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Module 6

Student Agency and Engagement


How can schools motivate and empower young people to take responsibility for their own learning?

Each and every student has an active role to play in charting their own learning journey. When they do, they gain agency and a sense of responsibility for their own futures.

Schools must challenge all students to set ambitious goals for themselves and inspire them to work hard to get there.

Students need to be deeply engaged in the process of designing and continuously improving their schools—all students, not just the most confident and responsible ones. When young people get a chance to contribute to something they really care about, they learn and grow.

To make this happen, schools need to bring students to the forefront of decision-making—as informed, committed stakeholders. This will not only enable them to deepen their learning and relationships with trusted adults, it will improve our schools and communities. Youth participation builds essential, real-world skills and knowledge with benefits that extend far beyond the classroom.

Questions to Explore and Discuss

  1. How much time do students spend learning in ways that are deeply engaging and truly challenging? Does the answer differ for students from different groups?
  2. Do students feel cared about, seen, and heard? When they have a problem, do they know where to turn?
  3. Learning involves risk. How can schools create strategies that support and encourage learning through productive struggle with mistakes? How do we reach students who have struggled in the past and don’t want to risk failing again?
  4. What can schools do to help students recognize the importance of hard work and persistence, so they can develop the knowledge and skills they need for college and adult life?
  5. How do we provide the right amount of autonomy, while also establishing boundaries that support students’ development?