I believe that being genuinely engaged does wonders for your wellbeing. One of the determinants of engagement is a level of independence, or autonomy.

Schools go to great lengths to give students (and teachers) the impression that they encourage independence. However, in the scheme of things, most of what occurs at school is prescribed for the students, not by them. Students have little say in the shaping of their experience at school.

Take a look Roger Hart’s Ladder of Participation, it has been around since the early 90s.

It’s clear to see that each rung of Hart’s ladder indicates a proportional increase in the level of autonomy.

Some schools, teachers or parents may look at the ladder and feel that it is simply not workable in a school environment. But I’d encourage you to think what aspects of your school could encourage more citizenship?

Why not start with something easy?

* Students choose how to present their report. It could be in the form of a speech, Prezi, essay, website, Facebook page, poster etc.

* Students can collaborate with whomever they like. And I mean whomever. A cousin interstate, a parent, a professor they follow on Twitter.

* Students can choose when they will study certain aspects of the course.

* Survey students to find out what they want to know – in essence they help design the curriculum.

* Allocate one lesson a week where students can pursue an interest independent of the school curriculum.


Author: Dan Haesler, he is a teacher, consultant, and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars He writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and blogs at http://danhaesler.com/ and tweets at@danhaesler