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Inside Areté Blog Series

Areté Insights

Student Agency

Rethinking Classroom Leadership: Student-led Learning Unlocks Passion, Depth, and Creativity

Imagine a classroom where students — in respectful collaboration with their teachers — weigh in on the direction and content of the curriculum. A class where learners speak up about which novel will be read, which historical issues will be explored, or when they’re truly ready to move on to a new math topic. A class where students are empowered to infuse assignments with authenticity and relevance, where “why are we learning this?” is understood as a sign of active learning rather than as a challenge to authority.

Supported by decades of research, educators have discovered that giving students an active role, as opposed to a top-down “transfer” of facts,  fuels genuine ownership of ideas and content while giving learners the skills to explore and grow independently.

Ownership and genuine empowerment remain, sadly, in short supply at all levels of education. Over the last year, parents have witnessing a further decline in  confidence and engagement as too many teachers, stuck in a one-size-fits-all 1900’s paradigm, failed to respond to the Covid crisis with flexibility or creativity. Proposed solutions rarely include raising levels of student involvement and agency.

At Areté, we’ve implemented a teaching paradigm based on our proven faith in students’ willingness and capacity to step up and actively shape their own learning.  Our faculty focus on building students’ confidence in what makes them unique, encouraging them to think differently, communicate their learning needs, and blaze unique paths through every discipline and challenge.

Math discussion

Areté’s seminar-style classroom is a crucial to a model that prioritizes student agency and voice. In this intimate setting (with a typical class size of 6 or less) learners are able to engage with the teacher, themselves and others authentically and interactively.  Extraordinarily personalized, the Areté classroom amps up individual challenge while encouraging effective teamwork and collaboration.

Democratic, student-led learning provides a welcome antidote to the outdated factory model of information, shifting away from a uniform student “product” to embrace the goal of discovering and nurturing the unique potential of each and every fascinating young mind. Student-focused, student-led classrooms create learners who:

  • Discover their own potential and passions
  • Become aware of personal strengths and weaknesses
  • Exercise “voice and choice” in their learning
  • Reflect on and advocate for their own learning processes and needs
  • Develop confidence and independence
  • Take risks and think flexibly in their future education and careers


We encourage parents to open their minds to educational models that genuinely trust students as engaged, excited, valued co-partners in the learning process.

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