Power of a Democratic Classroom

A look at how to set up a classroom that encourages kids to take on shared tasks and become more involved in their community. What is the definition of a democratic classroom? It’s not a partisan environment. It is not concerned with political parties or their positions. A democratic classroom, on the other hand, encourages children to live democratically by emphasizing ideals like inclusiveness, voice, representation, and involvement.

Our classroom communities have never been more important as locations to promote student agency, build social connections, and equip our learners as engaged citizens after extended periods of distant learning. Establishing a democratic classroom: secure, inclusive learning settings where students actively exercise democratic ideals, understand their rights, and accept responsibility for their actions as individuals and members of a community can help to build this atmosphere.

The Democratic Classroom has the following characteristics:

  • Teachers and students have high-trust relationships and share authority.
  • Students have a high level of agency and voice.
  • Children’s participation and thoughts are valued.
  • Diverse opinions, particularly those on difficult matters, are intentionally shared.
  • Dialogue and collective decision-making are frequently used, and procedures are frequently used.
  • Students’ critical consciousness, as well as the development of the full self

Promoting Agency And Participation With Students In Practical Ways

Setup in the classroom:

Begin the school year by co-constructing classroom elements with students and incorporating their suggestions into the learning space’s design. Consider the fundamental concepts and values that the classroom should foster with your students. “What should our classroom community look, sound, and feel like?” ask them using a Y-chart.

For example, how may a furniture layout aid or impede students’ need for an environment that fosters cooperation and social belonging? Table groupings will stimulate conversation and sharing, whereas rows of desks will inhibit social connection. Make decisions on furniture placement and classroom decorations with students, such as signage in students’ native languages that reflect their ideals and values. Consider how interactions could take place in the classroom. What does this have to do with the goal of a location, such as encouraging reflection? When and how should the instructor and students go over the classroom design again to see how it works?

Consider how the classroom arrangement may indicate underlying power relations. Is the instructor, for example, seated on a soft chair while the students are seated in hard chairs? Are all of the seats facing the teacher? Is the instructor seated at a higher level than the pupils, such as on a chair in a carpeted room while the kids sit on the floor? What impact may such decisions have on a democratic classroom climate?

Instead, by decentralizing our classrooms, we can transfer authority and share it with our students. We may foster agency and exploit the potential of collaborative, peer-to-peer learning by using small group seating that is not all physically orientated toward the same classroom wall. Instead of needing ongoing meditation by the teacher, students can talk directly to others in the class when stools are set in a circle for class discussion. Ping-pong between students and teachers is transformed into a multiplayer basketball game. As kids gain communication and social skills, this allows us to shift from a teacher-as-authority role to one of a learning facilitator.

Co-constructed classroom charter:

Rather than developing classroom rules or expectations, work with students to co-create a classroom charter. A charter is distinct in that it emphasizes both students’ rights and obligations. It depicts how individual and community demands overlap while simultaneously diverging. Introduce pupils to a rights framework, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as part of the creation of a class charter. Ask pupils to select the rights they feel are necessary for them to study. What are their obligations, given these rights, to ensure that they are respected in the classroom community?

Importantly, students’ rights cannot be taken away as a form of punishment. The ability to infringe on other people’s rights, on the other hand, may be taken away. For example, if a student’s statements in the classroom are discriminatory, they may be barred from exercising their right to free speech. More information about class charters may be found at UNICEF Canada.

Peaceful environment:

It all starts with each student. We need to teach peace tactics if we want peaceful classroom communities where children learn to understand their emotions and negotiate conflict in beneficial ways. A “quiet spot” in the classroom is a physical space where students may reflect on their thoughts, calm down, or settle disputes with their classmates. It may be a back-of-the-class table, a play tent, or even a giant cardboard box that pupils can decorate.

We may introduce the concept of peace and establish classroom practices that encourage personal and group well-being by asking students to choose, create, and decorate a quiet space.

Place paper, markers, and reading books in the space with primary pupils, for example, so that they may use them to relax when they’re angry. Similarly, place a few seats within or near the room to encourage conflict resolution techniques such as emotional recognition, “I statements,” and active listening. A quiet location should never be utilized for disciplinary purposes, such as a time out. Because peace is a dynamic rather than a static idea, it is critical to practice and reflects on conduct regularly. More detail on this technique may be found in Worldwise Learning: A Teacher’s Guide to Shaping a Just, Sustainable Future, which I co-authored with Elizabeth O. Crawford.

Structures for debate and dialogue:

Structures and protocols that allow students to feel comfortable and secure during talks are beneficial. This is especially true when discussing current events that may be divisive or elicit strong feelings in our students. Structures and procedures assist to scaffold the development of communication abilities by providing predictability. Learning for Justice’s Let’s Talk! gives a variety of tangible suggestions for engaging students in discussions about social justice concerns. Teach students to “Restate, Contemplate, Breathe, Communicate” to regulate emotions when organizing key talks, or utilize temperature-check tactics like Fist to Five to determine students’ comfort level.

Similarly, instructors can employ a variety of tactics in Facing History and Ourselves before, during, and after talks, such as “Big Paper” to foster quiet dialogues or “Cafe Conversations,” in which students take on the character of an assigned position in a small group discussion.

Critical thinking, honest engagement, and social and emotional learning are all encouraged in the democratic classroom. It’s a welcoming environment that empowers our kids. This is “education as a practice of liberation,” as American scholar and activist bell hooks put it. Being mindful of how to set up our classrooms, develop community, and provide space for students’ varied views, thoughts, and perspectives is an important part of creating a democratic classroom.

This is a component of our unspoken curriculum. Our decisions, whether deliberate or not, transmit views, values, and expectations to pupils. We must ensure that our routines, procedures, and relationships reflect this goal if we want our kids to become active citizens.

About the article

A democratic classroom can make learning more enjoyable for students, as well as improve teacher-student interactions. Students exhibit greater on-task conduct, increased mood, and attention when they are encouraged to take control of their classroom and learning. A democratic classroom encourages children to live democratically by emphasizing ideals like inclusiveness, voice, representation, and involvement. In this article, we have discussed the power of a democratic classroom.

Carter Martin

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