A Learner with Agency is a Learner Who is Future Ready!

 

What should we promise our learners as they walk through the schoolhouse door each day? What can you promise them this year and every year? The answer is simply “Learner Agency”! If your vision and beliefs as an educator is to assure that every child becomes an independent, self-directed learner so that they have choices in college, career, and life, then how do you plan to fulfill the promise of learner agency? Let’s take a look at some ideas that could get you to that promise, but before we do, let’s dive deeper into what it is, what it looks like and why it should be our promise!

 

What is Learner Agency?

In the most simple terms, Learner Agency is “the power to act”. It is about empowering each learner to take ownership to their learning, to have a voice and choice in their learning with the understanding and ability to take action around their learning. Learner agency flourishes in learning-centered environments where the classroom culture is build on trust, respect, and mindfulness and where learners are co-designers of learning alongside their teacher. As you are creating a culture of agency, the most important thing to remember is there is a process to create a classroom culture where the learner is at the center, empowered to take action of their learning. It is most important for you to understand what this process looks like from the perspective of the learner. Discover this and more in the Crosswalk of Learner Agency Across the Stages (see below).

 

What Learner Agency Looks Like

In 2016, How to Personalize Learning was published where we decided to include an entire chapter on learner agency. In Chapter 3 we included the 7 Elements of Learner Agency along with a set of illustrated continuums and descriptions for each of the elements: Voice, Choice, Engagement, Motivation, Ownership, Purpose and Self-efficacy. The infographic below was created from the “Crosswalk of Learner Agency Across the Stages” chart in How to Personalize Learning. It is designed to provide insight of what the learner is doing in each of the 7 elements of learner agency across the Stages of Personalized Learning Environments (PLE), v. 5.

In whatever stage that you are in, consider using this chart as a way to self-assess what is happening with your learners and to appreciate that each learner is unique in the way that they learn and at the pace in which they are developing agency in their learning. But where do we begin to understand the uniqueness of each learner? The first step is for learners to create their Learner Profile using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ so that they can articulate who they are, how they learn and what they aspire to be. In the Learner Profile, each learner can now share their strengths and challenges in how they Access and process information, how they Engage with content and concepts and how they Express what they know and understand. With this information, learners can discuss with their teachers how they can build a Personal Learning Backpack™ of tools and skills to support their learning and then set learning goals in a Personal Learning Plan designed to enhance a strength or support a challenge so they can become more independent and develop agency.

Agency across the stages of personalized learning environments

Why Learner Agency Should be our Promise

When learners experience agency, they can realize their hopes and dreams and make informed choices for college, career, and life. With agency, a child has the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn in a world where jobs have yet to be imagined. Remember that learner agency also provides a reason to commit, take risks, and persist in the face of challenges and setbacks. The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express and personalized learning can be the centerpieces to fulfill the promise of agency for every learner. Always remember…”A Learner with Agency is a Learner who is Future Ready!”

 

The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express, Personal Learning Backpack and Personal Learning Plan are trademarks of Kathleen McClaskey.

 

Changing Perceptions: Every Child is a Learner

Last year I posted a blog, “Learner vs. Student: Who do You Want in Your Classroom”, that encouraged intensive discussions about why we should use the term ‘learners’ instead of ‘students’. Many agreed that ‘learner’ is the appropriate term we need to use since we want every child to be recognized as a learner. An important question was raised in the infographic in that post where a question was proposed:

How do we create a school culture in which being a learner
is more valuable than being a student?


Our current school culture rewards children when they are “good students.” Children are considered good students when they follow directions, complete their homework, study for tests and earn good grades. The current culture often does not necessarily recognize or value when children are “good learners.” Let’s dive a little deeper into how we can begin to create a culture where all learners are valued.

If you remove the veil of disability, you will see the learner.”

Kathleen McClaskey (2008)

 

Schools have spent the last four decades labeling children who are considered not to be good students while developing their own perceptions of their capabilities. At the same time, many of these children compare themselves to other children and internalize what they cannot do or learn. It is a natural behavior for children to compare themselves to others, all the time developing a perception of themselves that they are different, cannot learn or do not learn like other children. In fact, we often treat them differently by our words and actions. A common practice for poor readeers is that we assign a different book, a book at a lower grade level or sometimes have someone read to them. It does not take long for these children to develop their own perceptions that they are not learners, a stigma that sometimes lasts for years, if not a lifetime.

How do we change our perceptions of learners?

How do learners change perceptions of themselves? 

How do we help every child see themselves as learners every day? 

 

First, we need to discover the learner in every child and how they learn best. One of the best ways to do that is to use the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ where the learner creates a Learner Profile to share their strengths and challenges in how they Access and process information, Engage with content and Express what they know and understand.

Empower Learners with the UDL Lens

The UDL Lens can be used to understand ALL learners!

Kathleen McClaskey (2014)

 

Validate the Learner

The learner uses the UDL Lens to share their strengths and challenges in learning, their preferences or needs to Access, Engage and Express™ as well as their aspirations, talents and interests. At that moment when a learner is able to tell their story about how they learn with their teacher, the “partnership in learning” begins between the teacher and the learner. This opens the door for the teacher to have a conversation with the learner about learning goals, skills and strategies that the learner needs to work on to reduce any barriers and maximize learning. The undeniable outcome in using the UDL Lens is that the learner has been validated as a learner. This is something that rarely occurs today in anyone’s education and will have a positive and profound impact for any learner.

For learners to grow and flourish, we need to create learning environments where every child is recognized as a learner. A school culture that values every learner will empower them to discover the joy of learning. We need to create learning environments that…

  • guide learners to think deeply about their learning,
  • teach them how to make sense of their learning.
  • help every learner set learning goals and action steps to develop the skills to support their learning,
  • understand the tools, resources and strategies each learner needs,
  • assist learners in developing the skills to be independent and self-directed, learners with agency, and
  • nurture their talents, interests and aspirations so they can realize their hopes and dreams. 

Consider this…

Tomorrow when you arrive in your classroom, envision every child as learner and then use the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ to discover the learner in every child. Once you are aware of what each learner needs and how they prefer to learn, you are taking the first step in establishing a school culture where learners are valued and created.


To learn more about using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ and the “Discover the Learner” 3-step process, read Chapter 4, Discover the Learner in Every Child, in How to Personalize Learning,

The UDL of Access, Engage and Express is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey.

Learner vs. Student: Who Do you Want in Your Classroom?

It is the start of the school year and you have been preparing to have your assigned children enter your classroom. You have so many questions about them but one you may have not thought about is: Are they students or learners? Think about that… do you want students or learners in your classroom this year? What is the difference anyway? Well let’s take a look at the difference and have you decide for yourself.

Learner vs. Student

We are at a crossroads in education where we understand that traditional school systems are not preparing our children for a world where they will need to learn, unlearn and relearn in an ever-changing economy. As we try to create more personalized, learner-centered environments, it is important to understand that we need to change the language so we can change the culture in the classroom and school. Using the term “Learner” is a critical first step so that we see every child and every person as a learner. So what is the difference between a learner and a student? Let’s look at the definitions:

From Wikipedia, “A student is primarily a person enrolled in a school or other educational institution who attends classes in a course to attain the appropriate level of mastery of a subject under the guidance of an instructor and who devotes time outside class to do whatever activities the instructor assigns that are necessary either for class preparation or to submit evidence of progress towards that mastery.”

From Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, a learner is “a person who is finding out about a subject or how to do something.”

From The Glossary of Education Reform, when comparing learner and student, they point out that “While this preference may seem arbitrary on the surface, it does appear to serve a semantic purpose: learning can occur in the absence of teaching, but teaching doesn’t occur without some form of learning taking place. i.e.,

learners can learn without teachers, but students are only students when they have teachers.”

Now take a look at the comparisons in the chart and decide on the qualities you would like for the children in your classroom to have. This is not a comprehensive comparison of Learners vs Students but it does offer an initial comparison on what the distinct differences are and what qualities would be found in a traditional vs personalized learning system. If you have decided you want learners in your classroom, then the question you need to consider exploring is….

How can I create a classroom culture in which being a learner is more valuable than being a student?

Empower Learners with the UDL LensThe simple answer is to empower your learners to share their story of who they are and how they learn! Have your learners use the UDL Lens to develop a Learner Profile, based on the learning sciences, to discover their strengths and challenges, preferences and needs in the what, how and why of their learning. Value every learner by building a strong relationship with each of them. Help them develop learning goals in a Personal Learning Plan so that they can gain the skills to be agents of their own learning. Reflect with each learner so they can realize the progress they are making with their goals. When you do this, your classroom culture will be filled with learners who are future ready!

 

 

 

 

 

Continuum of Voice: What it Means for the Learner

Continnum of Voice

Personalize Learning, LLC designed Continuum of Voice adapted from “Motivation, Engagement, & Student Voice” by Toshalis & Nakkula from Students at the Center @StudentCntrHub – Visual designed by Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth. © 2016 by Bray & McClaskey, How to Personalize Learning.

Voice gives learners a chance to share their opinions about something they believe in. We adapted the Continuum of Voice chart we used from research from Toshalis and Nakkula at the Students at the Center in our post Learner Voice Demonstrates Commitment to Building Agency. We added examples that illustrate each level to support implementation using a design by Sylvia Duckworth.

The learning environment changes as you encourage voice and can see learners taking more control of their learning. This occurs across the Stages of Personalized Learning Environments (PLE) v5.

Read more…

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Thank You to Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth (http://sylviaduckworth.com) from Crescent School, Toronto, Canada for designing the graphic of the Continuum of Voice 1/10/2016.

Cross-posted from http://www.personalizelearning.com/search?q=continuum+of+voice

 


References

Bray, B. and McClaskey, K. “Learner Voice and Choice Leads to Engagement.” Center for Digital Education. December 16, 2015.
McCarthy, J. Activating Student Voice Empowers Learning. Openingpaths. org
Personalize Learning, LLC and Institute for Personalized Learning. “Learner Voice Demonstrates Commitment to Building Agency.” Post from Collaborative Blog Series. October 28, 2015.

Toshalis, E. and Nakkula, M.”Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice” Students at the Center.

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This page including the chart was created by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey of Personalized Learning, LLC (c) January 10, 2106 adapted from Students at the Center. For permission to adapt, distribute copies, or to use in a publication, contact Kathleen McClaskey at khmcclaskey@gmail.com.

 

The Story Behind My Passion to Personalize Learning

 This is my story behind my passion, beliefs and commitment to personalize learning.
– Kathleen McClaskey, Co-Founder of Personalize Learning, LLC, Founder of Make Learning Personal.

 

This story needs to be told. I am passionate about learners and learning! I believe that every child on the planet is a learner! I am committed to help schools create learning environments where every child can become life long learners and realize their hopes and dreams!  You could say that I am on a mission. But why has personalized learning become my passion and mission in my life? There is a very personal story that begins over 38 years ago when a little boy came into my life, my first-born son. He was an active toddler who spoke early and could engage you in long conversations about his imaginary world. He had a sense of adventure when he explored the outdoors and could create new worlds in his drawings. Early on he had a love for animals, fishing and books about history.

He entered school with all these wonderful qualities with a love for learning and discovery.  His experience as a first grader was a difficult one with his teacher using the whole language method for reading. Before the end of 1st Grade, he would be identified with learning disabilities. Although he was identified exceptional in math, he would never be recognized with this gift or any of his aspirations, talents and interests. 

You see, they now saw him as learning disabled in all aspects of his learning from this time forward.



In 2nd Grade, he came home crying every day asking me why he was different. I called a friend who was the guidance counselor in the school where my son attended. She observed him for 30 minutes one day in his class and took minute to minute notes of his activity in the classroom. She shared with me that my son could only keep pencil to paper for only 30 seconds at any one time. It was no wonder he saw himself as different but I thought that this must have a name to it. It did. In 1987, my son’s pediatrician who had extensive professional experience with children with attentional issues verified through evaluations that my first-born was ADHD. This would be another label that he would be identified with every day as he entered school. It was in 2nd Grade that he stopped being a learner. He would now have instructional aides who would read to him, write for him and organize him in his daily tasks.

The reason I am telling this story is that although my son had an IEP and annual goals, he was never taught how to read or to develop independent learning skills. His exceptional memory skills for words helped him mask his inability to decode words. In 7th Grade, that strategy fell apart. We needed to find an answer so we hired an independent evaluator who conducted a battery of tests and finally applied the appropriate identification of his reading challenges, dyslexia. With this new identification came extensive recommendations on how to rehabilitate my son in reading. In was not until he was in 9th grade that the school district decided they could not provide the services to help him read so they agreed to an out-of-district placement. We sent him to a private school for dyslexics, 200 miles away from our home in New York, so that he could finally learn to read. In less than six months, he was reading at grade level as they used the Orton-Gillingham reading methodology to teach him to read. In fact, a proven method that can teach every child to read. In 1998 he graduated from The Kildonan School with a high school diploma.

Years later when my son was 22 years old, we had a discussion about what he experienced in school and how he felt. This is something he never spoke about during his years in school as he was often depressed and angry. His response was brief and to the point: “You know Mom, I felt stupid every day of my life in school!” After this moment, I knew that I would be on a mission for the rest of my life to help schools and teachers understand how to create learning environments where every learner can become self-directed in learning.

My passion is built into my heart,
my belief that every learner matters is resolute and
my commitment to transform education so that every learner
realizes their hopes and dreams is unwavering.

Discover the Learner in Every Child

I look back now on this experience with my son and know that he is one of virtually millions of children who stop seeing themselves as learners and who often feel stupid in school. So how do we begin to discover the learner in every child? Most importantly, how do we have every learner understand how they learn best? You decide. With labels or through the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express TM?

http://www.personalizelearning.com/2014/12/access-engage-and-express-lens-for.html


Remove the veil of disability and you will see the learner! – Kathleen McClaskey (2008)
Access, Engage and Express is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey.
Cross posted and revised from http://www.personalizelearning.com/2015/05/the-story-behind-my-passion-to.html

Make Learning Personal

To

Make Learning Personal, we need…

to empower each learner with the skills to be Future Ready,

to transform teaching and learning practice, and

to embrace and value each learner!

Make Learning Personal logo

This puzzle logo with it’s multi-shades of blue represents that each learner is unique and multi-faceted in that they learn in different ways.  We see the importance for each learner to understand how they learn so that they can develop agency with the skills, knowledge and dispositions to have choices in college, career and life.

 

MLP Vision

Each learner…

  • is valued, supported and embraced.
  • understands how they learn.
  • is unique and develops the skills to support their learning.
  • advocates for their learning.
  • works at their own pace in a competency-based system.
  • follows their passions to discover their purpose.
  • takes ownership to their learning.
  • achieves agency.

MLP Mission

  • Empower each learner to be future ready with agency.
  • Support the transformation of schools to build and sustain personalized learning environments.
  • Create conversations and a community that supports personalized, learner-centered teaching.
  • Share research, resources and best practices of personalized learning across the globe.

MLP Core Beliefs

  • Every person on the planet is a learner!
  • Personalized Learning starts with the learner!
  • Personalized Learning and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) are the cornerstones to developing learner agency for every learner.
  • Learners need to be promised agency as they enter the schoolhouse door.
  • Every learner needs to use the UDL Lens for their Learner Profile to help them share their strengths and challenges in how they access information, engage with content and express what they know and understand along with their passions, interests and talents.
  • Each educator needs to discover the learner in every child by using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express(TM).
  • When learners understand how they learn, they can begin to self-advocate and have voice and choice in their learning.
  • Each learner needs to develop a Personal Learning Backpack of skills, tools and resources to support their own learning.
  • Every learner needs to have a Personal Learning Plan to set goals and action steps, to measure their own progress and to reflect on their goals.
  • Learners need to work at their own pace in a learner-centered,  competency-based environment.
  • Learning spaces need to be designed to support the diversity of learners in the classroom.
  • Teachers are learners too so their professional learning needs to be personalized.
  • Technology can level the playing field by removing the barriers to learning and by creating opportunities for learning.
  • Personalized learning is based on relationships and a culture of trust and respect.
  • Use the term “learners” to describe anyone instead of referring to them as “students” that comes from the traditional system.
  • Schools need to create a culture and community of learners.
  • Learning is personal so Make Learning Personal!