Concepts: What is learner agency?

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What is it?

Agency is when learning involves the activity and the initiative of the learner, more than whatever is passed on from the teacher, curriculum or resources

Can we dig a little deeper?

Learner agency is when learners have the power to act and make choices. The opposite of a learner with agency is a passive learner.

How does this help describe a learner-centred teaching environment?

In a learner-centred teaching environment, learners have agency over their own learning. And the teaching environment and systems serve the needs and interests of the learner.

It might not be possible to achieve this completely in your situation. But it’s still a goal to pursue despite the constraints your particular work environment.

Developing learner agency means that your learners need to:

  • Believe that their behaviour and their approach to learning will make a difference for them.
  • Not be working in isolation doing their own thing and what suits them. They should feel connected.
  • Have an awareness of the responsibility of their own actions on the environment and on others.

Behaviours such as a passive approach to learning can be hard to change. You need to have a foundation of mutual respect, trust and relationship in place if you want to make a difference here.

But when it happens, you’ll find that your learners will take ownership of their learning. As they set personal goals, the learning becomes theirs. That’s why we have to find ways to link it to their passions and interests.

  1. Are your learners active in the learning process, or are they just passive receivers?
  2. Are your learners capable of independent thought and able to act on their own?
  3. Do you have individual learning plans in place to personalise direction, content, and assessment where you can?

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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