Agency by Design: Making Learning Engaging

The global COVID-19 pandemic pulled back the curtain on the growing need for greater student agency and student engagement. As we rethink the future of education in a post-pandemic world, learner agency must be at the center of learning designs and learning models so that we can support students anytime, anyplace, and at any pace. We must re-imagine what agency and engagement can look like in contemporary practices.

A new report from the Aurora Institute, Agency by Design: Making Learning Engaging, offers guidance – including practical advice – to education leaders and teachers in redesigning schools and classrooms by centering on learner agency, through a shift in the ownership of learning. It also provides clarity around the definition and meaning of learner agency and addresses the implications for high-quality practices in new learning models.

The report identifies the following key conditions for promoting an agentic approach:

  • Curriculum: Curriculum must be locally developed within mandated guidelines, ensuring learning is authentic to the learners’ context and experience. Learners are included in the process of local curriculum design. 
  • Design of Learning Activity: Emphasis on learning as activity, where learners have choice about the way they approach learning tasks, and they are supported in this by Universal Design for Learning principles. They have a sense of ownership and take responsibility for learning. 
  • Acts of Teaching: A range of pedagogical approaches are employed, depending on the scope and nature of the learning activity. Teachers are active in scaffolding the learning process and increasingly act as facilitator, coach, or guide.
  • Support and Supervision: Learners are increasingly self managing and can identify where support is required and seek support/feedback from the best person to guide them. 
  • Assessment: Learners are capable of constructing or co-constructing their own success criteria, with the support of peers or teacher as required. 
  • Monitoring Progress: Self-assessment and monitoring are an embedded part of the learning process. 
  • Learning Environment: Learning occurs in a range of settings designed to support the learning activity.

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