Monday, April 19, 2010

Democratic Classrooms: Promises and Challenges of Student Voice and Choice

Morrison, Kristan A (2008). "Democratic Classrooms: Promises and Challenges." Educational Horizons, 87, no. 1, 50-60.

Summary/ Analysis:

In this article, Morrison outlines both the successes and challenges of creating a democratic classroom. She maintains a very liberal definition of such classrooms. Students are free to choose areas of study and how they will go about gathering information. While Morrison is an advocate of democratic education, she does a good job at hiding her bias. For example, she addresses several of the issues arising from "democratic classrooms:" students, she contends have a tough time transitioning to this new model while teachers can appear weak or unprepared when giving students these freedoms.

Her bias emerges when she discusses "un- democratic beliefs" such as the perception that students fail because of "ignorance." Kristan insists that failure occurs more because of a feeling of "powerlessness." When we empower students, Morrison believes we naturally help them become more successful as they have a vested interest in the material being taught.

Morrison makes references to PROMINENT names in the field. She references work completed by Carl Rogers in studying adolescent behavior in addition to utilizing Dewey's work on motivating students.

In short, this is a WONDERFUL starting point for research on both the successes and pitfalls of "democratic classrooms."


"Proponents of democratic and freedom-based education argue that
with autonomy and choice, people experience a much-different, muchbetter
form of education than that offered by the conventional, hierarchical,
more-coercive education system present in most public schools." (53)

"Students who come from conventional
education into classrooms or schools employing democratic practices
will often feel uncomfortable with or even fearful of jeopardizing the 55
only pattern of life they know (Goodman 1964)." (55)

"The idea that knowledge can be stuffed into the individual, as
opposed to being constructed and mediated through the individual
(Lamm 1972), has led to the conventional educational practices of mandated
courses and pre-established syllabi." (56)

"The term "democratic education" as used in this article is linked
with and synonymous with the term "freedom-based education," for just
as democracy as a political system is grounded in individual freedoms,
democracy as an educational system is also grounded in freedoms." (52)


1. Shor, Ira. 1996. When Students Have Power: Negotiating Authority in a Critical
Pedagogy. Chicago:The University of Chicago Press.

2. Rogers, C. 1969. Freedom to Learn. Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing.

3. Dewey, J. 1916. Democracy and Education. NewYork: Macmillan Company. 1938. Experience and Education. NewYork: Collier Macmillan Publishers.

4. Greene, M. 1988. The Dialectic of Freedom. New York: Teachers College Press.

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