The concept of student agency has been part of ‘bigger picture’ thinking in education for quite some time, but has come to light recently through many blogs, forums and video sites, such as Derek’s description above - however, there is not much in the way of contemporary research concerning the links specifically between agency and e-learning, indicating it is still somewhat of an emerging idea. The foundations of agency transpire in the work of Dewey, Vygotsky and Piaget, as well as the critical pedagogical theorists such as Freire and Illich. Much of the literature in ECE also supports the concept of agency and is the foundation of many of the alternative models from this sector. I recently had the pleasure of visiting Hobsonville Point Secondary School and Stonefields Primary School in Auckland and much of the big picture thinking in those schools is based around student agency.
I chose to feature the article on the insights about the Reggio Emilia schooling system in Italy because it highlights that many of the concepts and ideas we discuss in e-learning pedagogy are built on solid foundations of theory and practice that are decades old, however these concepts can now be realised because of the integration of blended e-learning. The article emphasises collaborative project based learning, social learning in the construction of knowledge and open expression in outcomes and student work. The role of the teacher is as a guide to work alongside learners, as well as a reflective practitioner - using mixed media to collate and celebrate the learning in the classroom. The model is based on cross curricular learning, avoiding ‘subject silo’s’, emphasising multiple intelligences and ways of knowing - much of this contributes the processes of student agency as described by Derek in the ‘Ed Talk’
Derek makes the clear distinction between agency and independence by stating that there has to be some responsibility of the learner and how their actions affect others, this description allows us to move on from the terms ‘personalised learning’ and ‘learner centeredness’ which could indicate that the learner operates in a bubble without consideration of others and their environment - agency aims to remedy that by emphasising interactions with others in the learning process. Perhaps from the agency perspective ‘student centered learning’ needs to be modified to encompass more of a holistic view of where the student is placed in the learning context and society itself? Another point that Derek hints at during the video is the need for ‘enabling constraints’ in order to safeguard the learning so no-one slips through the gaps, and that there is direction and understanding on the students behalf. This indicates that the concept involves a two way process and there is as much responsibility on the learner as there is the teacher, it is simply not handing the responsibility over to the student.
The concept of agency seems to benefit a wide range of learners in theory, however some say that if students direct their learning, they will be inefficient, waste time, and miss out on key skills and knowledge. Is student agency an important component of high quality education, should students be able to make decisions and generally influence how something is learnt or taught in a classroom? The specific questions I would like to present to the forum are;
1) The Reggio Emilia system forms the concepts of student agency, it is a model that was developed for ECE and has been around for over 30 years - it has the potential to shape education from the student up, influencing learning, assessment, curriculum and school structure. What are the limitations of the system, why has it not caught on in widespread state funded education beyond ECE level?
2) If the rekindled buzz about student agency is realised because of the increasingly widespread use of e-learning tools, how can student agency be supported by e-learning - what experience have you had of implementing agency in your classrooms/institutions/workplace, why did you do it and what could you do to promote it further?
Hewett, V. (2001). Examining the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 2001. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/eds/detail?vid=3&sid=dd8bbce4-4c50-47a0-ab50-24ef9fae51a7@sessionmgr4005&hid=4111&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ==#db=aph&AN=11305202
Wenmoth, D. (2014). Ten Trends 2014: Agency | EDtalks. [online] Retrieved from: http://edtalks.org/video/ten-trends-2014-agency [Accessed: 21 Mar 2014].