Okay – so the whole point of learner agency is that learners are positioned in a social structure with the power to flourish. What more important context could there possibly be than in the field of Child Centered Disaster Risk Reduction. (CCDRR) I’m going to refer to it as CDR because the extra two letters kind of fit in anyway!
A working question might be the following: If we enact learner agency in primary school children, are they empowered to respond to hazards in a way that informs resilience and reduces harm?
Put differently, the measure of a disaster is the impact of the hazard on the vulnerable. Large hazard and high vulnerability the greater the disaster. As it turns out, children form part of the vulnerability quotient. Increasing their power to act in relation to hazards, will reduce their vulnerability.
There is something very soothing about a polished London accent. The host of Edtech Podcast (Sophie Bailey) embodies this tone perfectly. She recently interviewed Ted Fujimoto with some deeply interesting applications.
Before we go too far though – a couple of links that are relevant for Australia – Big Picture schools and New Tech schools. http://www.righttosucceed.org/ https://4pt0.org/
Having thought about the last blog – the question came to mind ‘SO WHAT?” Really what difference does it make if students have ‘voice’ or not.
Clearly there is a lot of will towards saying that students have voice. A recent idea from the Victorian Department of Education was to make it mandatory for students to be on school councils / governing boards with voting rights.
At face value this would be a simple way of giving students power to make rules and allocate resources. I think that there is more to it than that especially at the primary level.
Amazingly, learner agency has become all the rage! Who would have thought that Dr Rod Fawns would have picked it all those years ago! My aim with this post is to try and distill the concept.
Firstly – and ever as usual, it is about the definitions. This is an age of everyone trying to jump on the same page and share a common language about what ever it is we are talking about. The concepts of ‘learner’ and ‘agency’ are so broad that they are at risk of being sucked into the vacuous space that is ‘eduspeak’.
So I’m going to jump straight in.
Agency is the power to make rules and allocate resources. Learner agency is the enactment of personal agency which affords learning.
Schools exist to afford learner agency. Schools are social / ecological sites with embedded affordances. An affordance may only become a vehicle for the expression of agency once that agent identifies the potential in the artefact to act as an affordance. Conversely an agent will only recognize the potential of an affordance through interaction with it in her or his learning ecology.
Thus, learners need to be ‘positioned’ in their learning ecology such that they experience various artefacts affording them a co constructive development of their agentive status.
Therefore in looking at Learner Agency, we need to discuss ‘Structures’ ‘Agents’ and ‘Artifacts’. In the process – we need to explore the other forms of agency that exist in schools and how they conspire to enable or inhibit learner agency.
So after all that babble – the working theory for me is this: What power to make rules and allocate resources do our learners have? What are the structures in place to allow this to happen and what physical things do we use as the vehicle for expressing learning agency.
Hmm, been a while since I put anything in this space. So it is a whimsical Sunday morning with three kids glued to their YouTube devices. Each of my boys are watching a short video of their choice and their particular interest. What ever happened to Hey Hey It’s Saturday and all sitting around the TV together?
I wonder if our classrooms reflect this. A single channel of content – directed at a consumer whose only choices are to engage with the mass offering or tune out.
The idea of personalised learning lies very close with differentiation. This will be a bit of an inquiry for me to see where this might work in my current context.
At this point, the most authentic application seems to be around flipped learning sessions and fluid grouping for targeted instruction.
There is not much out there in the modern world of research into learner agency. This is mind – boggling since it lays the foundation upon which all other lifeworthy learning happens. Rather than complicate things by insisting that learner agency is the power to make rules and allocate resources, Johnston comes from the idea that that agency is a belief that ones actions are causal. Agency is an enacted theory of action.
Whilst reading Ritchharts book on cultures of thinking I came across a paper he cited. Here it is:
Well – I’m back. It has been far too long since I’ve posted. Now there are many great podcasts out there relating to Australian education.
My aim here is to look at various issues through the lens of Learner Agency in a bid to develop a meaningful sense of what it is.
I was recently listening to a Learning Capacity podcast about the difference between student centered learning and teacher centered learning. Teacher centered was characterised as being along the lines of a Direct Instruction pedagogy and student centered a inquiry or constructionist approach.
This struck me as a typical dichotomy. How would this be viewed through the lens of Learner Agency practice?
Let’s start from the beginning – schools exist to afford learner agency. That is, they exist to give learners the power to inform the trajectory of their lives – to shape their world.
This means schools are structured so that learners can make rules and allocate resources.
So then, is LA teacher or student centered? I would say neither and both and somewhere in between. Learners require prerequisite skills in order to position themselves and navigate the structures they are in, as well as influence its design. Increased agency is a shift in the locus of control from the structure to the agent. It is the transition from being positioned by the structure to positioning oneself and others.
I describe agency as having the power to act. By power I mean the ability to assign rules and resources. I’m not sure why I’ve developed this view. I’m sure I’ve just picked it up from somewhere.
Bandura describes an agent as someone who intentionally influences one’s functioning and life circumstances; “In this view, people are self organizing, proactive, self-regulating, and self reflecting. They are contributors to their life circumstances not just products of them” (Bandura, 2005, p. 1).
The term ‘affordance‘ refers to the opportunities for action provided by a particular object or environment.
With 600% growth forecast for the area – and schools planned as long term projects – this becomes a real opportunity to establish a plan for developing a site that captures what it is is to ‘do’ community, through a school environment in a dense population.