Student and teacher working on laptop

After a wild year, educators are homing in on the last couple months of the semester. It’s usually around this time when teachers ramp up efforts to set their students up for success in the fall with their next teacher.

Given the circumstances of 2020 and 2021, educators may be feeling more stress than usual to prepare their class. I want to assure you that no matter what this year has brought in terms of disruptions and change, you can still offer your students one of the most important building blocks for success: self-advocacy.

When you help youth discover the language to express what they need to engage with their learning, they will be much more equipped to navigate the coming school year. Using the insights you have from Emergenetics® Attributes and the STEP Youth Report, you can help your students describe their learning preferences and advocate for themselves in 2021 and beyond.

Six Practices to Promote Student Advocacy

1. Ask prompting questions.

Help students practice recognizing and expressing their learning preferences through questions. When I was an elementary school teacher, I would set a target and ask students to share what they needed to successfully achieve the goal whether that included more information, resources, directions or anything else.

For students with STEP Youth Reports, you can get even more specific. Based on your class’s preferred Attributes, ask the following questions to help them think through how they can express their needs to their future teachers:

  • Analytical: How will you ask for more information about the purpose of a task?
  • Structural: How will you advocate for more clarity to guide you?
  • Social: How will you request to collaborate or check in with others?
  • Conceptual: How will you ask for opportunities to bring in new ideas?
  • Expressiveness
    • First-third: How can you advocate for yourself if your teacher wants to “hear your voice” during class?
    • Third-third: How can you request to talk through your thoughts?
  • Assertiveness
    • First-third: How can you ask for a steadier pace?
    • Third-third: How can you request to move at a faster pace?
  • Flexibility
    • First-third: How can you ask for the time needed to see tasks through to fruition?
    • Third-third: How can you ask for the time needed to make changes?

2. Model the way.

As a teacher, I would use myself as an example to help students understand how I brought awareness to the actions and behaviors that supported my success.

After meetings with my grade-level team, I would debrief my class on how I spoke up for myself. If my team wanted to get down to business immediately, I would explain how I asked the group to take a moment to check in with each other. Given my preference for Social Thinking, it’s important that I have an opportunity to connect with others because I know I will be more engaged and motivated to support the team as a result.

By taking time to share why and how you express your needs, you can give students a model and language to do the same thing with their teachers in the coming year.

3. Reinforce their brilliances.

To encourage self-advocacy, I invite you to pause and celebrate when students promote their learning interests in class. For example, if a student stops to ask why they are doing an assignment, you can use that opportunity to honor the importance of relevance for the Analytical Attribute. You can then ask the student how they would explain their desire for this type of information to their next teacher.

By looking for moments where students ask for what they need and actively celebrating them, you can help kids recognize their strengths and practice tying their questions back to their learning preferences.

4. Engage in Most Preferred Attribute activities.

While many students may be motivated to promote their needs, it can be challenging to find the language to do so. To help your students describe the ways they prefer to learn, group your class according to their Most Preferred Thinking Attribute.

Ask each group to identify the learning strategies that work best for their assigned Attribute as well as ways they would ask for these strategies to show up in class. Repeat the activity with the Behavioral Attributes as well. Encourage students to share their answers, so they can lean on the cognitive diversity of the whole class to expand their vocabulary.

5. Introduce text-based assignments.

In my classroom, I would encourage students to use text-based evidence to imagine the Thinking and Behavioral preferences of the literary or historical figures they were studying. I also asked them to explain the learning preferences of the figure and make notes about how the individual could ask for the support they need to be successful.

The exercise allowed me to promote self-advocacy within the context of my existing lesson plan. It also provided another way to help youth gain new terminology to describe the motivations for each Attribute and build perspective into the interests of others.

6. Share out student learning identities.

As one last idea, consider asking students to present their learner identity to their classmates or parents. You can use this opportunity to ask students to describe their brilliances, their learning preferences as well as the classroom environment where they would be most successful.

By having another opportunity to practice providing insights into who they are and how they learn best, your students will be better able to share the same sentiments with their future teachers.


After a full year of working with your students, you have so much knowledge about what motivates them, what engages them and what brightens their day at school. By taking time to help them build skill in expressing what is important to them, your students will have an easier time managing their next learning environment and getting what they need to succeed.

Help your students discover a language to help them self-advocate. Explore our Youth Programs, sign up to receive our blog posts for educators or fill out the form below to speak with a team member today.


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