Student Empowerment

Student Empowerment encompasses a student-centered experience, guided by individual interests, self-knowledge, and agency. Learning approaches, including universal practices and additional supports, are molded by student voice and choice. An engaging, inclusive environment empowers every student. Self-reflection and goal orientation are integral components of their regular learning journey, fostering a sense of ownership and active participation in their educational growth.

Statements Depicting the Ideal Pursuit of a School

  • The student experience is guided by student interest and emphasizes self-knowledge and student agency.
  • Approaches to learning (universal practices and additional supports) are shaped by student voice and choice.
  • Every student encounters an engaging, empowering, and inclusive learning environment.
  • Self-reflection and goal orientation are integral to every student’s regular learning experience.

Points of Emphasis

  • Students who feel empowered are students who are ready to learn. Learning assumes high levels of engagement. Engagement assumes high levels of connection. Connection assumes students feel like they belong. 
  • Historically and currently, there are students who feel empowered while others do not.
  • Arguably, the two most important student outcomes in the K-12 system is (a) a sense of purpose, assume self awareness, and (b) the ability of a student to own their own learning.  

Key Resources


“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.”- Anatole France

“Student voice is already there. It’s not something we give. It’s something we honor. And we do when we listen.”- Monte Syrie

“Voice and chose can allow students to explore their passions and feel honored for their ideas and opinions.”- Andrew Miller

“In order to secure and strengthen democracy and education, students must be integrated and student voice must be infused throughout the structure of schools”- Adam Fletcher

“Our job is not to prepare students for something. Our job is to help students prepare themselves for anything.”– A.J. Juliani

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.- W.B. Yeats

Reflection Prompts

  • Are your students empowered to change your school for the better?
  • Are students encouraged to advocate for what they need when they need it?
  • What do your students feel empowered to do as leaders? What barriers are in their paths to feeling empowered?
  • Envision your students one year in the future– what schoolwide initiative would you like to see your students leading?
  • Reflect on what you are already doing schoolwide to empower your students. What could you do in the coming month to ensure your students feel empowered? In the coming year?

All Toolkit Resources

  • Supporting Your School Community: Culturally Responsive Trauma-Informed Teaching

    While research has shown school-wide trauma-informed practices benefit all students, one-size-fits-all programs don’t work. Mainstream approaches to trauma-informed practices often fail to address or prevent trauma, and at worst can actually perpetuate harm. In order for trauma-informed practices to be meaningful for students—their teachers and school leaders must question whether those practices are being rolled…

  • 5-Point Intervention Approach: Implementing PBIS with a Racial Equity Mindset

    Many schools are implementing PBIS in efforts to reduce racial disproportionality in school discipline. Research shows that schools implementing PBIS with fidelity have more equitable school discipline, but eliminating disproportionality requires a specific equity focus. This resource highlights specific strategies and free Center on PBIS resources for enhancing the cultural responsiveness of PBIS systems.

  • Implementing PBIS: 6 Challenges and 7 Supports to Consider for Your Schoolwide Program

    Effectively implementing a schoolwide PBIS system that is equitable and meets the needs of all students may feel like a fairy tale. But by understanding the barriers to successful implementation and the supports needed to overcome them, school leaders can better prepare for and modify PBIS at their sites.

  • Dos and Don’ts of PBIS: 10 Ways to Increase Equity and Authentic Positive Reinforcement

    Instead of ditching the entire philosophy and practice of PBIS, we need to be aware of and prevent implicit biases from influencing our systems and practices.

  • Ditch the Clip: PBIS Alternatives to the Clip Chart

    Clip charts have been a common classroom strategy for many years. Once considered an effective tool for displaying behavioral progress and adherence to classroom rules, they may not be as helpful as once thought. [These] strategies are inconsistent with a PBIS approach and, more importantly, can be harmful. [This resource from ‍The Center on PBIS]…

  • Just Breathe: Teach Your Students Belly Breathing for Self-Regulation and Well-Being

    Managing your feelings requires the ability to respond to strong emotions in an appropriate way. In this belly breathing for kids activity, students will learn a new strategy for how to remain calm during stressful situations.