • A suite of assessments you can use as you implement design thinking
  • Structures you can use as you shift toward student ownership

Get the Toolkit

Please leave your email address below and click the yellow subscribe button to receive the free design thinking toolkit. It includes a free design thinking project, an eBook, and a suite of assessments. I will also send you a weekly email with free, members-only access to my latest blog posts, videos, podcasts and resources to help you boost creativity and spark innovation in your classroom.