Learner Agency


One of the main tenets of whole-learner outcomes is learner agency. Making academic choices and persisting through challenges empowers students to drive their own educational journeys. It may seem daunting at first, but here are 3 actionable ways to foster agency in the classroom.


Schedule Student-Teacher Meet-Ups

Student-Teacher Meet-Ups are a high-impact way to embed agency that works in many contexts. These can happen any time, but it is most beneficial to create space for each student at least once per week. These can be brief, about 5-7 minutes, and cover a range of academic and personal topics. Most important is tackling what matters to each student and letting that guide the learning process. A student who feels valued is a student who is engaged.

Sample Student-Teacher Meet-Up Framework

  • Student Goal(s):
  • Tell me what you have been working on to reach your goal(s).
  • What are you proud of?
  • What has been hard for you?
  • Anything else either academic or personal you would like to discuss?
  • Teacher Recommendations for Student:

Make It Personal

It is essential to tap into students’ interests to fully engage them. By employing an Interest Inventory, a teacher can dig into what drives a student forward both personally and academically. Most important when using inventories is to dig into the data and let the information guide your instructional design for students.

Sample Interest Inventory Questions

  • Which school subject is most challenging to you? Is the challenge positive or negative to you? What makes it challenging?
  • If you could learn more about any subject, what would it be? Why are you curious about this subject?
  • Describe yourself using three words.
  • Do you have a special talent or an interest that you know a lot about? If so, what is it?
  • Tell me about a past accomplishment that made you feel proud of yourself.

Incorporate Choice

Embedding choice, even in small ways, can pay large dividends. To begin this process, a teacher might simply adjust an established activity to offer an element of choice. On the choice board below, for example, everyone completes the “must do” and then chooses two other activities. Typically on a board like this, a teacher offers multiple avenues for students to lean into their strengths.

Sample Choice Board

This ELA Choice Board can be adapted for any grade or subject, and most importantly, choices can be updated to align with students’ interests, needs, and goals.

As comfort level increases, choice becomes a larger part of the instructional framework and eventually students are developing projects driven by personal questions and topics they want to explore more deeply.

Building learner agency into everyday instruction allows students to become active players in their own educational journeys and affords the teacher an opportunity to be more of a coach and facilitator of learning.

There are many powerful examples of teachers incorporating learner agency into their instructional frameworks. See how a 3rd grade teacher in Forsyth County Schools in Georgia grounds learning in choice and ownership. View partner spotlight and access sample Playlists and Choice boards.

Ready to start with learner-centered in your context? Check out our free tools or get in touch with our team.

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