GripTape asserts that learner agency—defined as the ability to make intentional choices about and take an active role in the course of one’s own learning—is the key to a self-reinforcing cycle of learning and development.
After two years spent working directly with more than 400 young people nationwide designing and testing approaches to solve this challenge, GripTape has found:
DESIRE – Teenagers want the opportunity to learn more and to tailor their learning endeavors to their interests
CONDITIONS – The “inputs” are simple and inexpensive, but also unfamiliar
PROCESS – Taking ownership of learning and driving it forward is where the magic happens
OUTCOMES – There are significant and immediate outcomes, including changes in MINDSETS, SKILLS, and BEHAVIORS
Young people need the following six conditions to exercise learner agency:
PASSION/INTEREST – Youth must express strong interest to pursue a self-identified learning topic
MEANING – Youth must express a belief that the learning experience will help them be successful, now and/or in the future
DECISION-MAKING – Youth must exercise fully autonomous decision-making over what they are learning, how they are learning it, and how success will be defined
A “CHAMPION” – Another person expresses interest in the youth and their interests, belief in their potential for success, and asks questions for self-reflection, but without giving advice or direction
FUNDING – Youth have access to money (e.g., $500) to pursue their learning, with full decision-making authority to use funds as they decide
SELF-DIRECTED TIME – Youth dedicate time to carry out the learning experience (e.g., 10 weeks) and decide how this time is spent
Building off the findings from GripTape’s learning cycles, the organization has identified a set of changes in mindsets, skills, and behaviors of youth who have increased learner agency.