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Building Student Agency

Έγινε ενημέρωση: 5 Σεπ 2021

What is student agency?

Student agency involves the learner’s ability to make decisions for their own learning based on their interests, thus participating more actively in the classroom and becoming more autonomous.

Why is student agency important?

By promoting student agency in our classroom, we give our students the chance to become more involved in the learning process. Not only does that motivate them, but it also helps them develop valuable 21st century skills like critical thinking, initiative, self-direction and information literacy among others.

How can we promote student agency?

The answer is simple. As teachers, we are used to organising and planning every aspect of our lesson, be it due to lack of class time or the notion that we need to help our students by providing guidelines and step-by-step instructions on how to approach a task. However, if we really want to promote student agency it would be wise to give the floor to our learners every once in a while.

Let’s say we are working on a unit about art and we would like the end product to be a presentation. We can allow students to decide how they approach the topic; it could be a presentation about art movements, painters or famous works of art. The means they employ to carry out their task could also be up to them – digital tools, pen and paper, posters and anything else they come up with. Since our goal is to develop research and presentation skills, it doesn’t really matter how they decide to achieve that. As a bonus point, it is almost certain that they will use some new topic-related vocabulary in the process.

It is equally vital to encourage students to think about the purpose of a task and why it is valuable. Besides the obvious fact that it will motivate them, it will also give them a sense of direction in their research and the information they decide to include in their product.

What is the role of the teacher?

That of a facilitator. Our presence is essential to co-ordinate, assist when needed and challenge students within their limits. And remember: allowing students to make some decisions about their learning does not mean giving up all control. We can determine which decisions will be left to the students and make the rest ourselves.

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