Engaging Students in Learning, Growing and Developing Professionally

The Student Agency Continuum

In reading John Spencer’, EMPOWER: What happens when students own their own learning – I take a brief moment to reflect on what he calls the Student Agency Continuum.

Growing up K-12 my experience on the student agency continuum was a combination of compliance, engagement, and empowerment depending on the teacher and subject. As an adult and revisiting education in order to receive my teacher certificate a majority of my experience was within the engaged and empowered as I had intrinsic motivation to do all the things to live out my life long dream of being a teacher.

The times that I would say I was compliant is when I had no buy into the subject but I knew that I needed it for completion of whatever it was that I was participating in. Sometimes, a teacher (like my 5th grade Science teacher Mr. Hayes) would engage me into the topic with his visual notes and his passion for the topic. But at the time, those were days few and far between.

Engagement occurred for me in jr high and high school when the teacher took a moment to get to know me, what I liked, and how I learned. She applied this to her daily lessons and had me connected to whatever they were teaching, even Math! During this time frame, I returned to upmost compliance when a math teacher told me I was to do it his way or it was wrong. I did the bare minimum to get the credits needed to meet high school graduation requirements. I did dip my toe into being empowered during my senior year when I had the opportunity to take a class that blended Social Studies and English. At the time, I loved English and not too much interest in Social Studies. But we were given topics and resources alongside the ability to create, write, draw, sing, speak, etc our way to earn the credits needed to complete both courses. This was a lot of fun and one of my most challenging years in school.

As I stated before, I felt empowered throughout my time at CSI and ISU because I took ownership of my education. Sure I was being compliant to do what I needed to earn my degree and I was engaged by what my professors provided me in resources and passion; but I was empowered in all of my classes to make it my own. I always had the question in the back of mind: “How will this benefit me as a classroom teacher or can I use this information, lesson, unit, activity with my future students?”

What about you, what was your experience like growing up; were you mostly compliant, engaged or empowered? Share in the comments below.

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