Learner Agency

Two elusive phrases, student agency, and teacher agency are finding their way into strategic plans, Twitter feeds, and publications everywhere. Though the phrases have been around for decades, personalized learning has brought them back into focus. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Kathleen McClaskey, the co-author of two well-respected personalized learning books: Make Learning Personal, and How to Personalize Learning. Throughout our conversation, she stressed changing our vernacular to learner versus student or teacher. So, what is Learner Agency?  Learner Agency means that a learner directs his/her learning; he/she owns the process. 

Classrooms with high learner agency may not appear orderly or organized because the individual learner creates the structure and engages with the environment in a way that works for him/her. As I interviewed 5th-grade learners in Cary Harrod’s ELA classroom, I noticed that learners were in the driver’s seat, each heading to the same destination but taking a variety of routes to get there. The students I interviewed exuded what, for some, appeared to be a new found confidence in their abilities. What I found most profound is that every student I interviewed loved to learn. As an educator, that’s when you want to drop the mic!

The love of learning persists long after the ink of a test score has faded.