As we explored in my last blog, the concept of Learner Agency is gaining more and more importance around the world. Fortunately, it’s not a new concept – it dates back to at least the 17th century. And teachers who have been following my work on Growth Mindset and Learning Agility find they are ahead of the Learner Agency curve, already adopting many strategies that develop agency in learners.
Defining Learner Agency
Drawing on research and definitions of Learner Agency used by organisations like the OECD, Harvard University’s Achievement Gap Initiative, the International Baccalaureate Organisation, and the Victorian and New Zealand departments of education, I offer the following definition of Learner Agency. This definition synthesises the key ideas to provide teachers with an understanding of what Learner Agency is and a clear direction for developing it in learners.
The result of having agency is that you can choose your path through life. You act on the...
One of the most common interpretations relates to giving students “voice and choice” in their learning. The idea is that teachers...
Do you ever feel like you’re dragging your students through the learning process?
You set most of the challenges. You plan for and scaffold the learning. You find their mistakes, and then you show them how to correct them.
It can seem like some students just coast along. They complete most of the work, but you worry they’re not really challenging themselves.
One of my biggest concerns was that too many of my students weren’t taking charge of their learning. They were passive learners.
My students were learning the basic concepts and moving through the year levels. They were even getting decent grades and experiencing success in terms of achieving outcomes. But I often had the nagging feeling I wasn’t preparing them well enough for a life of learning.
I now realise these students lacked what I’ve come to call “Learnership”.
First, We Need Quality Teaching
Through my work with schools, I know the feelings I’ve shared above are...
In many ways, Learner Agency is at the heart of what...
The Power To Change Mindsets
Imagine you’re sitting in your staff room. What are you and your colleagues more likely to discuss: your “high-achieving students” or your “students who are achieving highly”?
From a Mindset perspective, the difference is subtle but important.
The first phrase, “high-achieving students”, suggests that “high achieving” is a type or category of student. It is a group a student belongs to, or not. Categorising students as “being” high achieving is an example of a Fixed Mindset Mover.
The second phrase, “students who are achieving highly”, focuses on what students are doing. They are “achieving highly”. The amount a learner achieves depends on what they do, and other students are capable of achieving highly by changing their actions. This is an example of a Growth Mindset Mover.
"When achievement becomes about what you do, not who you are, the underlying message is an...
Are you ever exhausted at the end of the school day because you feel like you’ve been dragging your students through the learning process?
Sometimes, it’s like you have to hold your students’ hands through every step. You have to encourage them to get started. You show them exactly what they need to do. You set them challenges, then provide scaffolds so they can overcome them. Then you find their mistakes for them and show them how to correct them. And you feel like you have to do all of this, or they wouldn’t learn anything at all!
These students who leave us exhausted are the ones with poor Learnership – they haven’t learned how to effectively engage in the learning process. It’s not that they can’t learn; it’s just that they don’t know how to learn effectively.
In any given lesson, there’s a particular cognitive load that needs to be “lifted”. This is the intellectual work required to achieve the...