How do we help students develop the insight and initiative to be life-long, productive learners contributing to a better world? How do we develop student agency?
We know that motivation comes from a desire to learn, a purpose, an authentic interest, and a belief that success is possible. We know that learning is a social activity, that involvement with others enhances our reflection and goals. We’ve come to understand that reflection and feedback in authentic tasks in which we can improve and develop before publication or presentation builds motivation and agency.
So we also know that project-based learning can form a structure that develops the critical thinking and reflection habits that help learners make choices that guide improved learning.
But sometimes these more open venues based on passion or student interest can flop. We need to understand that each student is at a different stage in their learning journey. Here’s a review of this idea in an old video I made for #etmooc:
ETMOOC Slice from Sheri Edwards on Vimeo.
How do we provide the structure, the connection to the learning and the people, so students develop their voice to create their agency?
In this year’s #clmooc, the organizers developed a support team to monitor and collaborate with members as an encouragement to participation. Because a sense of belonging and a connection with other members provides the support needed to make choices, and the freedom to choose what and when to participate allowed members to grow in their learning at their pace and for their purpose. People skipped some projects, and then became deeply involved in others. Learning is personal; learning is social. But the key to all of this really is based on what Daniel Pink suggests: People need autonomy, purpose, and mastery for motivation. If we review the literature on motivation and behavior, William Glasser’s work provides a background for autonomy, purpose, and mastery. Glasser suggests that we “behave” to meet the basic needs of freedom [autonomy], belonging [purpose], power [autonomy, mastery], and fun [purpose].
One of the best explanations of student agency connected to Glasser’s work is by Jackie Gerstein: Learner Agency, Technology, and Emotional Intelligence.
To build agency and voice in the connected learners of today, freedom to choose the learning is high on the list — autonomy and purpose. But to make the choice, learners need to feel they belong and that they have the power to master the undertaking. And our task is to be the support team, the guides to understand where and how the learners will take that next step.
Both #clmooc and #etmooc provided the connections, collaboration, and support for their learners. How do we translate that into a transformed classroom for today?