Learner Agency Ladder Climbing

Start on the bottom rung, how do you rate on a scale of 1 to 5?

I designed a rubric so that I can measure the success of learning conversations with staff. It is a learner agency ladder so that teachers can track their climb and see their progress through self-grading at the beginning, middle and end of the year with a target group.

One teacher’s feedback after working with me and talking about learner agency and ‘stepping sideways’ from the traditional role of sage on the stage said, ‘I’m a three already!’ She is proud of her climb up the ladder and so she should be. I made the rubric today to help me to measure the growth that staff are making with offering learners more agency. Without a pre and post test, how can I accurately measure the success rate of my PD delivery?

‘To be honest’, the same teacher continues, ‘I should have rated myself before our first talk because this has been a big shift for me’. She would have given herself a 1 on the ladder at the end of last year and this year (only four weeks in!) she has a personal focus on digital tools and learner agency. Adding choice into her task design has already improved her ‘ladder rank’ and some easy choices of tools makes it easier to see how she can keep climbing.

In a year 9 class today I thought about whether or not I always practice what I preach. I gave them a drawing pre-test for a still life drawing unit and felt ‘old school’ making them all do essentially the same task. But I know it is not going to stay on rung one. I have a designed a ‘High Tea and Me’ drawing and painting unit that steps through observational drawing methods to end up with a final painting informed by a choice of artist models. Although structured and starting with form, tone and line (formal drawing techniques), the students are given choice at each step and can choose different strategies to show me their learning. They can choose their object, choose how they can show their learning (choice of tasks and tools each lesson) and choose how to collate their ideas in their final composition design . The stepped unit design (going up the ladder within a unit) means that students (even at year 9) can go up the ladder as the unit progresses. Although this example is scaffolded with teacher dictated choices (or further choice with consultation), the final painting will be a collaborative construction derived from a range of personal decisions about choice of artist model, choice of object and choice of cultural patterns that will make their art feel original and owned as their own.

Training students to own their own learning is so rewarding. Later, once they have had a taste of personal inquiry and collation of key skills, they can design their own program entirely as senior students. My seniors (year 13) are currently at level 5 of the learner agency ladder because they have driven the assessment choices, agreed on achievable timeframes that are staggered against other subject expectations and decided on their own learning outcomes that are different to other learners in the class.

If we want our learners to be self managing lifelong learners continually reaching new personal heights then the learner agency ladder might be the first rungs we can support them to climb.

What do you think? Could this be a useful tool for self assessment?

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