We recently had Taryn BondClegg lead us in learning through a workshop on student agency. She provoked, inspired, stimulated, modeled, questioned and connected us to our own understandings of learner agency. After she left the excitement was palpable, teachers were ready to embark on this journey of risk-taking and reflecting in order to cultivate agency. Everyone was eager to try on the new ideas and strategies they learned but Taryn had warned us about the temptation to transplant. And so we hit the pause button. Myself, my principal and our strategic leadership team sat down and reflected: so how do we do agency?
In our reflections we realised that we were jumping into the HOWs of agency. We were transplanting all these great ideas but without really having formed our own understandings of WHY. So we went back to the WHY.
We gathered everyone together for our early release Wednesday professional learning time and we reminded everyone of Simon Sinek and the power of WHY. We then journeyed together for the afternoon to find our WHY.
We looked at how purpose is a driving force for motivation and engagement is directly tied to agency.
We reflected together on the workshop, specifically how it felt to be a learner and to have our agency honored. We connected these reflections to our emerging understandings of learner agency at our school and “HOW do we do agency.”
We then decided to solidify our understanding of agency by creating our own definition. The power of this process came through the dialogue amongst the teachers, TAs and leadership team as we negotiated and formed a shared understanding.
This is the definition that will carry us forward as we continue to navigate our way through learner agency:
Agency is the capacity each of us has to take responsibility to act and advocate, make our own choices and pursue our own passions.
With our shared definition we moved on to consider why this is important for learning and for our entire learning community.
Armed with an understanding of the importance of honoring and cultivating agency we decided to tackle our purpose, to find our WHY.
We began by considering the purpose of school. To really get at the heart of our purpose we used the “5 Whys” thinking routine.
These are the powerful statements of purpose that came from this reflection:
|To inspire and facilitate creative independent learners!
||To acquire the necessary skills to be a lifelong learner and thereby make a difference to our world
||To build skills that empower lifelong learning to the direction of success.
|Education should be engaging and enable students to reach their own potential.
||The purpose of school is to provide a community for learning
||To learn to learn.
The survival of our species depends on us moving forward from where we stand.
|The purpose of school is to learn to collaborate with and negotiate in your world.
||Exposure to a learning environment that empowers skill building and lifelong learning.
||The purpose of school is to become passionately curious and learn ways to act on your learning.
|To provide exposure to opportunities to develop skills for lifelong learning, find passions and discover your purpose in shaping our world
||To create the conditions that allow learners to realise their potential to make the world a better place.
||To nurture skills and attitudes for lifelong learning and to develop good human beings.
|To nurture competent, critical thinkers who influence the moral compass of their generation for good.
||The purpose of school is to empower, advocate for the child as they develop and discover their own personality.
||To provide/facilitate opportunities for learning
|To discover your potential
||Teach students or learners to be responsible through growth mindset.
||Ideally, school should be a place where students thrive in their growth of who they are and who they are meant to be.
|To nurture life long learners who are purposeful and passionate global citizens.
||The purpose of school is to guide us into a fun and purposeful space to add value to our community and our future
||To develop agentic individuals who are considerate of and compassionate towards others.
|To inspire lifelong learning
||To discover yourself as a learner
||To learn skills to cope in life
|For people to develop their minds, bodies and spirits to enable them to live life in ways that are fulfilling for them and beneficial for others
||To give students right environment to explore and learn new skills
||Developing an understanding of ourselves and the world through experiences that help us to survive/live.
|To present options that will guide the direction we choose because as humans we need a sense of purpose that adds value to our existence
||To facilitate student learning
||To prepare learners for a yet uncertain future.
|School allows us to find our passions and equips us with the skills to be successful in our pursuits
To bring these together into one we separated the ideas into three categories: we do what, for who, so that.
We do what:
Inspire facilitate empower engaging enable provide collaborate exposure learning environment/community, create the conditions, nurture, develop, advocate, provide/facilitate opportunities teach growth mindset, guide, fun, purposeful, give environment to explore, experiences, prepare, present options, discover, allows to find our passions, equips us with the skills, provide exposure to opportunities, develop skills
Students community learners, agentic individuals, minds, bodies and spirits, ourselves
Independent lifelong learners acquire skills attitudes success reach/realise their own potential learn how to learn negotiate their world, passionately curious, act, competent, critical thinkers, discover their own personality, responsible, growth who they are and who they are meant to be, thrive, purposeful and passionate global citizens, cope in life, live life in ways that are fulfilling for them and beneficial for others, understanding of ourselves, live, survive, sense of purpose that adds value to our existence, be successful in our pursuits, make a difference to our world, survival of our species, move us forward, make the world a better place, good human beings, influence the moral compass of their generation for good, add value to our community and our future, considerate of and compassionate towards others, find passions and discover your purpose in shaping our world
We then tried to bring all of these voices together into one collective statement of purpose:
We inspire and empower each other as a community of lifelong learners to realise our own potential and purpose as compassionate citizens active in shaping our world.
Inspired by one of Taryn’s workshops we used provocative statements and the “tug of war” thinking routine to begin thinking about the beliefs that support our purpose.
(Tug of War: 1. Choose a position, 2. Stand your position, 3. Try to tug others toward your position.)
Again the power of this process lies in the great discussions amongst the team. It is essential there is enough time for true dialogue to take place. In this way we then sat down and wrote out our beliefs.
|Purpose trumps passion
Motivation is key -autonomy-mastery -purpose
|Developing Skills and Mindsets are essential
EQ (emotional intelligence)
|Flow is crucial
|Our role is to expose/honor
||We need to give opportunities for learners to practice voice
||All learners are unique and capable.
|Believe that everyone is born with the capacity to learn, make choices that are important to them
||I believe that education happens intrinsically based on what experiences we are exposed to and which situations provide the right balance of challenge and positive “reward” #presentmeaningfulexperiences
||Students possess the capacity to navigate their journey. Schools can guide and empower individuals along the way.
|Believe that learning how to learn can be learned
||We all want to be the best version of ourselves
||Students learn best when they feel safe and happy and when they have a personal connection to what is being learnt.
|That all students have the capacity to be successful and to become critical and creative thinkers on the global stage.
||Everyone has the right to receive education. Everyone is a learner.
||Learning without a moral compass has the potential to make the world worse
|Students are capable
||Students should follow their own inquiry and passions
||Agency is innate
|All children have inherent value.
||Believe people have great potential and that schools can create an environment for that to flourish.
Believe that everyone has a unique learning pathway and we should make space for that.
|Everyone can learn
|Choices that are not informed can be counterproductive
||Self-efficacy is necessary to be successful.
||Everyone learns in different ways.
|Learning should be real-world oriented.
||Each child is an individual who is competent, full knowledge, creativity and wonder. Education is about the development of the whole person so they have the skills to reach their full potential.
||…that all people have the right to a safe and empowering environment that provides them with a multitude of opportunities for learning
|We all have agency
||Education empowers skill building.
||Our role as educators is being learner partners and consultants
We grouped these ideas into themes:
- Motivation and engagement – Purpose Passion and inquiry, Motivation, flow/mastery
- Self-efficacy (success/potential)- Skills, Become critical creative thinkers, Mindsets, Challenge, Self efficacy
- Partnerships – Expose, guide, empower, Create environment to flourish, Pave pathways for learning, right to a safe and empowering learning environment, Education empowers, Structure
- Agency – Honor agency, We all have agency, agency in innate/inherent
- The right to learn – Born with Capacity to learn as a learner, Learn how to learn, Everyone learns in different ways, Learning partners, Choice, right to learn
- Holistic education – Balance, Informed choices, Moral compass, Act on global stage, Real world, Enact change in the world, positive action for a better world
- Unique potential – All unique and capable, All children have inherent value, Potential, All individuals, Develop whole person
Then we assembled these into beliefs:
And so we…
|Everyone is unique, valuable and full of potential
- Welcome all members of our learning community as unique and capable individuals.
- Seek out opportunities for everyone to realise their potential.
- Cultivate the development of the whole person.
|Everyone is a learner and has the right to learn
- Honor the capacity of all learners to learn.
- Learn how to learn.
- Co-create unique learning opportunities for varied learners.
|Agency is inherent in each of us
- Respect the agency within us all.
- Provide opportunities to speak and be heard.
- Allow for choice.
- Support ownership of learning through reflection.
|Self-efficacy allows for growth
- Learn the skills of critical and creative thinkers.
- Cultivate positive mindsets for approaching challenges with resilience.
|Motivation and engagement drive learning
- Use inquiry to find our passions.
- Make space and time for flow in order to to achieve mastery.
- Hep each of us discover our purpose.
|We are partners in shaping our education
- Create safe and empowering learning environments.
- Pave pathways for learning.
- Look for boundless opportunities for learning.
- Imagine and seek out new possibilities.
|A holistic education enables positive action for a better world
- Lead a balanced life.
- Support each other to make informed choices and develop our own moral compass.
- Champion each other as agents of change.
- Interact locally and globally.
- Provide real world experiences.
- Enact change in our world.
At this point we have a pretty good understanding of WHY. And are beginning to craft the HOW. But before we jump too far into the HOW we first need to understand WHAT it is we want to do. So we considered WHAT we want our school to look like, sound like, feel like, become?
From this we have a great idea of WHAT we want our school to be.
||Learning environments are…
has many pathways to learning
is diverse and collective
is ethical, moral and trustworthy
is a community
has a culture of learning
is real and authentic
is a place of opportunity and choice
is a leader in education
shapes the future of education
finds purpose in schooling
is a place of natural wonder
|present, supportive and involved
partners and stakeholders in learning
open-minded, trusting and understanding
support agency at home
have buy in
the child’s first and consistent teacher
listened to and understood
experts for learning
learning from children
|adaptable, flexible, varied and ever changing
open and spacious
free of disruptions
responsive to students
supportive, accommodating learners needs
set up by children
creative and stimulating
safe and caring
not overly stimulating
sensitive to learning modalities
focused on community
forums for dialogue
|everyone (parents, teachers, staff and students)
self driven, excited and engaged
open-minded, curious, thinkers
kind, mindful of those around them
passionate about learning
confident, risk takers
vocal advocates for themselves and others
fun and engaging
adaptable and flexible
meaningful, authentic and applicable
connected to the environment, people, places and events outside of school
kind, generous and humble
self-driven with agency
guides, models, facilitators, learning consultants, partners
constantly growing, flexible, adaptable
risk-takers, not afraid to try new things and fail
advocates for all
resources for inspiration, connections and new opportunities
able to “let go”, share ownership
fun and engaging
open, welcoming to all, inclusive
|emotionally intelligent, empathetic and kind
communicators, good listeners
future oriented designers
in touch with what is going on
understanding, supportive and compassionate
enabling, supportive of the agency within us all
providing meaningful and constructive feedback
vision and action
When we put all of this into a word cloud this is what we got:
Our purpose, WHY we do what we do and WHAT we do is LEARNING!
So now we are ready to consider HOW. How do we do agency? How do we do school? How do we do learning?