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Empowerment Learning, Critical ThinkingCharacter, Culture, Individuality, Teaching, Learning, Education


Curriculum Philosophy

Teaching through self-empowerment is founded on the principle that all individuals believe they can learn.  This is complemented by the belief that no individual believes they are a failure.  The theory is not new, rather, it is a combination of existing theories and practices.  The hybrid theory encourages education through teaching and learning experiences with the goal of attaining optimal learning through experiences that build a better understanding of one's self, allows for the examination and acquisition of character, and explores and questions one's layers of culture.  The ultimate goal is to achieve a group identity affirmed by the way of thinking, acting, and behaving of the individuals within that group and their influence on one another.  With a focus on empowering the individual to recognize the awesome power they have to deliver identity to group and the group's identity to others, the theory relies on centripetal thinking (Hlebowitsch, 2010) to indicate all things in education must focus on empowering the individual to achieve authentic optimal learning.

Key Components

-Individuality: Founded in Elliot Eisner's theories on artistic intelligence (Eisner, 2002) and the limitations that objective-based teaching forces upon learning experiences (summarized in Flinders and Thornton, 2013), self-empowerment theory encourages educators to view learning as a form of art and that students should sometimes (perhaps often) be inspired to express educational outcomes of learning experiences in a way they feel best shows their unique understanding of life in and outside of the classroom. Inspired first by Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligence (summarized by Leshkovska and Spaseva, 2016) and reinforced through the process of interdependence (Mishra and Hendrikson, 2012), self-empowerment theory encourages the individual to be motivated to learn through self-determined beliefs about interest, relevance, and application.

-Character: Self-empower theory believes that all learners want to be successful people  Successful people ask good questions to build an understanding of the world around them and acknowledge they are participants in their environments (Freeman, 1995).  Successful people develop critical thinking skills in order to apply unique modes of thinking to the rapidly changing world (Wagner, 2008, 2015).  Included is certain ways of thinking advocated by Deborah Meier (2017) that consistently reinforce the use of upper intelligence for a greater goal.  Successful people also acquire certain non-cognitive skills that can be found in teaching and learning such as heutogogy (Blaschke, 2012) but are also explained as developed thinking skills that give the learner the stamina and desire to continually strive to improve (Davidson, 2015). Self-empowerment theory states that the best learning experiences have several possible outcomes, aside from content and knowledge another take away is analysis of self and realization of one's own strengths, weaknesses, and value.

-Culture: Relying heavily on the power of implicit learning as described in Philip W. Jackson's "Hidden Curriculum" (summarized in Flinders and Thornton, 2013 and Assor and Gordon, 2006) , culture is viewed as  something that influences how an individual perceives power and praise and the impact it has on motivation for choice and action.  Self-empowerment theory recognizes that the individual is both influenced by and an influence on the people around them.  Through models of cultural transmission reviewed by Markus and Kitayama (1991), self-empowerment theory states that ways of thinking, acting, and behaving will be adopted by individuals, influenced by a group of peers, and communicated as desirable to newcomers to the environment.


The biggest takeaway is not every outcome can be predicted.  The overarching goal, however, remains that individual and cultural definitions for collective identity are in near congruence.  Collective identity is defined as  internal and external feelings of belonging by individuals based on knowledge, skill, and perceptions of membership (Alcantud and Rocio de Calles, 2017).  Quantitative and qualitative data will be cultivated to better understand the learners experience, to value the learner's voice, and to create opportunities for the leaner to reflect on their understanding of identity, membership, and power.  This will help bridge the gap between what the learner is taught, what he or she learns, and what they experience (Niaz, 1995).  Further, the learner will think about how the world impacts them and how they impact the world based on the concept of the human economy (Siedman, 2014).  Additionally, the role of mankind's knowledge in the world of artificial intelligence is explored as discussed by Cumming (1995) and hypothesized by Harari (2017);  finally, ways for learners to construct their own meaning evidenced by tangible products are emphasized based on constructivism (as discussed by Shaprio, 2011).


The basic question to be answered: how can individuals show others that what they believe and say about themselves is who they really are?


Alcantud, J. C. R. and Rocio de Calles, A. (2017). "The problem of collective identity in a fuzzy environment." Elsevier, 315, pp. 57-75. DOI:

Blaschke, L. M. (2012). "Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning." The International 

     Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(1), pp. 56-71 


Eisner, E. W. (2002). '"What can education learn from the arts about the practice of education?"' The Encyclopedia of Informal Education.
Online. Accessed, October 3, 2017. Available: .

Cumming, G. (1998). "Artificial intelligence in education: An exploration." Journal of Computer Assissted Learning, 14(4). pp. 251-259. DOI:



Davidson, B. (2015). “Can non-cognitive skills be taught?” The Creativity Post. Accessed: September 22, 2017. Available:                            

Davidson, B. (2015). “Let’s start teaching the skills that matter most.” The Creativity Post. Accessed: October 1, 2017.  Available:                

Elena A. L. and Spaseva S. M. (2016). "John Dewey's eductional theory and educational implications of Howard Gardner's multiple                        intelligences theory." International Journal of Cognitive Research in Science, 4(2), pp. 57-66

Freeman, D. (1995). "Asking 'good' questions: Perspectives from qualitative research on practice, knowledge, and understanding in teacher       education." TESOL Quarterly 29(3), pp. 581-585.

Hlebowitsh, P. (2010). "Centripetal thinking in curriculum studies." Curriculum Inquiry, 40(4), pp. 503-513. DOI:


Markus, H. R. and Kitayama, S. (1991). “Culture and self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation.” Psychological Review 98(2),           pp. 224-230.

Mishra, P. and Henriksen, D. (2012). "Rethinking technology and creativity in the 21st century: On being in-disciplined." TechTrends, 56(6), 

      pp. 18-21.

Meier, D. (2017). "From the archives: So what does it take to build a school for democracy? (2003)." Schools,14(2), pp. 219-231.

Niaz, M. (1996). "The Controversy between Qualitative and Quantitative Research in Education: A Legacy of Kuhn's Incommensurability               Thesis?" Perceptual and Motor Skills, 82, pp. 617-618.

Siedman, D. (2014). “From the knowledge economy to the human economy.” Harvard Business Review. Accessed 24 June 2017. Available:

Shapiro, B. L. (2011). "Towards a transforming constructivism: Understanding learners' meanings and the messages of learning                            environments." Journal of Educational Thought, 45(2), pp. 165-201.

Wagner, T. (2008) The global achievement gap: Why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need – and what         we can do about it. New York: Basic Books.


Wagner, T. (2015). Most likely to succeed: Preparing our kids for the innovation era. New York: Scribner.

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