What’s the difference between enabling our students versus empowering them? It was a thought-provoking question asked at a conference I attended. For some, the words are synonymous. For those with a background in psychology, there were clear differences. To be an enabler means you are providing support to another person who is unable to function successfully on their own. It is a co-dependent relationship. It is the enabler who knows what to do. Someone who is empowered has the skills and understanding to succeed on their own independently.
As I reflected on this over time, I have concluded that as a teacher I try to enable my students with the goal of empowering them. This process of moving from “We do it together” (enabling) to “You can do it yourself” (empowering) is the primary measurement of success for each student.
The Gradual Release of Responsibility model is well-known as a framework for guiding students as they learn a new skill or concept. As you look at the diagram below, notice how the student responsibility increases over time as teacher supports fade. This is how we can move from enabling our students to empowering them!
So what do you think? Do you enable your students? Do you empower them? Are you intentional about it, or hope it happens? Do you allow time for the students to collaborate and apply the skills together before having them “fly solo”? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!