Section 3: Student Agency

Conceptual Overview

Presentation Audio Transcript

Text-Based Reflection

Read the Center for Collaborative Education's "Student Agency and Personalized Learning" for a blog post about the shift from teacher as expert to teacher as facilitator.
Answer  the following questions:

  • Describe a powerful learning experience you have had, inside or outside of school. What qualities or characteristics made that learning experience powerful? Are there any missing elements in the author's list?
  • How might increasing student agency allow students to utilize their identities, experiences, and passions as assets in the classroom?

Student Experience

Watch the Vermont Professional Learning Network's "Student Voice and Choice at Shelburne Community School: Curriculum is a Conversation" video.
Answer the following questions:

  • How did students choosing the revolution they wanted to study change their experience?
  • Sam Nelson, the teacher in this video, has set up a student planning committee composed of students that advise on curriculum. How might content, instruction, and assessment shift if students had more input?

Educator Experience

Read Getting Smart's "The 7C’s to College and Career Competency", which lists a spectrum of teacher practices that range from low student action to high student action.
Answer the following questions:

  • Approximately what percent of the time do you or your school engage in each of the following practices: Concert Learning, Collaborative Learning, Conferencing Learning, Coaching Learning, Connective Learning, Community-Based Learning, or Contributive Learning? Why do you think your time is balanced that way?
  • Sam Nelson, the teacher in the "Student Voice and Choice at Shelburne Community School: Curriculum is a Conversation" video, sometimes sets a timer for a small fraction of class time and lets his students keep track of how much time he spends talking in front of the room so they can cut him off if he engages in too much teacher talk. List as many concrete strategies as you can think of to transfer the ownership of learning from teacher to students.

Case Study Analysis

Read the case study below:

Joyce Choice is an instructional coach at Student Agency Cooperative. She has been working with teachers during professional development time to incorporate more student ownership into the learning process. While engaged in a classroom observation, she notices that although the teacher asks a number of questions of the class, much of the conversation is teacher-directed and initiated. For instance, the teacher will ask the class about character development over the course of a text and then rephrase student answers and weave them into a coherent argument. During the debrief of the observation, the teacher expresses confusion about why most students are struggling with understanding character development when he's devoted a significant amount of instructional time to this skill.

Answer the following questions:

  • What strategies could Joyce use to help the teacher see the link between his instructional practices, student agency, and students' learning?
  • If you were Joyce, what skills would you coach the teacher to help him increase student ownership of the learning process?
  • What structures might Student Agency Cooperative establish to build their teachers' capacity to facilitate student-driven learning?

More Resources

Read the Vermont Agency of Education's "Why is Proficiency-Based Learning Important?" to get an understanding of the connections between personalized, proficiency-based learning and student engagement and agency.
Examine Jobs for the Future's "Spectrum of Student Voice" for a graphic that shows a continuum of student agency.
Read Shelley Wright's "Start with Why: The Power of Student-Driven Learning" for an impassioned case for student agency in the learning process.
Read Education Update's "Student-Directed Learning" for a reflection on how student-directed practices change teaching and learning.
Watch Edutopia's "Facilitating Learning in a Student-Driven Environment" for a quick intro to student-driven practices.
Read Edutopia's "Student-Centered Learning: It Starts With the Teacher" for a post about inviting students to share in the decision making.
Read Education Week's "5 Ways to Make Your Classroom Student-Centered" for a set of tips on student-driven learning practices.
Read Nellie Mae Education Foundation's "A Qualitative Study of Student-Centered Learning Practices in New England High Schools", particularly pages 19-21, for an exploration of student-center learning and student ownership.
Read the Center for Collaborative Education's "Creating Equitable and Curiosity-Filled Classrooms through Students" Questions" for a blog post about an inquiry-based learning framework.

Evidence of Learning

Be sure to record your answers to the above questions in the Evidence of Learning Tool.

Continue this Self-Paced Course

Section 4: Portfolios

Browse other questionsPractices in Personalized, Proficiency-Based Learning

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