Student Agency for Powerful Learning

Dilworth, Marianne


Williams, P. (2017). Student agency for powerful learning. Knowledge Quest, 45(4), 8-15. Retrieved from

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.

What the Heck is Inquiry-Based Learning?

Van Duzee, Alyssa

ID (Inquiry and Design)

Wolpert-Gawron, H. (2016, August 11). What the heck Is inquiry-based learning? Retrieved from

Inquiry-based learning is something that can be difficult for teachers to do because it involves giving up power and control and allowing students to take the reigns. This articles breaks down the steps necessary to bring this type of design and learning into a classroom and library. It is a very basic overview, but it gives a good sense of what inquiry-based learning entails.

This would be a great article to have staff read at the beginning of the school year because it makes something that can become very difficult seem relatively easy. It breaks down the process into 4 manageable steps. If teachers were to get on board with this, it would make an easy transition into co-teaching and ultimately deeper and wider student learning.

Making personalized learning projects possible

Sasaki, Lori


Schwartz, K. (2017, December 4). Tips and Tricks to keep kids on track during genius hour projects. KQED Mindshift. Retrieved from

This article outlines one teacher’s advice and experience around Genius Hour, or “20 percent time projects.” The teacher shares anecdotes and examples (including a student video) of the challenges and successes in implementing this kind of student-centered learning.

There is not a comprehensive explanation of the entire project, however the article touches upon various important stages, such as defining the problem, staying organized, and assessment. The tangible tools and tips (with lots of links to resources) for managing personalized learning projects helped to make this kind of learning process seem both inspiring and realistically do-able.

Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media.

Norma Olsen

ET- blended learning
IL- 21st-century learning

Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., Cody, R., Stephenson, B. H., Horst, H. A., … & Perkel, D. (2009). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. MIT press. Retrieved from

In this book, the cowriters report on a three-year ethnographic study that explores how the social and recreational use of digital technology and social media provides a way to develop many of the 21st century skills of collaboration, creation culture, and self-directed learning. Reading this can provide ways which teachers and teacher librarians can harness the natural draw of technology and socializing towards instructional purposes. We must understand what motivates 21-century youths if we are to create learning environments that can direct their energy towards the fields and problems that face our world. 

It’s Genius

Matteson, A. (2016). It’s genius: Understanding genius hour and making it rock at your school. School Library Journal 62(10), 36-38.
This is a very comprehensive article about genius hour. Matteson discusses how genius hour is time set aside for student-driven research, where it’s not about tests but exploration. Since students get to choose their learning path, they are much more motivated. The teacher has the students check in and is available to help students through the learning process. Through exploration, failure may occurs, but it is welcome and support is available.

I highly recommend this article because it is very comprehensive and you will walk away with an understanding of what genius hour is and ideas of how to incorporate it into your classroom. 
Cover, Sara
Edutopia. (2012, March 14). Singapore’s 21stcentury teaching strategies [Video file]. Retrieved from
This Edutopia YouTube video shows what 21stcentury teaching and learning looks like at one school in Singapore. The video highlights students as seekers and creators of knowledge, and teachers as facilitators of this information. In this school they use technology as a way to learn; they do not keep students away from modern technology, rather teachers guide them to use technology in an appropriate, effective way.
This short video is a great resource when working with schools and/or teachers who are hesitant about incorporating technology into their curriculum. In addition to showing a wide range of ways technology can be incorporated into a classroom, the video also illustrates how teachers should take a step back and position themselves as facilitators rather than keepers of knowledge. With today’s technology, students are more than equipped with the tools they need to seek out information; it is our job as educators to guide them and help them use these tools and their newfound knowledge effectively.

IL-The Challenge of Piloting the Inquiry Process in Today’s Learning Environment

Emily Ratica


Lambusta, P., Graham, S., & Letteri-Walker, B. (2014). Rocks in the river: The challenge of piloting the inquiry process in today’s learning environment. Knowledge Quest, 43(2-), 42-45.

This article reviews the steps the librarians and teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools in Newport News, Virginia took to further incorporate a more detailed and thorough Inquiry Process Model into instruction. Most significantly, these educators, after putting in place an initial model, took the time to reevaluate that model, then remove and adapt that model in order to improve their students’ experiences and final results.

The most significant idea they discovered in implementing their inquiry process, and the main reason I share this article here, is the “Explore” stage they added after the fact. At all levels of education, elementary through high school, they realized that students were not engaged in the process because they had not had time to get “hooked” by exploring their own ideas. Starting with a research question, like so many inquiry processes do, was problematic because “students often did not have enough background knowledge to generate questions…many of us individually modified the model in our practices to give students opportunities to search for information on a topic before they began to generate questions” (42).  For an inquiry process to be successful, students need time to be inquisitive.  

This seems like such a simple idea, but it was revolutionary to me.  I work in high school, and I figured that most of the students I encountered as they were doing research already had a subject/area in mind when beginning.  But by allowing them time, even if it is just a little, to explore topics within a subject, I agree with the authors, it will increase student engagement and buy-in, and further develop inquiry skills.

How we can assess in a 21st century learning environment

Ramos, Tara


Barnes, M. (2016). SE2R can revolutionize how we assess learning.  Retrieved from

Summary: This article gives an idea of how assessment can work in a 21st century learning atmosphere.  Mark Barnes, author of the book Assessment 3.0 proposes that narrative feedback is most useful to student learning and he suggests teachers use his SE2R model for providing that feedback.  The SE2R model can be summarized as follows:

  • Summarize- the evaluator gives a short statement about what was accomplished with the work
  • Explain- the evaluator explains what learning was demonstrated and/or what was missing  
  • Redirect- when learning outcomes are not demonstrated, the evaluator redirects students to prior learning, to resources or to seek help from teachers or peers.   
  • Resubmit- Students are asked to resubmit their work after making changes.  
Evaluation: I found the SE2R model to be very helpful and I feel that it aligns very well with the type of learning experiences and environments that we are building in the INFO 250 course.  We must not let assessment fall by the wayside as we create 21st century learning experiences.  Narrative feedback and the chance to resubmit goes hand-in-hand with the growth mindset that we are trying to foment.  It views learning as continuous and makes the point of learning learning, not a letter grade.  It also allows for each student to start at their unique starting point and grow as much as possible.  Lastly the SE2R model need not be only limited to teacher use, but students could also learn to use it as a tool to evaluate their own and their peers’ work.  I highly recommend this article and this author to others in the INFO 250 course.