Framework for Building Student Agency In the Classroom

Framework Building Student Agency
Framework Building Student Agency

Building Student Agency

Student Agency Image
Student Agency Definition

Student agency’s ultimate goal is to empower student ownership of learning. In my 6 Truths Why Empower Student Learning So Important post, according to John Spencer and A. Julian Truth # 1: Every child deserves to own their learning. Teachers can empower student ownership of lifelong learning. Authors (2017) believe this is the reason we educate students for their benefit. Spencer and Juliani support the idea that “When we give students choice, allow for inquiry, and foster creativity, we see the amazing things they can do.” (pg 10) This only matters when students own their learning. This is absolutely true.

When you see Student Agency phases shown in the above picture, it evolves from compliance where the teacher is the authority and students are the receiver of knowledge. We know that the traditional way of teaching does not work well. In the next phase is engagement. How do you get student to engage in learning? According to The Glossary of Education Reform, student engagement “refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.” (2021, April 8) Student passion for learning comes from choice, inquiry and creativity is how student ownership of learning starts.

How to Build Student Agency?

Bill Zima, author of MindSets and SkillSets for Learning, gives teachers a framework they can use to apply components and develop robust learning opportunities.

Mindsets and skill sets book Image
Mindsets and Skillsets book

This book helps me understand that student agency is a mindset and skill-set each student needs. Zima describes A Teacher’s Perspective on Student Agency:


Zima, B. (2021). Mindsets and Skill Sets for Learning. Marzano Resources.

“What I liked best was the sense of community the students showed and the sense of empowerment they experienced. I did not become super focused on their academic performance; if it was low, I did not freak out. In the past, I could see they were struggling with mathematics. I would bang my head against the wall and wonder, Why aren’t they getting it? But then, as I shifted my focus on what was important—their sense of agency—I knew that if they were academically low scoring, but were engaged in how to learn and knew how to teach themselves, they were going to be OK as adults. That was a good touchstone to keep returning to, to help me remember why I was putting in the work was to develop the whole person. I knew they were working hard and it might take them longer but they would get it. We are trying to create people who can function in the modern economy that will require them to work with other people, know how to learn, and learn on their own. If they can do those things, they will be successful.” (p. 12)

—Mr. Wironen, middle school mathematics and science

July 11, 2020

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