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Trust the kids! A student perspective on ‘agency’

Trust the kids! A student perspective on ‘agency’

A committee on Architecture for Learning at ISD met throughout the fall and winter of 2018 to discuss strategies for providing students with more agency. To learn more about the committee’s work, which included faculty, staff and students, a grade 4 student, who is a member of the committee, provided her insights.

Why did you join the Architecture for Learning Committee?

I joined because I am interested in helping the community and I want the school to become a better place. I liked the idea of developing spaces for classmates to work in. As we went along, we were joined by more students which was great because we got lots of different perspectives.

What is “student agency”?

Student agency is letting students have opinions on what they do and don’t like. It’s also about giving students choices in what they do and how they do it, with regard to teaching and learning.

What did the committee do?

After a discussion in the first meeting, the committee decided to focus on two things. Students providing feedback to their teachers, and a room in each of the buildings on ISD’s campus that could be used as a relaxing space.

What was the general feeling about student-teacher feedback?

We made a video of students responses when we asked them how they would feel about giving feedback to their teachers. Most of them liked the idea but there were some who did not. The committee also sent a survey to the teachers asking if this is something that they do already and for examples of how they are collecting this feedback. The majority of teachers, who responded to the survey, said that they request feedback from their students in a range of ways, from Google docs and exit tickets to class discussions and anonymous surveys.

And how did the relaxation space design go?

We found out that a group of senior school students were already working on a relaxation room, so we talked to them to see if we could help. On the elementary side of the road, we started thinking about rooms and spaces that could be used for a relaxation room.

What did you learn?

We learnt that our teachers need to trust their students and give them responsibility for student agency to happen. At the same time, teachers need to help the students and support them every step of the way. They should work with them, ask questions, but don’t help with every detail. We also learnt that we need to ask specific questions about the learning, not the teacher.

What are your next steps?

To continue developing conversations between students and teachers about learning. To get all teachers comfortable with asking for feedback from their students and to help students be better at giving feedback.

Any final reflections?

We didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to but we learned a lot about the role of students and teachers in student agency. This needs to be a partnership where both groups have responsibilities.