Sharing Power in the Classroom

The Balance of Power

The notion of the balance of power in the classroom is celebrated throughout Learner-Centered Instruction by MaryEllen Weimer (2002). In fact, she has an entire chapter in her book entitled The Balance of Power. The primary focus of this chapter is to bring to light the fact that many students are, in actual fact disempowered. They have little choice in the big decisions that affect their learning experiences in higher education – like assignment choices, classroom policies and assessments. Weimer notes that teacher authority in educational contexts has become the expectation, creating both dependent, unmotivated learners as well as teachers who are unaware of the extent of control they exert in the classroom. Continue reading

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(Em)Power in the Classroom Series (Part 5)

Welcome back from the dark side! That’s what I’ll say when I greet instructors and faculty members who – at some point – fell down the slippery slope of hardcore assessment only to one glorious day question their practices and the mismatch between their assessments and learning objectives – leading them to reflect, read, question and then return to the brighter side of the assessment paradigm. Continue reading

(Em)Power in the Clasroom Series (Part 3)

In this series, (Em)Power in the Classroom, we have so far considered what it might look like to share the power with students in the design of courses. In Part 1, I discussed how we worked together as a class – operating more as a learning community – to develop our class culture, our policies, our assignments, etc. I relinquished quite a bit of control in this process rather than adhering to a well-structured syllabus ‘dictating’ how the course will unfold. In Part 2, I presented our process for developing a grading system in the course – the result being a fairly fluid system that focuses more on successfully completing assignments to satisfy various criteria as measured by a simple qualitative likert scale, rather than striving for numbers and percentages equated with letter grades and based on unclear standards. Continue reading