By: Renaissance US team
Student agency refers to learning through activities that are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, and often self-initiated with appropriate guidance from teachers. To put it simply, student agency gives students voice and often, choice, in how they learn.
This gives students a stake in choosing from opportunities provided for them—perhaps you give students a choice between projects, writing assignments, or other activities. Their ability to make a decision triggers a greater investment of interest and motivation.
Student agency empowers students to influence their own path to mastery. By encouraging students to take initiative, you enhance their cognitive ability to take control, increase motivation, and ensure students respond to their activities.
The American education system often takes a one-size-fits-all approach which some refer to as a factory model. Students move from one grade Guidance from an instructor is essential as students choose their direction. Imagine an agent guiding an actor or athlete to good career decisions. Within student agency, the teacher takes on the agent role in looking out for their student client.
Students must feel that their voice and self-direction are increased, even if they don’t get their way all the time. Think back to a lesson plan you were especially jazzed about that fell flat once you introduced it to students. Student agency keeps students engaged since they are part of the lesson plan in the first place.
Remember, students must also be able to demonstrate mastery. If students know what their goal is and trust their teacher is going to allow them to move through their chosen path to the goal while providing expert feedback, students are more invested in their own growth.
Mrs. Smith’s fourth-grade class is studying butterflies. Together, they have read some butterfly books and are caring for monarch caterpillars. For their final project of the unit, Mrs. Smith gives her students three options to choose from:
Each option gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery in different ways. Because students are able to choose the option that interests them most, Mrs. Smith has used student agency to personalise their learning.