Opening the box – or simply thinking outside of it occasionally – may not be such a bad thing at all. There are times when our mistakes cause disasters, and times when they don’t. If we fail to open the boxes laid before us, we will never know what’s inside them. And there is always hope – which can be trapped, unless we unleash it. If the box stays closed, we’ll never know what might come out. And if it’s opened, it may give us hope.
We absolutely have to listen to our students and it will take a lot to convince me that school isn’t still designed for adults. However, I’ll be more hopeful if the next educational conference I attend has students as our co-presenters and co-participants.
The ecological approach is somewhat different to this, in that it views agency as not something that people have or possess (although clearly there are high-capacity individuals), but instead as something that is achieved. Agency in this view is an emergent phenomenon, something that happens through an always unique interplay of individual capacity and the social and material conditions by means of which people act. High-capacity individuals may simply fail to achieve agency if the conditions are difficult. The ecological approach sees agency as having three temporal dimensions. First, agency is rooted in past experience; and individuals with a wide repertoire of experience may achieve agency more readily than those without. Secondly, agency is always oriented to the future through the setting of goals and the ability to envisage future possibilities; in this case, people who are able to imagine multiple trajectories are likely to achieve agency more readily than those who are limited in their aspirations. Third, agency is always acted on in the present, shaped by both what is actually possible given existing resources and constraints and judgements about what is possible (for a detailed discussion of this topic, see Emirbayer and Mische, 1998 )
Making fellow teachers self-aware of and responsible for their own growth is coaching. Recognising their role in their ecology and building their ability to act within it is coaching for agency.
Playing for Team Human today: Susan Basterfield and Anthony Cabraal. Susan and Anthony share the open secrets of bottom-up collaboration as we celebrate the publication of Enspiral’s book, Better Work Together. It’s a conversation about the power of working together, building on ideas “good enough to try,” and creating a space where it’s “safe to fail.”
Looking for collaborative and participatory ways to create social change? Enspiral has collected and opened up its learnings for all to replicate.
I really liked some of the suggestion, such as developing walls that make us think, making sure that students belong in their spaces and thinking about our spaces from the perspective of different learners.
This is another post to add to the list.
I found it interesting reading your post on collaboration alongside this one. I always thought that if you provided the opportunity for teachers to work together that collaboration would be there. However, my experience has been that there are some who are more interested in their own agency and self-interest. It is for this reason that I cringe at awards and individual recognition. Maybe I am wrong? Jealous of the success of others? However, I would like to think that my interest is in supporting the wider systems, whatever that may look like.
You’ve heard of ‘growth mindset’ and the ‘maker mindset’. We now, more than ever, need to adopt an ‘Origin Mindset’. We must recognize that we are professionals and the Ministry has, in fact, given us incredible power over what we do in classrooms.
Someone who has inspired my thinking has been @largerama, who said: “it has to be student action … not voice. I prefer to label it as having students active in integrating tech”
The project of critical pedagogy is not simply the project of improving education, or of learning, but rather the project of becoming more fully human.
Instead of looking for another tool besides Turnitin for plagiarism, agency asks us to intervene upon the assumptions, acceptances, and adaptations that surround the agreement we generally hold that plagiarism is both unquestionably a problem and inevitable in every student population. Also, that we are helpless to its cresting wave.
And to look that deeply at our assumptions requires a willingness to believe in monsters washed up on the Chilean shore. We must not only want to see the world as it could be, to be intrigued by its possibilities, but we must be able to see it as it could be otherwise.
Being super prescriptive about what kids will learn and how they will demonstrate mastery is a professional act — but without some kind of meaningful balance, it also strips agency away from the kids in our care, and that’s NOT a good thing.
For those of us like myself who (all of a sudden it seems) mostly find themselves the oldest teacher in room, there is a strange sense of déjà vu about the flurry of excitement around agency. The challenge to rethink the way we ‘do’ teaching and learning and the desire to wrench schools from the transmission/factory-inspired model of the past has burned brightly within so many educators for a long time. It is not a new idea and therefore, not one to be dismissed as a fad or ‘the latest buzz word’. And this is far from another proverbial ‘pendulum swing’. I am eternally grateful to those who have gone before. Those who have believed strongly that learning is not something that gets done TO us – it is something we do for ourselves. It is so exciting to see a globally respected organisation such as the IBO place learner agency at the centre of its enhanced program. There is something palpably different about the new rise of ‘learner agency ‘ in the contemporary landscape.