Student Agency Resources

Recently on Twitter I shared a Google Doc where I have been collecting and collating anything and everything I can find about student agency over the past few years – blog posts, videos, images, podcasts, slideshows, academic journals, articles and more.

Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 4.16.28 PM.png

And I’ve received a really positive response from educators around the world, appreciative of the resources. Since I know not everyone is on Twitter, I thought I’d share the same resources here to hopefully reach even more educators wishing to deepen their understanding and practice of respecting and supporting student agency!

If you prefer the pretty, colour coded Google Doc click here. 

If not, check out the links below. 

Happy learning!  

Resource Categories:

  1. The “WHY” behind student agency
  2. Agency in General
  3. General “How To’s” – Strategies for Upping the Agency
  4. Students Setting Up the Learning Space:
  5. Students Planning Units:
  6. Students Planning their Day/Timetables:
  7. Students Owning Assessment:
  8. Student Voice/Democratic Process:
  9. Student Agency and Literacy:
  10. Student Agency in Early Years:
  11. Student Agency and Specialist Subjects:
  12. Student Agency and homework:
  13. Teacher Agency:
  14. Examples of Schools/Classes/Teachers Supporting Student Agency:
  15. Agency vs. school structures and systems:

 

  1. The “WHY” behind student agency:

Sir Ken Robinson – Bring on the learning revolution (Ted Talk)

Sir Ken Robinson – Do schools kill creativity? (Ted Talk)

7 Sins of our Forced Education System (article)

What works can hurt – side effects in education (academic journal) (and keynote speech)

The Future of Human Work is Imagination, Creativity and Strategy (article)

The role agency plays in happy children (article)

Who owns the learning in your classroom? (blog post)

Why is agentic learning important (article)

5 lessons on “learning” (blog post)

What kids need from grown-ups, but aren’t getting (article)

10 provocative quotes from “Deschooling Society” (article)

The case for the self-driven child (book review/interview with author)

The similarities between school and prison (comic)

Is real education reform possible? If so, how? (article)

Self-directed learning is the pursuit of happiness (article)

Why school is not ready for us (Tedx Talk)

What skills will employers value in 2020? (article)

Kids don’t fail school… school fails kids (article)

7 things that happen when students own their own learning (video) (and visual)

The difference between school and “real life” (sketchnote image)

WANTED: Professional Learners (article)

Are we ready for exponential change (video)

The Science of the Individual = The Case for Agency (compilation of research)

 

  1. Agency in General:

What is “agency” in the Enhanced PYP (graphic and short summary)

What is student agency and why should we care? (blog post)

10 questions in pursuit of learner agency (blog post)

The year of agency (article)

Developing student agency improves equity and access (blog post)

Student agency? Teacher Agency? School Agency? (blog post)

What is student agency (blog post)

‘Student Agency’ is not something you give or take (article)

#student agency (Twitter hashtag)

Making the shift from engagement to empowerment (video and blog post)

The art and science of developing student agency (article)

What is student agency? (Academic research)

The complexity of learner agency (academic research)

Don’t say agency unless you really mean it! (blog post)

Play at “agency” (article)

Misinterpreting Student Agency (article)

Traditional Approach vs. Agency-Supportive Approach (image)

What’s the difference between “engagement” and “empowerment” (visual)

Defining Learner Agency (blog post)

Choices for children – how and when to let children decide (blog post)

Learner Agency: Beyond the Buzzword (video workshop)

Living with Agency – beyond agency as a learner (blog post)

 

  1. General “How To’s” – Strategies for Upping the Agency

7 Ways to Promote More Choice in Compulsory Schooling (blog post)

5 ways to promote student agency (blog post)

Supporting Student Agency (blog post)

Supporting Student Agency – Take Two! (blog post)

Strategies for Supporting Voice, Choice and Ownership (Google Slides Presentation)

Let students teach (blog post)

How to reimagine schools (video series)

Opt-in lessons (blog post)

Learning to Self-Manage: Autonomy and Intrinsic Motivation (Harvard Article)

 

  1. Students Setting Up the Learning Space:

Preparing for students to set up the classroom (blog post)

Example of students setting up their classroom (blog post)

Teacher spaces vs. Student spaces (blog post)

Students setting up their own learning spaces (podcast)

Gleanealy School flexible learning spaces (video)

The boards are down (blog post)

Creating Spaces (blog post)

What an agency-supportive first week of school could look like (blog post)

 

  1. Students Planning Units:

Inviting students to teachers’ planning meetings (blog post)

The blank unit planner project (blog post)

Involving students in planning the lines of inquiry (blog post)

Involving students in planning for inquiry (blog post)

Student-led development of lines of inquiry (blog post)

Encouraging students to plan a unit (blog post)

Agency and the UOI (blog post)

Student-Planned UOIs (blog post)

Student-Planned UOIs: An Update (blog post)

 

  1. Students Planning their Day/Timetables:

Who should be writing the day plans? (blog post)

Student Written Day Plans (blog post)

How and why we let students create their own timetables (blog post)

Students making their own timetables (video)

Students Design their own school days (video & article)

Clear my schedule! (blog post)

Handing timetable reigns over to students (blog post)

 

  1. Students Owning Assessment:

Assessment done with students, not to students (blog post)

Should students be writing their own reports? (blog post)

Forced feedback vs. found feedback (blog post)

Co-constructing success criteria (blog post)

Rethinking exams in MYP (blog post)

What happens when students design their own assessments (article)

Student Written Report Cards (blog post)

Choice Boards – A Shift in Ownership (blog post)

Learning – Who gets to define success? (blog post)

Agency in assessment (blog post)

 

  1. Student Voice/Democratic Process:

Report Cards for Teachers (blog post)

School – a more fair and free place to learn (blog post)

How democratic is your classroom? (blog post)

What do we mean by “student voice”? (collection of short videos)

Continuum of ownership (image)

Student Voice – Our School’s Most Underutilized Resource (blog post)

When students have real power (blog post)

Respecting and Responding to Student Voice (blog post)

Continuum of Ownership (Sketchnote Visual)

More Agency in Student-Led Conferences (blog post)

 

  1. Student Agency and Literacy:

Student agency vs. reading instruction (blog post)

Reading “rules” we would never follow as adult readers (blog post)

On reading tasks (blog post)

Can I just read now!? (cartoon)

 

  1. Student Agency in Early Years:

Agency in Early Years (webinar)

Supporting Learner Agency in the Early Years (blog post)

Inside the world’s best kindergarten (article)

Promoting agency in early childhood (pdf newsletter)

Early Years Learning – Agency in Practice (pdf)

A sense of agency in early years (PDF)

Involving young children in decision making (PDF)

Respecting Students’ Agency and Rights to Participation (Academic Journal)

Engaging with children’s voices (article)

Promoting independence and agency in early childhood (brochure)

Examining learner agency in your setting (list of criteria)

Simple Moments (blog post)

Unstructured Play is critical for kids (article)

 

  1. Student Agency and Specialist Subjects:

Student agency in PE (blog post)

Personalized learning in PE (blog post)

Agency – a paradigm shift in the role of the library (blog post)

Voice, choice and ownership in the art classroom (blog post)

Agency in Visual Arts (blog)

Technology isn’t necessary in personalizing learning (blog post)

Launch Cycle – A framework for design thinking (video)

Examining learner agency in your setting (list of criteria)

 

  1. Student Agency and homework:

An inquiry into homework (blog post)

Home Learning – Student-Led Debate (blog post)

Student-Led Homework (blog post)

 

  1. Teacher Agency:

10 ways for leaders to encourage agency (blog post)

5 ways to increase teacher agency (blog post)

#teacheragency (Twitter hashtag)

Self-directed PD (blog post)

Personalized Professional Learning (blog post)

Personalized Professional Learning Take 2 (blog post)

Born to Learn – Moving beyond school reform to educational transformation (website)

Some thoughts on PD about agency (blog post)

Ideas for more agentic PD (blog post, podcast, visual)

How to lead an evolution through inquiry-based leadership (blog post)

Agency-Based Professional Development (blog post)

Agency As and For PD (blog post)

School Leaders… knowing when to follow the rules, bend the rules, break the rules (blog post)

Leading like a robot, or a rebel? (blog post)

Evolution Starts Here: Inquiry-Based Leadership (blog post)

 

  1. Examples of Schools/Classes/Teachers Supporting Student Agency:

Building Agency (video)

How schools develop student agency (blog post)

A year of supporting student agency (blog post)

Example of agency within units of inquiry, literacy and math (webinar min. 23 – 50)

Summerhill School (website)

Windsor House School (website)

Supporting Student Agency Take Two! (blog post)

Project Planning Paralysis (blog post)

Templestow School (video)

Studio 5: Breaking Down Moulds (podcast)

Already Breaking Moulds – Studio 5 (Learning2 Talk)

Studio 5 – What have we just walked into? (blog post)

Studio 5 (website)

Be the change you want to see in High School – article

How students create motivationally supportive learning environments for themselves (academic research)

Templestow High School (podcast)

FLOW21 – Western Academy of Bejing (website)

Voices of the alternative education movement (video)

Unschooling movement (written interview and podcast interview)

No Grades. No Timetable. Berlin Schools Turn Teaching Upside Down (article)

Examples of learner agency in early years (padlet)

Gleanealy School (short video)

Studio 3: Skills first approach (blog post)

Student Agency, Change and Pushing Boundaries (blog post)

Futures Academy ISB (article)

Innovation Institute SAS (website)

Purdue- Trying to upend the traditional highschool model

My pragmatic journey to voice and choice in the high school classroom (article)

Elon Musk Tinkers with Education (article)

 

  1. Agency vs. school structures and systems:

Who is the God of Curriculum and what does he/she have against student agency? (article)

Learning targets (blog post)

Flexible Scheduling (article)

Standards – Why realizing the full potential of education requires a fresh approach (article)

Breaking the mould of assemblies (blog post)

Timetables – the enemy of creativity (blog post)

Feeling backwards about backwards design (blog post)

The untouchables (blog post)

Breaking away from the homeroom mould (blog post)

Advertisements

The Untouchables

Sometimes the things that need to be questioned the most, are the things we feel we’re least able to question. The parts of the education system that carry the guise of being ingrained, natural, and untouchable. Things that have “always been” and things that will “always be”.

Like:

– grade levels

– curriculum

– assessment

– reporting

– timetables

– units

– classes

– classrooms

But if we really want to pursue more agency for students and shift the current paradigm of education, then maybe these are the very things that we should be critically questioning, challenging and re-imagining.

Sometimes this is difficult to do because these human-created systems have seemed to almost calcify overtime to the point where it’s hard to figure out how to remove them, or change them.

But if we ask ourselves George Couros’ famous question…

(Image source – Principal of Change Blog)

… with the intent of creating a place that respects and supports each student’s agency as a learner and a human being and supports the processes of learning as they naturally occur… would those elements and structures be part of the design?

How can we stop seeing these elements as untouchables and start having critical conversations about:

the purpose they serve, or perhaps don’t serve…

the way they support learning, or perhaps inhibit learning

the way the help students flourish, or perhaps prevent students from flourishing

the impact they have, or perhaps their unintended side-effects...

I’m not saying that they’re all bad (or that any of them are bad) I’m just saying that making an informed choice as an education community about the structures and systems we choose to have to support learners and the process of learning, is very different than passively accepting elements of the educational paradigm that have been passed down, or passed off as “untouchable”.

Which “untouchable” elements of the current education paradigm do YOU think need to be critically questioned?

Rebels, rogues and shifting teacher identity

With the recent and visible crisis of trust involving Facebook, Thomas Friedman in his NYT op-ed points out that the VUCA world has been speeding up. “We can compete, connect, collaborate and create with more other people in more ways, from more places, for less money and with greater ease than ever before.”

And, Friedman says, “we found ourselves in the second inning.” There are now more ways to do good work with the connectivity and technology we have at our fingertips. But there are also more ways to do bad work. “cool self-driving car killed a pedestrian; cool Facebook platform enabled Russian troll farms to divide (the US) and inject fake news into our public life.”

Friedman suggests in his article that the rebellious act by Facebook, defined by Merriam Webster as opposing or taking arms against an institution, failed because Facebook failed to take into account the ethical conduct necessary to respect its users.

That word, rebellious, is a contentious one.

It could be interpreted in so many varied ways.

And, it might help to deconstruct rebellion a little and to perhaps distance ourselves from the unethical actions of what the Facebook platform has done. Because perhaps a better word for what FB did is ‘rogue’ – according to Merriam Webster “a dishonest or worthless person.”

Definitions and identity

Friedman’s mentor, Dov Seidman, suggests that “The world is fused. So there is no place to stand to the side and claim neutrality—to say, I am just a businessperson’ or “I am just running a platform” (in Friedman, March 2018).

If we are ‘just’ rebels in education, there might be some ways that our function is misunderstood. ‘Just’ being a rebel means being oppositional. ‘Just’ being a rebel might be misconstrued as creating disturbances in a system for the sake of technicality.

A rebel alliance in education that self-organised after IBSG2018 defines our identity as a group which “shares in a dream of a better approach to education and are willing to fail, be a little a different… and even get in trouble if we have to” (Educator Voices, About).

A hunch is that it’s not actually ‘just’ being oppositional that we celebrate and embody, but rather we embrace the agency of being thoughtful, interdependent critical thinkers who ask what Adaptive SchoolsSM ask themselves. Who are we, why are we doing this, why are we doing this, this way? (Garmston and Wellman, 2013, p. 10-11).

The caution that Seidman offers in Friedman’s writing (March, 2018) gives us the provocation, “we are coming to grips with the reality that the power to make the world more open and equal is not in the technologies themselves…the same amazing tech that enables people to forge deeper relationships, foster closer communities and give everyone a voice can also breed isolation, embolden racists, and empower digital bullies and nefarious actors.”

If we narrow our definition of what ‘rebels’ pose as mere disturbances to the system, we fall into the trap of dichotomous thinking: that we are either oppositional or we are obedient to the status quo.

The complexity of change and change leadership in our schools asks us to widen our consciousness beyond the limits of dichotomy.

The complexity of culture in schools creates difficult questions. Nadia Ellis asked some questions listed below and many more in her blog post. These questions provoke thinking around adaptive problems in schools and in education.

In navigating change, we question our identities as educators.

  • Why do many think of changing “education”, but no one thinks first about changing their “teaching”?

We question why we are doing this.

  • Why don’t we constantly re-examine beliefs about learning and teaching to consider how schools can best serve learners?

And we question why we do this, this way.

  • Why don’t we have open discussions about what we want learners to know and do?

When we ask these questions, we are perhaps clarifying identity as we change form (Garmston and Wellman, 2013, p. 10), which is what adaptive organisms (and organisations) do in times of change.

Why it’s messy work

Education is changing in response to a changing world. Educators find themselves in the ecotone, that area of tension that arises from disturbances as we make the transition between what was and what we want to become (Zoller, March 2018). One of the challenges for the educator might be because we don’t necessarily choose the state of facing change. Ecotones present themselves when we are thrust into one; as something in a system that already exists; or when we create one (Zoller, March 2018).

You are in an ecotone because...

You might be in an ecotone illustration by Aloha Lavina based on Kendall Zoller’s work.

When we face this journey of transformation, we may feel torn, pulled in different directions, frustrated at times because, how do we find a stable place to stand on when the place we stand on is the one shifting?

The pressure to figure it out is relentless in the VUCA world. We may have internalised the sense of urgency to act. This is a time of turmoil for the self because “identity is both the director and the work in progress” (Zoller, March 2018).

Teachers are also individuals, and just as we have a personal value system as a person, our professional persona also has its own value system. Seidman, talking about Facebook’s fail, suggests that what the world needs from the social media platform is for it to find a different kind of leadership because ““sustainable values are what anchor us in a storm, and because values propel and guide us when our lives are profoundly disrupted.” (in Friedman, March 2018).

What happens when values clash with values? If someone sees himself at the cutting edge of current learning trends because a unit uses design thinking, yet uses a problem that was planned 30 years ago for a homogenous classroom and now applied in the current classroom of diverse, cross-cultural kids in an age when robots can laser-print an entire building — what might be the assumptions at work? Is this practice innovative? Should students duplicate what machines can do, and what does that mean for our future?

As we ponder the changes in education and in our schools, perhaps the greatest ecotone we must cross is the journey from our own old mental models to the identity we need to serve our students today.

The ecotone of identity

What if our most frightening area of tension was our shifting identity as educator? Illustration by Aloha Lavina based on Immunity to Change (Kegan and Lahey, 2009).

Conflicts arise when our beliefs clash with…our beliefs. Kegan and Lahey (2009) give us the concept of immunity to change, suggesting some reasons why people (and organizations) do not change despite good intentions. The authors’ idea is that our own mental models often get in the way of enactment for change.

The concept of immunity to change is not a suggestion for us to plunge into deep despondence that we are storms of contradictions. The suggestion is that we might examine how we see and make meaning of experiences, and in the process of reflection, create a greater consciousness for who we are, why we’re doing this, and why we’re doing this, this way.

Pausing to examine assumptions

Intentionality in our work toward change in education nudges us toward a more thoughtful agency. Might we slow down and lend ourselves thinking time, pausing in what Stephen Covey calls the ‘arena of consciousness’ so we can examine what assumptions we hold regarding teaching and learning?

Both-and thinking

There are conflicts that arise again and again in schools, and we think they are problems, which we can reduce to either-or thinking. Rigor and inclusion. Agency and accountability. Standards-based curriculum and inquiry. These tensions emerge often in our schools because they are not problems to be solved with an algorithm or patterned solution. They are polarities, tensions which loop in infinite motion between one and the other (Johnson, 2014). They are not solved; they are managed (the idea of polarities are from Polarity Partnerships).

In our distress we may not notice that both polarities are necessary and co-exist. Rigor to the neglect of inclusion alienates students who learn differently. Inclusion to the neglect of rigor does not guarantee competencies and other important outcomes of an educational experience. Both polarities are necessary and they co-exist. Holding both in your thinking requires a discipline to avoid falling into dichotomous divisions, which may pressure the teacher into thinking he or she must choose between one or the other.

Just as Facebook must now see itself as both community space and responsible cultural agent, we too need to integrate our identities as change agents and responsible rebels.

Students are waiting for our professional response.

References
Friedman, T. L. (2018, March 28). How Mark Zuckerberg Can Save Facebook – and Us. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/27/opinion/zuckerberg-facebook-digital-bullies.html

Garmston, R. J., & Wellman, B. M. (2013). The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.

Johnson, B. (2014). Polarity management: Identifying and managing unsolvable problems. Amherst, MA: HRD Press.

Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. (2009). Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

Zoller, K. (2018, March 9). Leading in the ecotone. Speech presented at Thinking Collaborative at NIST, Bangkok.

Photo credits

Featured photo Trolltunga, Norway. Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash
Self as ecotone illustration on “White-capped sea waves breaking on a barren shore on a stormy day” Photo by Frantzou Fleurine on Unsplash
Types of ecotone illustration on “Rimini, Italy” Photo by Radek Grzybowski on Unsplash

Note: This post was originally posted in the author’s blog as “Rebels, rogues and storms of teacher identity.”

Innovation needs to be grown, not transplanted

It is sooo amazing to see/hear/read about all the buzz around innovation lately! There is such great momentum for pushing the envelope and making real changes to the system.

And with that awesome energy can sometimes come a “transplant” type of thinking.

“Let’s try that, here.”

And that type of thinking is kind of like cloning a plant that’s thriving somewhere and plopping it down somewhere else.

transplant plant

…and then wondering one or two years down the road why it’s not flourishing.

Was the soil right? Was there enough sunlight? Was it in the right temperature? Were there gardeners who were willing to tend to it? Was it even the plant you wanted?

Sometimes all we see is the plant – because it’s what’s most visible – but we neglect to think about all the factors that contributed to what helped it grow in the first place.

Sam Sherrat has a great blog post called Studio 5: It Took More Than 7 Days. Which gives great insight into the 3 years of thinking and planning that went into Studio 5 to make it what it is today. As well as this first post in a series where he breaks down (more specifically) the different stages of our evolution process.

So in keeping with my plant metaphor, here are some suggested steps to help you grow your own innovation!

First, decide what plant you want

Start with your own why. What do you believe about learning? What do you believe your children deserve? What do you believe about the future of education? What are you hoping to achieve or accomplish? What dream are you working towards? If you could sum up your mission in one sentence, what would it be?

Then, buy the seed

Commit to your mission. Write it down. Share it with stakeholders. Be transparent about the vision you will be working towards. Work towards poking and provoking thinking to help people value and believe in it.

Next, tend to the seed.

Germinate the idea. Take time to brainstorm possibilities. How could you achieve your “why”? What are all the different ways you could bring your mission to life? What may work, might work, could work….

Upskill the Gardeners

Take time to inquire as a staff. Give people a chance to expereince the type of innovation you plan to implement for students. Find resources to extend everyone’s thinking and understanding of whatever it is you want to do.

Prune the plant as it grows.

Continuosly, go back to your “why”. What are you doing that’s helping achieve it? What are you doing that’s preventing you from achieving it? What do you need to start, stop, continue in order to honour your original mission. Know that the process is iterative.

It’s so great that so many schools want to innovate, but if we want our innovations to take root and really thrive we need to make sure that we are developing innovations that can grow and blossom in our specific contexts.. with our specific beliefs… our specific students… our specific teachers… our specific community.

Start with your “why”.

Brainstorm all the possible “how’s”.

Decide on some “what’s”

Give it a try.

And be prepared for endless iterations.

Copy and paste the process, not the innovation. 

A Rebel Alliance

It was very clear at the 2018 IB Global Conference and IB World Heads Conference that there are a number of educators out there who are pushing the boundaries, shaking up the system and challenging the status quo. All in pursuit of respecting and supporting agency and a better, more humane approach to education.

Agency for students.

Agency for teachers.

Agency for schools.

We’re from all over the worldAustralia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Germany, China, Bahamas, India, Switzerland, Qatar, Mozambique, Hong Kong, America, Malaysia, Poland, Korea, Italy, Thailand, UAE, Laos, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Kenya, UK, Portugal, Angola, The Netherlands, Estonia, Pakistan, Brazil, Lithuania, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Spain, Indonesia, Cambodia, Panama, Madagascar

We have different rolesteachers, leaders, coordinators, librarians, counsellors, administrators, heads of school, IBO staff members.

We’re at different stages of our journey first steps away from being a robot all the way to being full fledged rebel-leaders.

But we ALL share in a dream of a better approach to education and are willing to fail, be a little a different… and even get in trouble if we have to 😉

And we’ve joined together, through this blog, to share our risks… our failures… our successes… our ideas… our challenges… our frustrations… our pilots…. our prototypes… our initiatives… our innovations…

Our stories. 

So we invite you to follow our blog, read our posts, leave us comments and join the conversation.