Learner Agency: Where might we begin?

“Learner Agency” seems to be a buzz phrase within today’s educative circles. But what does it really mean and what implications might it have for our ways of working?

To start, let’s take a look at a couple of definitions:

Agent: “a person or thing that takes an active role or produces a specified effect” (noun), or “a person who acts on behalf of another”(noun). Oxford dictionary

Agency: “action or intervention producing a particular effect” noun). Oxford dictionary

Wikipedia states that within a sociology context Agency is “the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices”.

Learner: “A person who is learning a subject or skill”. Oxford dictionary

So, if we are to combine these definitions, we get;

“Individuals acting independently to make their own free choices when learning a subject or skill”.

But how are we to manage all this independence? How might we get there? What needs to change to support this movement for each of our cohorts of learners: children, teachers, leaders, parents, community?

Let's begin by exploring Student-Learner Agency:

The Student-Learner Agency movement is not about opening the floodgates to anarchy, but instead it has vast and deep implications for our ways of working and being. This is something that cannot be checked-off as “done”. It is not about implementing structures such as a Daily 5 programme without deep pedagogical constructs underpinning practice. This is huge and there is both an urgency, as well as a need to “make haste slowly” around this movement.

What might this look like?

It begins with a sound base that will support all structures; a responsive, integrated curriculum. From there we lay the foundations of Learning to Learn and Assessment for Learning Practices (AS and FOR). These are the the pillars that provide stability from which Personalised Learning derives. Within the walls we are able to have flex and choice around how the learning is created and facilitated (negotiated choice). Supporting all of this are technologies that enhance, engage and when used well facilitate learning. Through the use of technologies these walls become virtual, opening the classroom to the world and the world to the classroom. Overarching all of this is the facilitation of learning; student to student, teacher to student, student to teacher.

Student-Learner Agency - A model by Mary-Anne Murphy

Student-Learner Agency - A model by Mary-Anne Murphy

So where might we start?

Reviewing your baseline stabilisers is a great place to start. Utilising tools to gain an indication of where your school and teachers sit in relation to each element is vital for planning forward.

Want to know more? Contact Mary-Anne to discuss how your school might begin on this journey.