PMP:031 Creating a Sense of Ownership for Students

Today’s episode is in response to a listener question, “How can we create a sense of ownership for students into today’s education system?”
Although answering this question could be very long, let me ask three questions connected to mindsets I believe are important for any school:

1. As a school leader, how have you envisioned the outcomes you want all students to achieve?

Do you dream about what you want every student to achieve in your school? If you’re a high school principal, for instance, you should be able to communicate to students and parents how you want every student in your school to accomplish learning, be exposed to challenging lessons, and be involved in great activities before they walk across a stage to receive their diplomas.
Once you’ve identified the picture of what you want educate to be for students (your school’s vision and goals), then you have a message to communicate to your school community that students can own.
Each year our school we invite our freshman and their parents to an orientation assembly so that we can share out the vision we have for them as students. And we include student leaders in delivering that message. What are ways you can encourage that vision?

2. How are you including students in communicating their vision of your school?

In addition, each year our student council members identify mottos or slogans they want the entire school body to adopt so that all students rally around a common theme and emphasis on strength, excellence, or achievement. Students should be a part of the message you are communicating to your community around your school.
Whether it is in assemblies, announcements, or school promos, our student leaders participate in rallying their peers around common themes. Last year, our seniors adopted the motto “There is only one Skiatook!” They wanted to communicate that in the entire world, there was only one place like our school and community, and they were proud to be a part of a place that promoted excellence. What mottos or messages could your students be encouraging among their peers?

3. How are you embedding practices of rigor, relationship, and relevance into the instructional practices in your school?

Bill Daggett regularly shares these tenets for essential learning. Do a quick assessment of the three R’s in your school: Are you encouraging teachers to engage with students in ways that show they care about them as much as individuals as they do as scholars? Are your lessons helping them reach high levels of complex thinking and problem solving? Are you connecting their learning to world they’re preparing to enter?
A couple of years ago, I worked with a senior, Jesse Haynes, to help him develop a digital platform for the book he had just published. After he began college, he emailed to share that his first college class as a Communication Major required him to create a digital platform. He had already learned those skills from work we had done together at my high school. His learning was the outcome of an environment that valued rigor, relationship, and relevance.


How do students begin to own their educational experience? You help students own their education in your school when your vision for their education is purposeful and powerful, when you include them in communicating the vision of your school, and when you give them opportunity to learn in an environment where rigor, relationship, and relevance is emphasized.

Now It’s Your Turn

What are other ways we can help students “own their education” experience? Share those ideas, comment here, or connect via Twitter @williamdp.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker