The Student Agency How: Strategies to Use in the Classroom
By Suzanne Herko / December 11, 2018
In my last blog I explained what student agency is and the important research base behind it. But what are some best practices to teach and develop student agency? How do I, as a classroom teacher, start integrating student agency strategies into my classroom? Here are a few daily and weekly strategies which, when used regularly, help students to become more self-aware and grow in their skills as learners.
Strategy #1: Identify the strategies. What exactly are the habits and skills that will make for long-term student success in school? At Gateway, by identifying what we saw as student needs and reviewing current literature, we came up with our Student Agency/Process of Learning Rubric. While it’s a method of self-assessment, it also serves to guide students in what they can and should do to be better students. Frequent reference to specific skills on this rubric across assignments, lessons, units and projects helps students understand these goals and make them their own.
Strategy #2: Give students opportunities to self-assess on their learning. Whether they are considering how well they used their math strategies to solve a problem or reviewing how well they used the writing process in an essay, students begin to own their habits when they have to self-assess and self-monitor. Being clear about what success looks like at their developmental stage helps student honestly evaluate their strengths and areas of growth. One way we do this is through daily and weekly Exit ticket self-assessments.
Strategy #3: Give students the opportunities to set goals for themselves. This process could focus on short-term goals - like completing a project. Or focus on long-term goals - like attaining a specific reading level or reading a variety of novel genres. But helping students define SMART goals, sharing those goals publicly in family conferences, and identifying the people who can help students reach those goals all empower them to do so.
Strategy #4: Build a growth mindset into the learning process. We often set goals for ourselves and don’t reach them on the first try. That’s OK. That very experience is an opportunity for us to learn about ourselves. Maybe we discover we have been overambitious, or that reaching the goal is more complicated than we originally thought. I encourage my students to forgive themselves, identify what went awry, and then remind themselves, they are just not there...yet. And then there is the next time, when we have additional insights into how to reach that goal.
Into The Future: Setting students up for future academic success isn’t easy. There is no magic pill or single strategy for supporting all students; nor is there a uniform appearance to the students’ future academic success.
But the research has shown us a path of student habits that lead to success. And we teachers can lay the foundational stones for students on that path. That foundation involves not just identifying where students need to go, but also giving them the explicit instruction along the way. We need to help them practice effectively - evaluating where they are on the path and, perhaps most importantly, imbuing in them the confidence and guidance to walk it successfully now and into the future.