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The Democratic Classroom: Sharing Power to Improve Learning and Educate Citizens
Unformatted Document Text:  Democratic Classroom 10 What does a power-balanced classroom look like? What policies and practices can faculty follow to get there? Weimer offers several suggestions that build off the textbook selection and grading criteria examples above. The most systematic way is to give students power over the assignments needed to complete in the course. Weimer offers her students a multitude of choices in her syllabus but, instead of leaving them on their own during the selection process, she asks them to complete a log entry early in the course outlining the choices they are planning on making and the reasons for their selections. They don’t always give the best reasons for their choices, but Weimer leads them through their course “design challenge” as a way of helping them to see precisely how their own learning style connects with the course objectives and activities. Students can also offer input into course policies. This approach is especially effective in setting ground rules for class participation. Weimer gives a detailed example about how students can brainstorm the criteria used to evaluate their participation. As with the example about grading for presentations, the instructor retains the right to make the final decision but will not do so without at first engaging in a discussion with the students and giving reasons for his or her final decision. The other type of input students can give about course policies would be about ground rules for discussions (who can speak when and for how long) and well as other policies such as lateness and attendance. The most controversial type of power sharing is to give students some say about course content. Even in light of most instructors’ overly tight grip on their disciplinary expertise, Weimer recognizes that the gap between instructor and student knowledge is so great that this borders on an irresponsible divestment of power. In order to break through the resistance, Weimer encourages us to think about course content as a continuum. We already give our

Authors: Price, Christopher.
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Democratic Classroom 10
What does a power-balanced classroom look like? What policies and practices can
faculty follow to get there? Weimer offers several suggestions that build off the textbook
selection and grading criteria examples above. The most systematic way is to give students
power over the assignments needed to complete in the course. Weimer offers her students a
multitude of choices in her syllabus but, instead of leaving them on their own during the
selection process, she asks them to complete a log entry early in the course outlining the choices
they are planning on making and the reasons for their selections. They don’t always give the
best reasons for their choices, but Weimer leads them through their course “design challenge” as
a way of helping them to see precisely how their own learning style connects with the course
objectives and activities.
Students can also offer input into course policies. This approach is especially effective in
setting ground rules for class participation. Weimer gives a detailed example about how students
can brainstorm the criteria used to evaluate their participation. As with the example about
grading for presentations, the instructor retains the right to make the final decision but will not
do so without at first engaging in a discussion with the students and giving reasons for his or her
final decision. The other type of input students can give about course policies would be about
ground rules for discussions (who can speak when and for how long) and well as other policies
such as lateness and attendance.
The most controversial type of power sharing is to give students some say about course
content. Even in light of most instructors’ overly tight grip on their disciplinary expertise,
Weimer recognizes that the gap between instructor and student knowledge is so great that this
borders on an irresponsible divestment of power. In order to break through the resistance,
Weimer encourages us to think about course content as a continuum. We already give our


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