Giving Compass’ Take:
• William Bryant, writing for Getting Smart, discusses how schools need to revamp student agency to account for students’ lived experience and how their identity shapes opportunities.
• How can schools improve environments and utilize social-emotional learning to strengthen student agency?
• Read about student-led culture change.
Student agency is a concept currently in heavy rotation in the edusphere. Typically it refers to a student’s ability to direct his or her own learning. When students make choices for their own benefit, taking action that contributes to their growth as learners and as people, they can be said to be exercising their agency.
Studies indicate that student agency is an essential part of effective education. Wherever possible, schools should be providing students with opportunities to choose for themselves the focus of their studies, according to their strengths, interests, and goals. Performance improves when students are engaged and motivated by academic work they perceive as personally relevant and meaningful. Emphasis on personalized learning thus goes hand-in-hand with efforts to cultivate agency.
Most approaches to agency emphasize students’ individuality but pay less attention to their identities. That is, ironically, models of teaching and learning geared toward individual student agency tend to assume that “individuality” works pretty much the same from person to person.
What’s missing from this formulation is an important dimension of students’ lived experience: however well equipped to manage their own learning, individual students are always situated within particular contexts in which their race, gender, sexuality, and other cultural markers make a difference. While all individuals may be created equal, not all individuals face the same challenges or enjoy the same opportunities within their particular schools and communities.
Read the full article about student agency by William Bryant at Getting Smart.
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