Moving Agency from Theory to Practice

May 8, 2014

I have spent the past few weeks with new [New Tech Network] schools working to establish their school’s vision, mission, culture and ideal graduate before they open in the fall. The first day of this Teacher Residency experience teachers collaborate in the brainstorming process. Without realizing it they rattled off descriptors for their ideal graduate that are synonymous with student agency. The following day, when they are immersed in a school, introduced to great thinkers like Jo Boaler or Carol Dweck,  and exposed to the School-Wide Learning Outcome “Agency”, they are hooked…they have to have it! But I was reminded, while listening to their dreams for their students, that as sexy as Agency sounds it doesn’t happen without a lot of work…on behalf of teachers and students. So here is my attempt to help teachers foster agency in their students with a few tricks of the trade:

In general…

  1. Think about what student behaviors they hope to see, as it relates to agency. You can do this row by row from a rubric like this one: New Tech Network Agency High School or come up with your attributes/demeanors.
  2. Consider what that means for teacher actions-what they need to teach and scaffold. Explore what contextualizing that in a project or a school-wide activity would look like.
  3. Reflect on meaningful ways to assess for learning (my first of many plugs for Jo Boaler’s book)

Some more ideas:

  • I made this: Goals for student agency with teacher/community designated supports
  • Check out the Common Core mathematical practices and think about habits that support agency in your content area
  • Check out Jo Boaler’s book What’s Math Got to do with It or heronline course!
  • Student blogging (video, digital, echo discussions) on agency prompts
  • Digital portfolios to show growth and reflections on agency.
  • Ask students to write narratives of persistence in basic homework assignments in problems where they get stuck
  • Journals and exit tickets with prompts to elicit reflection in specific areas of your agency rubric/expectations
  • Visible reminders for steps they should take/resources available when they may need prompting
  • Presentations Of Learning (perhaps in Advisory), Student Led Conferences –see High Tech High’s model that speak specifically to agency
  • Behavior reflection (to address discipline challenges) that align with your agency rubric/expectations
  • Critical Friends/critique and self goal generating-the need for accountability here, and also teaching the critique skill to get students to own their feedback and work.
  • Leveraging school-wide community meetings (connections, Town Hall meetings, etc.) to recognize students with Agency

If you have any ideas or try any of the above please share!
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