(I’m republishing posts on my My All-Time Favorite Posts list. This one appeared in 2022. You can see them all here)


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The Ikea Effect (see Video: “How the ‘IKEA effect’ can motivate people to work [& learn] harder” )   – basically, we are more invested in something if we feel we contributed to creating it – is not big news to just about anyone.

As many experienced teachers know, this holds true in the classroom, also.

I was prompted to write this post because of a couple of things that happened this week.

One, a student teacher who was observing my class asked me what I was saying to students who I had invited to briefly come to my desk after he saw they had been “off-task.”  I explained to him that they had previously  made some decisions about how they had wanted to conduct themselves in class (see Here Is How I’m TRYING to Create The Conditions Where My ELL Students Can Motivate Themselves (With A Little Encouragement)), and I was checking in with them to see if those goals they had set for themselves were still important to them.  I told the student teacher that the important thing to keep in mind was not to challenge them to comply with my expectations but, instead, to challenge them if they wanted to act on what they said they wanted (see Irritation vs. Agitation).

Two, I asked peer tutors (see Are Schools Overlooking An Obvious Strategy They Can Implement Immediately To Accelerate Learning? Peer Tutors!) for their recommendations (and reasoning for those recommendations) of Newcomer students who might be ready to be moved to the Intermediate ELL group.  They took it very seriously and, though the names were the same I would have chosen, they pointed out a couple of improvements made by students that I had not noticed.  And, importantly, though the peer tutors generally take their job seriously, they seemed to be even more attentive to it after I asked them for their suggestions.

So, what are some other ways to create the conditions where students feel – and have – a genuine sense of power and ownership?

One simple strategy for incorporating this “need for power” (as William Glasser describes it) is through the use of choice (see The Best Posts & Articles About Providing Students With Choices).   I also talk about it in an excerpt from one of my books that appeared in Edutopia, Strategies for Helping Students Motivate Themselves.

Asking for student suggestions and acting on them is another strategy.  One way I do this is through a weekly Google Form (see I’ve Been Having Students Complete Weekly “Check-Ins” & I Can’t Believe I Didn’t Think To Ask This Question Until Now! ).  Asking for feedback, and not responding to it, can make things worse.  I’ve received some good suggestions, and make it very public when I act on them.  Anonymous class evaluations have also been helpful (see Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers)).

Inviting students to tell me how much time is needed to complete a task/assignment or, if they are in the middle of it, how much more time they need.  Some researchers have questioned the value of student input on pacing (see A Look Back: Study Finds That “Student-Centered” Activities Better Than “Teacher-Centered” Ones – Except When It Comes To Pacing).  I used to feel the same way, and maybe I’m just more flexible during the pandemic, but I’m generally finding that students are setting reasonable deadlines.

I think having many of my students act as mentors to other students also contributes to their sense of power and agency in class (see The Best Resources On The Value & Practice Of Having Older Students Mentoring Younger Ones).   Sometimes they are mentors to students in other classes, and other times they are mentors to new students who have recently arrived in the United States.

I’m sure I’m forgetting other ways to invite student ownership.  What are additional strategies you use?

I’m adding this post to:

The Best Posts & Articles About Providing Students With Choices

The Best Resources On Student Agency & How To Encourage It

Best Posts On “Motivating” Students

The Best Posts & Articles On Student Engagement





Bringing Student Voice to the Forefront is from NASSP.


3 Instructional Shifts to Facilitate Student-Led Learning is from Edutopia.