59: Scaffolding Agency

Yay! Non-New Tech educators should be able to access this online video.  The presenter, Megan Pacheco, can be reached at @mpacheco11.




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Why teach agency?
  • Lack of awareness of the skills that are applied to succeed can make learners vulnerable to feeling like failures (incurable) when they do not succeed
  • Knowing that success it a product of effort, not traits, is important for all learners, not just learners who struggle
Dilemma #1: How can we convince struggling students that they CAN succeed?
  • Teach students to be aware of the effect that practice has on outcomes
  • Practice using effort & risk taking and reflecting on the outcomes of these
  • Provide high quality formative feedback from multiple sources (teachers, self, peers, community members) and teach students how to use that feedback to improve
  • Give specific feedback that clearly describes areas of strength and areas of growth
  • Don’t grade for content on newly learned skills
  • Unpack models to teach qualities and strategies related to high quality work
  • Use variety of assessment types so that more students get opportunities to use their preferred learning mode to demonstrate mastery
Dilemma #2: How to promote growth mindset (not fixed mindset)?
  • Explicitly emphasize how mastery takes time and sustained effort
  • Normalize mistakes
  • Ask students to work through problems before asking for help
  • Explicitly teach students how to learn from mistakes
  • Give agency grade on 3 revisions and content grade on 3rd revision
Dilemma #3: How to develop students’ sense of responsibility and ownership?
  • Allow students to test solutions in low stakes, safe environments
  • Promote norms that treat mistakes and risks as valued practices
  • Celebrate best mistake of the lesson or the week
  • Emphasize process over product
  • Encourage students to pursue their own learning using variety of resources
  • Provide high quality formative feedback from multiple sources (teachers, self, peers, community members) and teach students how to use that feedback to improve
  • Teach students how to set, track, and achieve individual and team goals
  • Allow students to make and document choices about their use of time
Recommended Reads:
Agency is a critical skill that students need to be successful lifelong learners.  Breaking up agency into skills and developing scaffolds for these can help ALL students to develop the attitudes and skills they need to be successful advocates of their own learning.  Knowing how agency skills relate to good instructional & learning strategies can help teachers and students be more deliberate in their practice of strategies that promote successful learning.


Preparation Steps
Early Implementation Steps
  • Regularly teach lessons that build up skills related to agency and that promote a positive learning culture.
  • Use formative feedback to fine-tune activities, routines, and policies that promote agency.
  • Have students regularly reflect on how their learning experiences are impacting their attitudes and skills.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Have students research and develop strategies that promote agency.  Build up a reliable database of articles and books to support this research.
  • Trial student researched strategies in the classroom.  Use teacher observations and student feedback to refine these.

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