Student Agency for Powerful Learning

Dilworth, Marianne

ET

Williams, P. (2017). Student agency for powerful learning. Knowledge Quest, 45(4), 8-15. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1136307.pdf

In his article “Student Agency for Powerful Learning,” Williams defines student agency, and then explores how school librarians are uniquely qualified to nurture this attribute in students. Williams states that students develop agency when they have a strong sense of personal integrity and efficacy. When students demonstrate respect for themselves and others, and feel empowered to act, they are more likely to take responsibility for their learning. Fostering student agency requires a pedagogical power shift away from traditional models of education.

Williams offers some practical suggestions for school librarians to lead the way. These suggestions include encouraging recreational reading, and collaborating with students on library design. To develop student voice, students can create books or artwork that become part of the library’s collection. Having students then cite their own work gives them a sense of ownership and identity as a creator. Williams argues that using these strategies to establish a collaborative, student-centered learning environment will help students ultimately become successful agents of their learning.

I found this article to be an interesting and engaging overview of the concept of student agency. A school community that aspires to build a learning commons, must first have a strong program that builds student agency. I like that Williams makes the clear distinction that encouraging student agency does not mean that he is advocating for an anything goes educational model. Instead, he states that structures and guides must be put into place that allow student creativity and voice to flourish.

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For your consideration: An Outlier

Solomon, Samantha

Ullman, R. (2018). No, Teachers Shouldn’t Put Students in the Driver’s Seat. Teacher Teacher. Retrieved 26 September 2018, from https://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2018/09/05/no-teachers-shouldnt-put-students-in-the.html

Summary: This opinion piece is written by Richard Ullman, a 29 year veteran of teaching in public high schools. In the piece Ullman defends the practice of teachings using direct instruction to communicate complex skills and concepts to students. He feels that the pendulum has swung too far towards a pedagogy based on “equat[ing] cosmetic engagement with actual learning.” He argues that educational trends are dictated and propelled by people who are removed from actual classrooms, and that as a result, the current trends around game-based learning and student driven learning actually don’t improve student outcomes. He points out that “even though the classroom looks dynamic, students appear to be busy, and the right boxes get checked during classroom observations, achievement gaps don’t close.” Ullman argues that traditional, teacher-centered instruction does work, but that confirmation bias causes experts to ignore the merits of this style in favor of chasing educational fads.

Evaluation: It’s not that I agree with Ullman’s strong preference for teacher-centered instruction, but I do think it is important to acknowledge what people who might be out of this moment’s mainstream might be thinking. I absolutely feel that there is a place for more traditional, direct instruction in classrooms and school libraries, but I also think that it has to be blended with more engaging, student-centered techniques to fully resonate and connect with students and truly enhance their learning.

Zepnick, Jaclyn

IL

Ray, M. (2016). Changing the Conversation About Librarians. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryadvocacy.org/recent.html

This Ted Talk by Mark Ray is empowering. He discusses the idea of creating “future ready librarians” and how school librarians need to work together in order to connect and be truly transformative district leaders. Also check out his collaborative endeavor: Project Connect.

Where Standards Come From

Bradley, Rebecca

CA

McClure, p. (2005). Where standards come from. Theory into Practice, 4(1),4-10. doi:  10.1207/s15430421tip4401_2


Summary:
In this article Phyllis McClure gives a brief and very clear historical overview of how the standards movement originally arose. In the simplest terms, in the past folks thought that children from privileged backgrounds would rise to the top to occupy positions of power and leadership while those less fortunate would get an adequate education for their lower stations in life. As time went by this policy was deemed unjust, which led to the idea of common curriculum standards for all students. 
The article goes on to mention key court decisions that pushed standards forward as well as the financing structure of schools that needed to be overhauled. It also touches on the fact that expecting all students to meet the same high standards has caused a lingering “achievement gap.” The article ends with information about the emergence of Title 1 and the No Child Left Behind Act and states that the standards movement shows no sign of being a “fad” or going away anytime soon. 
Evaluation:
I recommend this article to anyone who has little or no idea of how the standards movement came about in our country. In particular, this article would be helpful to people who are just starting out in the field of education or who might have been in another profession while all of these significant shifts were occurring. In my case, I was living outside the US from 1991 to 2009, so I found the overview McClure provides in this article to be very helpful.