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Is your default learning model empowering?

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

You may have heard of Paulo Freire's banking model. Here, the teacher or instructor holds all the wisdom and knowledge. The student is seen as an empty vessel, and is not valued. In my research, I found that North American school systems continue to rely on this authoritarian model of teaching and learning. Not surprisingly, this model is also hierarchical. Learner agency and voice do not matter.

Fortunately, there are alternative methods and models to use. Non-formal education (think before and after-school & community programs) understand the importance of choice and flexibility in engaging with learners. Whether this involves a flexible curriculum or the capacity to consult with learners around their interests, a greater engagement in the learning process occurs. Formal education systems can learn from non-formal settings in terms of the value of integrating choice and flexibility into practice.

A model I'd recommend checking out is called the CIRCLE OF COURAGE®. This positive youth development tool, developed by Dr. Larry K. Brendtro, Dr. Van Bockern, and Dr. Brokenleg shows four key elements needed for youth to be emotionally healthy, namely belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

One of the reasons I created the REiL© model (see below), an engagement and learning model was to provide busy educators and instructors with a user-friendly, engaging tool that could easily be integrated into practice. We need models and frameworks to inspire and guide practice day to day, and to remind us what matters when things get tough. To read my full Master's research, visit


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