#1)  A Co-Created Education Is…



Breaking down the 4 “secret ingredients” that make up a co-created education, starting with #1: 
​It is an empowering experience


At Co-CreatED, we are in relentless pursuit of making education humanizing and equitable for all students. To do that, we think there are 4 big “secret ingredients.”

A co-created education is:

  1. Empowering
  2. Inclusive
  3. Rigorous
  4. Supportive

These BIG FOUR are where the magic happens. They are the make-or-break difference between education that maintains the status quo and education that disrupts it for the better. 

​The question is, what do we mean by those 4 terms, exactly?

This week, let’s take a look at the first ingredient: empowering.



How can you tell whether a learning experience is empowering?

There are two key features to look for:

Students are empowered when their learning is student-centered, and when their learning leads to greater awareness of and action on critical social issues.

​I.   Empowering through a student-centered approach:

  • There’s a partnership.

    • Student and classroom leader (f.k.a. “teacher”) are co-creating the learning path together. The classroom leader brings professional expertise to the table; the student brings individual passions, interests, needs, strengths, and perspective. Both add value.

  • There’s ownership.

    • Students take ownership of their learning path. They set goals, reflect, exchange feedback, and adjust.  They take pride in their work, seeing it as meaningful and important.

  • There’s a power-balance.

    • Power is shared.  Students have ample voice & choice, and they also still know what their boundaries are.  The classroom leader is seen as a caring authority, which makes students feel simultaneously valued and secure. Respect is mutual.
  • Human nature counts.

    • Every element of the experience– from instruction to schedule to environment– reflects awareness of the developmental needs and readiness of the child or adolescent.
    • Classroom leaders are well-versed in how the brain works, so they employ brain-based teaching and learning strategies
II.   Empowering through critical pedagogy:

  • Step 1: Awareness.

    • Critical Issues are integrated throughout the curriculum so that students become aware of what’s going on in their community and in the larger world. Lessons are taught through an anti-bias framework and a social justice lens.
  • Step 2: Action.

    • Students exercise voice and take action to bring about positive change.  Activities are relevant and meaningful to them, so they engage actively.​​
Pop Quiz!
​         Self-assess:  How many things on the list above are you already doing in your classroom?  ​Calculate your “empowered classroom score.”


Student-Centered Learning visualized!  Everything exists on a spectrum, including learning. Check out these continuums, ranging from teacher-centered to learner-driven. In my experience, aiming for the happy medium on the continuum provides a developmentally appropriate balance. What do you think?  (Credits:  images by artist Sylvia Duckworth;  content by Barbara Bray & Kathleen McClaskey)


While theory, conceptual understanding, and definitions are all necessary, they don’t exactly paint a clear picture of practical application. This next section will ​shed light on what an empowered learning experience actually looks like and sounds like in action, including resources and tips that you can try out as early as tomorrow (well…except that it’s July… anyway, you know what I mean!).

What does an empowering education sound like in real life?

The learning goal I set for myself this unit is to get better at trying when my work is hard instead of giving up.” said Levi.

​“That’s a really thoughtful goal, Levi. I can tell you reflected on the feedback you got from your peers after you got stuck last week. I know you can do it! You’ll have a great chance to work on it when we start our extended writing project next week.” said Ms. Jen.

“Ms. Jen! Did you hear about what’s going on with the children at the border? I’m drawing this picture to send to them. I can’t believe they aren’t with their families. They must be so scared. Can my writing project be a letter to the president about this?!” shouted Alexis.


​First off, The Teaching Channel is such an awesome resource! They have hundreds of videos showing techniques and best practices put to use in real classrooms so teachers can learn from each other. I used it all the time when I was an academic coach, and it was super helpful! 

Here are 3 Teaching Channel videos that show what some of the key components of an empowered education look like.


  • Ownership.   As you launch your next unit, have students set a learning goal for themselves. Use a simple format like, “I want to get better at ____” or “I want to learn more about ____.” Keep the goal somewhere students will see it (in sight, in mind!).  Students can check in with a partner weekly to monitor their progress.

  • Brain-based.   Connect a concept to a movement. For example, draw the operation sign (+ – x ÷) in the air when you hear a key word in a math word problem (“Wow, you ran 50 meters? I ran 30 meters less than you.” draw minus sign in air).
  • Partnership.   Brainstorm a list of “ways we can show our learning” as a class. Students can choose from the list to demonstrate their learning of a new concept. You can suggest a shortlist that matches the task at hand.

  • Critical pedagogy.   Think: “Is there a way I can teach this concept within a real-world context? Is there an issue going on in the world that students would be interested to act on?” Pick a standard you need to teach. Browse Teaching Tolerance, Zinn Ed Project, or Humane Ed Institute. Match them up to make critical pedagogy magic!
In closing, we want to hear from you:
​What have you found most frustrating about trying to make your classroom more student-centered or critically-engaged?

Up next:

#2)  A Co-Created Education is…

​*Coming Saturday July 13*


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