learner agency

The video below is a tour of our Classroom Growth Partnership course that we are in the process of refining and developing to personalize professional development for our teachers at Georgia Virtual.

One important (SO important!!) part of the course that I forgot to mention in my failed attempt at brevity was the coaching partnership part of the course. Each teacher in the cohort is paired with a Virtual Instructional Coach, which is the primary reason we've had to keep the cohort small - we want to make sure the coaches have sufficient time to devote to all participants. The coaches are there as a guides through the process - kind of like an informed sounding board.

The coaches meet synchronously with their assigned cohort participant to help develop their PEERS goal, several times throughout the research phase, and as the participant is analyzing their data to help them make sense of their data (and also for encouragement, as participants can get "down" for not meeting their goal the first time through the Action-Research cycle). They check in via email several other times during the partnership.

Personally, I think this course is a great example of providing abundant learner agency for the students in the course. Because they have the opportunity to exercise their agency as learners at every stage of the course - from application to goal-setting to HOW they are going to achieve their goals - the learners in the course are able to personalize the experience to BEST suit each of them.

As I was researching learner agency, it felt validating to learn that we are doing each of the 5 suggestions Katie Martin (2020) suggested for developing learner agency in distance learning:

  1. 1:1 Mentoring

  2. Passion Projects

  3. Choice

  4. Teach Someone Something

  5. Exhibition of Learning

I feel like we do a pretty good job of incorporating each of these in our Classroom Growth Partnership course.

We've been working on this course for a year or so. We are slowly expanding to offer support for more and more instructional areas. Our hope is that, eventually, everyone in the cohort could be focusing on different instructional areas, while still progressing along the path of instructional growth. Ideally, we'd be able to offer the course to everyone, while still maintaining the "boutique" feel. And I guess that's something I'm continuing to grapple with in regards to personalized learning - it seems very manageable for a small group, but once you have upwards of 200 or 250 learners, how do you continue to maintain that small group, personalized environment?


These titles helped frame my understanding of learner agency and how to help students develop these skills, even if not directly cited above.

Bray, B. (2018, May 8). Opportunities for choice: The learning path to advocacy and Innovation. Rethinking Learning. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://barbarabray.net/2018/05/08/continuum-of-choice-choosing-the-learning-path-to-find-passion-and-purpose/

Bray, B. (2018, September 9). Spectrum of voice: Developing self-regulation, autonomy, and agency. Rethinking Learning. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://barbarabray.net/2018/09/09/spectrum-of-voice-developing-self-regulation-autonomy-and-agency/

Büdy, B. (2021). Embracing neurodiversity by increasing learner agency in nonmajor chemistry classes. Journal of Chemical Education, 98(12), 3784–3793. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jchemed.1c00247

Martin, K. (2020, August 16). 5 ways to activate Learner Agency in distance learning. Katie Martin | Informed by Research, Inspired by Practice. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://katielmartin.com/2020/08/16/5-ways-to-activate-learner-agency-in-distance-learning/

Starke, K. (2021, February 9). Student agency: Promoting student engagement. TeachHUB. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.teachhub.com/teaching-strategies/2021/02/student-agency-promoting-student-engagement/