How to Teach Kids to Take Ownership of Their Education

Teachers exist for a reason, but, as any teacher is probably reluctant to admit, the impact they have on their students is limited by how much a child wants to be taught.

Children are naturally curious, but curiosity doesn’t always equate to a desire to be educated. Not to mention, the more that parents get involved, the less autonomy and responsibility falls on the shoulders of the students, resulting in a lackadaisical pursuit of knowledge, skills, and education.

This is why it’s important to encourage our kids and students to be accountable for their education, teaching them to find value in self-efficacy, self-motivation, and pursuing paths that are actually of interest to them. Before we get into the how of teaching kids to take ownership of their education, let’s discuss what a child who owns their education looks like.

Children with Ownership

A child who owns their education isn’t necessarily one who is always motivated, attentive, or a “teacher’s pet.” While they can certainly display all of these things, a child who owns their education is insatiably curious, able to problem-solve with creativity, and most importantly, willing and able to find value in subjects that are of less interest or aren’t their strong suits.

While a few children appear to be born with these innate characteristics, this is not the case for most students. As parents and teachers, our job is to cultivate a healthy sense of independence and self-determination within the youth.

With that in mind, here are some teaching and parenting techniques to raise kids who take ownership of their education and flourish in their own way, on their own terms.

  • Take a backseat. Though American schools revolve around a teacher-led approach, your teaching is should not be the classroom’s central focus. Think of yourself as the guide rather than the master, and open up to learning as much (if not more) from the students as they learn from you.
  • Get their input. Instead of solely focusing on and testing the “facts,” ask your pupils to contribute self-reflective, opinion-based questions. Not only does this clue you into what’s going on in the lives of your students, but it also provides feedback on what they’re actually digesting and integrating from your lessons.
  • Be cautious about issuing “busy work” and excess homework. Too much classwork can keep students in a constant state of anxiety and create a pattern of needing to feel “productive” all the time. However, by employing a little reverse psychology and giving students strategic breaks from learning, you can prevent burnout and allow your class to “recharge their batteries,” so to speak.
  • Allow students to fail. Failure is an unavoidable part of life. By creating a classroom where making mistakes and getting answers wrong are safe and natural experiences for students, you’re empowering them to learn from their failures and use creativity to improve or find a solution.
  • Make teaching an active, engaging experience. As often as possible, replace standard lectures with activities that make your class feel like it’s part of the learning process. By creating opportunities for participation, you are literally putting learning into the hands of your students, proving to them that they have the capacity to take ownership of their education.   

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching kids to take ownership of their education. But, by prioritizing freedom and self-reliance, children gain the confidence and experience necessary to make better and more engaged decisions regarding their learning experience.

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