I’ve been looking a lot into ‘learner agency’ recently. Well on it’s way to being something of an education buzz-word, properly understood learner agency means that students are active drivers in their education. It goes beyond ‘student-centred learning’, and shifts the power from teachers to learners. We’ve talked about self-efficacy before too, but again learner agency goes further.

Recently, I watched a workshop by James Anderson and his take on learner agency. You can find it here. He also provides some links to some of his work on the subject (look, there’s a bit of self-promotion, but he’s giving a 60 minute talk for free so that seems fair to me).

One of the points he made, and which I found really interesting because I have definitely done this, is schools and teachers sometimes mistake giving options – options for which topics to learn, or how to learn them, or how to present their work – as true learner agency. Changing these sorts of structures, enabling this sort of ‘student centredness’ may give students the sense of having agency, but it’s the teacher that is still driving things, who still has all the power. They are giving the options – and they can always take those options away.

I’m definitely going to watch the presentation again, as well as seeking out other takes on learner agency. I recommend having a look at what he’s got to say, if your interested in promoting learner agency in your school and classroom. Some stuff made me roll my eyes, and some stuff made me nod like one of those bobble-headed dogs on a car dashboard.

Do you promote learner agency in your classroom? How? If you watched James’s presentation, I’d love to know what you think.

Wendy Allott

I'm an educator, mum and wife living in beautiful Victoria, Australia. I make learning resources for passionate, but time-poor, teachers in need of a better work-life balance. I'm a voracious reader, love a good curry, and believe life is always better with chocolate.

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