Smiling Black female and male high school students work together at a laptop. while other students work independently in the background.

Purposeful, Valuable Learning: Foster Learners With Autonomy and Drive

The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.

– Ralph G. Nichols

Guiding Question

How do you create an environment where students enjoy learning because it feels purposeful and valuable to them?


How Many of Your Students Are Really Being Heard?

  • Reflect and write down your thoughts on how you are engaging your students to share their experiences and what they need from schools.
    • What groups of students at your school need to be listened to more?
  • Generate 3 ideas about how you as a leader can engage these groups in the next 3 months.

Student Ownership of Learning

  • Read this summary — based on Inflexion’s research on how to foster learners with autonomy, drive, and endurance.
    • Focus specifically on Page 3 where you will see examples of the instructional routines and school rituals that support ownership of learning, sense of belonging, and social-emotional skills.
  • Write down 3 things you can do at your school to transform the student experience schoolwide.
    • These will be useful notes to keep as you work with your leadership team on making a plan.
  • Reflect on how these can be connected to your site’s Student Outcomes as well as the ideas you generated about your students being heard.

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Student Cell Phone Policy: Best Practices for Student Success

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Conduct Empathy Interviews: Elevating Student Voices, So You Can Understand and Support Them

Empathy Interviews provide an opportunity to really understand a student, or group of students, by diving deeper than the surface-level question, “How are you?” and receiving the typical response, “I’m fine.” These interviews inform intentional classroom and school-level action by elevating student voices and garnering a better understanding of student needs (SEL and well-being), and experiences (engagement). This resource provides step-by-step instructions on how to conduct an empathy interview.