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Weekly Tip: Ownership of Learning

Students who learn to negotiate and take ownership of their learning experiences in college are more likely to be successful at achieving their academic goals. While there are many ways to implement opportunities for student ownership of learning, this week’s weekly tip offers three: increase opportunities for student voice, student choice, and authentic learning experiences and assessments.

One way to improve student achievement is through supporting student ownership of learning…As students become actively engaged in their learning, they gain a better understanding of their learning targets, how to collect and document evidence of their learning, and how to evaluate and clarify additional learning needs.

—Chan et al., 2014

Level of Student Ownership of Learning

Student ownership of learning takes place across a spectrum. As you review the following observable indicators (written in no particular order) of high-level student ownership, consider where your students might demonstrate personal ownership for learning and where you might want to encourage increased, successful student ownership of learning.


  • implement instructor feedback
  • actively engage in class activities or discussions
  • complete assigned readings and tasks before coming to class and or assignment submission
  • arrive on time and attend regularly
  • seek help and answers, form study groups, and attend office hours or tutoring sessions
  • exceed minimum requirements
  • think critically and implement effective problem-solving strategies
  • synthesize and apply knowledge and newly acquired skills in to different contexts
  • include conceptual connections in their solutions
  • demonstrate interdisciplinary synthesis
  • recognize possibilities for multiple and or complex and dynamic solutions

Increasing Student Ownership

Offering student voice, choice, and authentic learning experiences and assessments provides multiple opportunities to shift students’ mindsets and empowers them to take control of their educational experiences.

Student Voice

Increasing student voice in your courses may include providing one or more of the following opportunities: 

  • Solicit anonymous feedback from students at any point during the semester
  • Consider implementing, and discussing with students, a change based on the anonymous feedback
  • Implement peer review using instructor provided evaluation criteria, such as clearly defined rubrics
  • Consider activities to identify struggle points for students (self-evaluations, reflections, etc.)
  • Solicit input on class activities and homework
  • Offer autonomy for collaborative group building (interviewing, choosing/assigning roles, etc.)


Different ways to provide choices are:

  • Offer multiple options for students to receive content (readings, podcasts, videos, etc.)
  • Provide different ways to demonstrate mastery of outcomes (projects, assignments, student selected research topics or assessment questions, etc.)
  • Survey students to determine office hour options (time, date, and location, etc.)

Empowering students is not the same as abdicating control of your classroom.

—Kim Haynes

Authentic Learning Experiences and Assessments

Some ways to engage students in work that connects to real-world situations are:

  • Arrange student debates
  • Organize project-based learning
  • Introduce case studies
  • Incorporate interdisciplinary projects
  • Draw connections between course work and real-world applications
  • Refer to students as potential future experts in their fields (biology student → future biologist)
  • Include (Build in) service-learning projects and assignments
  • Involve industry experts beyond the university (panels, discussions, feedback, evaluations, etc.)

Stiggins (2002) has pointed to the need to shift this instruction-assessment dynamic in ways that directly promote student ownership. In this view, student engagement becomes more meaningful when teachers go beyond assessment of learning to assessment for learning

—Chan et al., 2014

See our previous weekly tips on Authentic Learning Experiences and Assessments and Experience Beyond the Classroom.



Chan, Paula E. et al. (2014). Beyond Involvement: Promoting Student Ownership of Learning in Classrooms. Intervention in School and Clinic, 50(2), 105-113

Haynes, Kim. (n.d.). Empowering Students in Learning. Teach HUB. Retrieved from Empowering Students to Take Ownership of Learning

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.