Thursday, 28 May 2015

Student agency: small steps, giant leaps

We are now half way through our second term of ELS's ( engaging learning spaces - our very own MLE's modern learning environments) and we need to remind ourselves of our purpose. We aim to "Engage every student in deep learning for success" within our special character Catholic school.
Yesterday I joined our Senior Hub 2 (Year 6, 7 and 8) team meeting. It was encouraging to hear the team ask the same question to each other at different times during the meeting: How is this activity providing student agency? The meeting began with staff sharing ways that they had adapted their own practices to allow student agency.

A quick reminder on what student agency means as sited in the elearning infusion blog by Nick Rate :
  • Teachers use planned pedagogical approaches that engage students and enable them to take charge of their learning leading to high achievement (Mark Osborne).
  • Students are empowered through curriculum approaches that; engage them, are respectful of and seek their opinions, give them opportunities to feel connected to school life, promote positive and caring relationships between all members of the school community, promote wellbeing and focus on the whole student, relate to real-life experiences, are safe and supportive (Values Centered Schools).
These were some of the ways that our senior team have adapted their teaching practices taken from Senior Hub 2 minutes (thanks Becci, Morgan and Thomas).

Actually involving the learners in decisions and structured choices can be challenging. It means that teachers have to move out of their 'being in control' comfort zone. It starts with small steps. Here is an example. Last term the learning hubs introduced Learner Licences. This was an idea adapted from our visit to Myross Bush School. Our staff created their own rubrik linked to the key competencies.
Key competencies are an integral part of the NZ Curriculum and TKI online describes them in this way: Key competencies are the capabilities people have, and need to develop, to live and learn today and in the future.
St Joseph's SH 2 Learner License rubrik

At the start of the year, the teachers directed the students to the appropriate level of the learner's licence. One of the questions that our recent visitors asked was: "Do the children or the teachers move names on the learner license board ?" Now that the year is well underway and the teachers have built quality relationships with the learners, they arranged a whole hub meeting yesterday.The students were able to express how they were feeling in relation to the learner license levels. They looked at the rubrik in their learner groups and discussed the indicators and where they felt that they saw themselves. They were then given the opportunity to move their names to where they believed they should be. They shared evidence for their decisions. Further teacher support and next steps were suggested for those students who felt that they were still at the learner level and wanted to move to the restricted level.
Student agency began with little steps. However, giant leaps were made during the course of this meeting with learners in response to student voice.
Minutes from the SH 2 meeting in response to student voice leading to student agency
Learner License display in SH 2
Listen to Kaleb and Joseph share their thoughts on the Learner License process.
Cushla and Trish share their thoughts as well.
As staff take small steps towards increasing student agency, students begin to make giant leaps in their learning.


  1. Well done SH2 Team (children included)!

  2. It was a well led team meeting Becci. Involving learners in the decision making about where to next with the learner licenses gave them agency. Thanks for letting me be part of and share this 'light bulb' session.