Student Agency

Definition 

Agency refers to the power to make choices. Students with agency are those who feel a high level of responsibility and ownership for their own learning: babies are perfect examples of this, learning to sit, crawl and walk, without waiting for anyone to "teach" them how, or control when or where this will occur. Within schools, student agency is often complicated to foster and nurture, as it requires a fairly high degree of individualization and programmatic adaptability. The industrial age approach to schooling is organized around the concept that students will learn the same material, at the same rate, and in the same way. Learning is, in effect, "done to students," rather than students actually doing learning. The move towards organizing around agency is a move towards shifting the locus of control for learning from the educators to the learners.

Features 

  • Personalization

Designer's Tips 

Related to the notion of agency is that of ownership: as students come to feel that their education is truly their own, the theory is that they will also feel enough agency to make their own decisions about the path they will take. Because mastery learning programs are built on the notion that students can and must make effective choices with regard to their path, pace, and place for learning. Many students arrive at school--particularly high school-with little sense of their own agency, often because of the lack of "choice and voice" that they have been able to exert in previous years. All too often, school designers assume that students will be eager and able to assume agency, but in our experience this is something will require practitioners in to organize their design process to include deep thinking about how they will foster, nurture and support student agency within their programs.

Tips for a Short Implementation Time-Line 

Student Agency is a building block concept for effective mastery learning programs. To begin, it is generally helpful to ensure that students, staff members and parents have a common conception of the term, and that there are key programmatic elements in place that will provide students and faculty support as they work to foster student agency. Some examples: Student-Led Conferences and Exhibitions, Student Lead Morning Meetings, Student choice of modules, playlists and courses, and/or student presence on committee meetngs, hiring teams, and curriculum reviews.
Curated Resources: This collection of resources from the field includes models and exemplars, as well as “DIY” guidance to facilitate your exploration of this term. 

Igniting Learning at the Making Community Connections School

Description 

MC2 is a learner-centered school that explicitly fosters student agency and choice. Included in this blog post are links to a set of rubrics developed by the QED Foundation that articulate foundational habits (self-direction, ownership, community), habits of being, and habits of mind.

Authors 

Chris Sturgis

Resource Type 

  • Blog Post

Publishing Organization 

CompetencyWorks

Type of Organization 

  • Non-Profit

Terms 

Student Agency
Student-Centered Learning

Naviance Individual Learning Plans

Description 

The success planning tools in Naviance allow students and school staff members to set goals and create tangible, action-oriented, and personalized plans that focus students on the future. Students can contribute to this plan by creating to-dos and marking items as completed. Naviance is included as an example of an individual learning plan. Schools should similar tools before buying it or any other digital resource. Ed Surge and other organizations provide consumer friendly reviews many of these tools.

Resource Type 

  • Website

Publishing Organization 

Naviance

Type of Organization 

  • For-Profit

Terms 

Student Agency
Grading & Reporting System

Motivation, Engagement and Student Choice

Description 

This book, part of the Students at the Center series, presents educators with strategies to engage and motivate each individual in a large, diverse group of teenagers. It addresses many common impediments to motivation and describes how choice and voice lead to increased student achievement.

Authors 

Eric Toshalis, Michael Nakkula

Resource Type 

  • Report

Publishing Organization 

Jobs for the Future

Type of Organization 

  • Non-Profit

Terms 

Student Agency

GooruLearning

Description 

A free tool that helps educators create topic, skills, and theme-based playlists to support students skill and content knowledge development, as well as to explore their passions and interests. Gooru Learning includes playlists and resources for each grade level and content area. Gooru Learning has merged with Activate Instruction.

Resource Type 

  • Website

Publishing Organization 

Gooru Learning

Type of Organization 

  • Non-Profit

Terms 

Playlist
Self-Directed Learning
Student Agency
Learning Assets
Modules
Units

Making Mastery Accessible: Creative Uses of Time in School--Slideshow

Description 

The school calendar and schedule remain immutable features in almost all communities. Finding new ways to collaborate with community organizations, and allow students to undertake legitimate learning outside of the schoolhouse remains extremely challenging for district schools. Within the schoolhouse, we 40-50 minute learning periods remain the norm, with individual teachers assigned to groups of students who have been organized by age or ability.

Authors 

Antonia Rudenstine

Resource Type 

  • Presentation

Publishing Organization 

reDesign

Type of Organization 

  • reDesign

Terms 

Flexible Modular Schedule (Flex-Mod)
Flexibly-Paced Learning
Grouping Plan
Student Agency
Student Voice & Choice

Roadtrip Nation

Description 

Roadtrip Nation is an organization dedicated to helping people find career and life fulfillment: "In our fleet of RVs, we crisscross the globe, journeying from rugged back roads to sleek superhighways, subsisting off unnaturally colored gas station snacks, sleeping in any empty parking lot we can find—just so we can talk to the people who figured out how to build a career around their own unique combination of interests." Check out the expansive list of schools around the country that Road Trip Nation has visited and the resources it makes available to help better connect students to thinki

Resource Type 

  • Blog Post

Publishing Organization 

Roadtrip Nation

Type of Organization 

  • For-Profit

Terms 

Personalized Learning Plan
Student Agency
Personalized Learning

The Expert Learner with Choice and Voice

Description 

In this blogpost, Bray and McKlaskey describes the qualities and actions of expert learners. At the heart of their paradigm is the belief that student voice and choice are absolutely fundamental to becoming an empowered, effective learner. This post provides a brief overview of the paradigm shift from teacher-centered to learner-centered that must occur for students to exercise voice and choice. Designer's might find this helpful to share with teachers who are unfamiliar with this paradigm.

Authors 

Kathleen McKlaskey & Barbara Bray

Resource Type 

  • Blog Post

Publishing Organization 

Personalize Learning: Transform Learning for all Learners

Type of Organization 

  • Non-Profit

Terms 

Student Agency
Student Voice & Choice
Personalized Learning