Developing learner agency is a major component of the future focused curriculum we provide the learners at St Joseph’s School. For me, this means providing opportunities for our children to take ownership of, and responsibility for, their learning by having a voice in the decision making processes that determine ‘what’ and ‘how’ they learn at St Joseph’s School.
My vision of the agentic learner is very much shaped by the understandings of student agency proposed by Wenmoth (2014). He offers the following as the core features of learner agency:
- Learner agency requires the initiative or self-regulation of the learner. Rather than a one size fits all approach where inputs are transmitted to the learner from the expert, agentic learners are more active in the learning process and the decisions that shape the learning.
- Learner agency is interdependent. It mediates and is mediated by the sociocultural context that it takes place within. It’s not just about a learner in isolation doing their own thing and what suits them.
- Learner agency includes an awareness of the responsibility of ones own actions on the environment and on others.
Ironically, when we change the focus from the students within our school to the teachers within our staffroom; and switch the context from our classrooms to the staff meetings we generally hold weekly, the term learner agency no longer seems applicable.
Don’t get me wrong, there is always a place for meetings that are delivered to the full staff to ensure a shared understanding of a new initiative or to ensure that consistent practises are applied across the school context, but there also needs to be a level of teacher agency that drives personal professional development.
Like other professions, teachers must be lifelong learners who are constantly developing their pedagogy to ensure that it reflects educational best practise. However, just as we expect of our students, teachers must exercise agency and take ownership of, and responsibility for, their own learning.
Based on the notion of teacher agency, in 2016 we are aiming to offer self-directed professional development workshops that staff can opt into based upon personal needs and motivation. In order for these to be successful, we need to gain an understanding of the strengths, motivators and needs that lie within the staff as a collective.
What this looks like and how develops from this concept is a work in action. Stay tuned for updates.
Edudemic. (2015, January 2). Lifelong Learning is a Crucial Educational Mindset | Edudemic. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/lifelong-learning-educational-mindset/
Wenmoth, D. (2014, February 13). Ten Trends 2014: Agency | EDtalks. Retrieved from http://edtalks.org/video/ten-trends-2014-agency