What the heck is student agency–and why do we need it?

A student writing in class works independently and is an example of student agency.

It’s only recently that I’ve become much more disciplined in my use of the term “student agency” and how I apply it.

Thanks to a research assignment on behalf of the Center for Innovation in Education’s Assessment for Learning Project, I’ve learned that the term—and related terms, such as “self-regulated learning”—has a rich lineage of researchers and practitioners who have carefully defined it.

By looking across researchers (1), practitioners, and other thought leaders (2), common elements arise that begin to suggest a consensus.

Related: What student choice and agency actually looks like

From these sources, the dust seems to settle on a concept of “student agency” that involves four distinct components. The first three are temporally linked covering future, present, and past:
• Setting advantageous goals
• Initiating action toward those goals
• Reflecting on and regulating progress toward those goals

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