The power of giving students voice and choice

Like an old-fashioned factory, the traditional high school is still very hierarchical: the leaders have power and set the agenda. This isn’t an accident. High school was originally created to train factory workers. Yet most high schools today still follow that original model — down to sitting at desks and listening to long lectures.

New learning science and research on teenage brain development suggest that the hierarchical model isn’t very effective. New learning science has found that all people retain knowledge more effectively when learning is hands-on and immersive. Similarly, neuroscience has found that adolescents are especially attuned to what is relevant to their lives and their identities. Hence, when teens can take on leadership roles, and influence what and how they learn, they’re more likely to experience school work as relevant. In education circles, this is called giving students “voice and choice” which includes a variety of teaching strategies and school design principles.

Explore more about how high schools can evolve:

Thank you to Teacher Hayley Gearheart of North Edgecombe High School and Teacher Evelyn Lara of IDEA Frontier College Prep, which won a GreatSchools College Success Award.