Secret Agen(t)cy

Attribution: CC0

This year I am obsessed with the question of how you encourage / enable / empower (what is the verb to use?) agency.

Why am I obsessed with agency? A couple of reasons. It seems to me that we spend quite a lot of time talking about learner agency, meaning student agency. But I wonder how we develop agency in our young learners if their teachers are not agentic learners themselves?

We also seem to spend quite a lot of time and anguish wondering about how to “shift” teachers: how to get them to take on board whatever initiative is currently on the table. And I wonder if developing teacher, or professional, agency might be a key to adopting innovations, changing practice, and thus transforming education.

So, the million dollar question… How?

I’m wondering about reflection. When we take time to really think about things, we develop our self awareness. We have the opportunity, in the quiet and privacy of our own mind, to analyse ourselves, to critique our decisions, and evaluate our next steps. In other words, when we reflect, we learn.

This reflection and learning, I believe, can lead to an internal ‘aha’ – a realisation. When we discover things for ourselves, this gives us an impetus to act – our own reason to change. Our secret agency. And this is far more powerful than anything imposed on us.



One thought on “Secret Agen(t)cy

  1. Ximena September 9, 2016 / 8:17 pm

    Kia ora, Phillipa,

    By coincidence, yesterday a colleague and I were discussing student agency. We talked about how, to some teachers, this means swift compliance. We came to the realisation that without student voice being included in the learning process, ‘agency’ is just compliance with a fancy set of decorative achievement milestones, i.e. how fast a student can master the ‘doing it by yourself’ game. On reflection, some of my past attempts to encourage agency, through models I thought looked promising, have been more about encouraging expediency.

    Agency and critical thinking must go hand in hand. Some current teaching practices still promote expediency because we feel so beholden to cram more and more in, most of which students will never remember or use; whereas I am finding that if I take the time to do less, but that has more meaning and is connected to students lives and interests, they achieve better and develop the agency of critical thought.

    Alas, it’s not easy to break the hidden shackles of the cultural reproduction within education, hence we definitely need to challenge – disrupt!- our teaching and assumptions about practices because we are products of a system to which expediency meant everything.

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