Empowerment: Learning to Take Action in School Settings

“You can change your beliefs so they empower your dreams and desires. Create a strong belief in yourself and what you want.”
Marcia Wieder

Melissa Pearrow and Stanley Pollack (2009) in their article entitled “Youth Empowerment in Oppressive Systems: Opportunities for School Consultants” is a discussion on the role school consultants can play in empowering youth particularly in urban settings to make a difference in their school and community.

Pearrow and Pollack stress that empowerment is critical for addressing issues of social injustice and give youth the tools to better be able to combat oppression within their community.

Positive outcomes from school supported programs for youth such as Teen Empowerment have been shown to give students stronger group bonding, improved mental health and school performance improvement.

What makes implementing empowerment programs particularly difficult for school consultants is being able to overcome old concepts in schools that tend to have hierarchical structure and contextual norms all ready in place (Yowell & Gordon, 1996).

Pearrow and Pollock (2009) discuss the use of Participatory Action Research and by applying PAR techniques, show how students gain empowerment and in so doing are able to learn to take action rather than waiting for social change (example: politicians) which have historically been unfulfilled promises for the school and community.

Empowerment can be expressed as a “dialogue rather than a narrative, or one way, flow of information. It is also marked by the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality.” (p.46).

Pearrow and Pollock suggest that school consultants can play a critical role with their experience, skills and insight of the inner workings and politics of a school system to raise empowerment awareness not only through to the students, but also the faculty, staff and parents of the students which in turn greatly affects the whole of the community.

Critical Analysis

Pearrow and Pollock (2009) begin the article by expressing the influence schools have on young people’s lives.

Schools should provide a consistent and structured environment for youth and are a unique platform for preparing them for critical thinking, problem solving, and taking action to improve their community.

Pearrow and Pollock borrow from Paulo Freire’s (1970) legendary book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” to describe the “banking” concept of education used in many of today’s schools as:

“A cycle of oppression ensues from the narrative of teacher to student wherein the teacher who assumes the role of paternalistic figures, “deposits” information into the passive student’s receptacles. The opportunity for dialogue is short-circuited, and with that, the chance for a true development is short-circuited, and with that, the chance for a true development of understanding and a socially just environment is eliminated. (p. 46).”

The lack of teaching critical thinking and problem solving skills limits the students in the “banking” concept of learning scheme the ability to learn what power is and how best to use it to one’s advantage. “Understanding power is the foundation for generating strategies to address powerlessness on individual, family, and social systems levels
(p. 46).

Empowerment: Learning to Take Action in School Settings

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in northern Michigan who has a passion for reading, writing, music and helping others. He specializes in counseling complex family situations, substance abuse, and parenting. Steve’s counseling philosophy is holistic, approaching each issue on its own merit and evaluating influences to help overcome life’s dilemmas.


APA Reference
Greenman, S. (2016). Empowerment: Learning to Take Action in School Settings. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 12 Mar 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Mar 2016
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