This post is adapted from the Next Generation Learning Challenges‘ Friday Focus.
Happy New Year! As I reflect back on 2015, I find myself thankful for the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by all of you in the NGLC network. Case in point: December’s #NGLCchat on Student Agency. As a parent, I wholeheartedly want my children to be agents of their own lives, growing into adults who are empowered to question the world and confident in their ability to change it for the better. But today, I just want them to put on their shoes so we can get to school on time, to wear sneakers instead of flip flops because it’s cold outside, and to do it in the next three minutes—so I make demands and expect them to do what I say and cross my fingers they don’t question me or throw a tantrum. Ugh! There’s a place for authority, rules, and compliance—I do need to ensure my kids are safe from harm, healthy, and respectful of others. But my real job—nurturing their heart, mind, body, and soul—is hard. That’s why it was so uplifting to learn from educators like you during the chat, educators with the passion and commitment and strength and expertise to recognize the agency within students and enable them to be agents of their own learning today and their own success tomorrow.
The hour-long chat was chock-full of expert thinking, advice, resources, and inspiration. For today’s edition of Friday Focus, I tried to pull it together, make meaning, and organize the wealth of insight provided by all the participants during the first segment: “Define what student agency means. What does it look like?” In an upcoming Friday Focus, I’ll dive into the next segments when participants explored how blended learning, competency-based learning, and project-based learning can support student agency.
Why Student Agency Is So Important
Why are we talking about Student Agency? Because agency underpins the whole broader, deeper range of MyWays competencies needed for student success. And today’s students NEED the skills to be lifelong learners:
Harvard professor Roland Barth has observed that in the 1950s when young people left high school they typically knew about 75% of what they would need to know to be successful in life. Today, he predicts that young people know about 2% of what they will need to know. (Barth, R.S. (1997, March 5). The leader as learner. Education Week, 16(23). 56.) This shift is not because young people are learning less than previous generations. In fact, there is good evidence that they know much more. The force behind this change is the rapid and ever-increasing pace of change, the complexity of the world in which we live and the unpredictability of what people will need to know in the coming decades – the future for which we are preparing today’s learners.