5 Ways to Develop Teacher Agency and Advance Student Learning

Ideas
By: 
Katherine E. Bihr, Ed.D. & Susanne H. Thompson

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t only exposed the vast gap in educational equity for students, it has revealed gaps for teachers as well. Though district leaders are working diligently to get the technology and materials students need to learn remotely or in a hybrid environment, many teachers have been left feeling the pressure to perform in an entirely new instructional environment.

Transitioning from traditional in-class instruction requires committed attention, different ways of communicating and resources that many teachers and communities may not have access to.

It is vital that teachers are able to use technology effectively and in increasingly useful ways to help meet the growing challenge of preparing students for success in a rapidly evolving, complex workforce of the future.

There is positivity surrounding access to professional learning experiences that build teacher agency–the process of supporting educators’ growth into critical agents of change that lead to continued improvements and focus on student learning.

When teachers have agency, they build student agency.  

But, how can educators focus on developing student agency, as they grapple with learning new skills themselves? Are there resources that allow them to develop student agency, even in this new educational paradigm?

Two former educators now leading education programming teamed up to answer these questions and meet the needs of educators through a new series of e-learning modules designed to help educators use student centered strategies–ideas that translate to a virtual learning environment.

 

With this in mind, we’ve compiled five ways to encourage teacher agency in your school or district:

1. Focus on access equity.

Supporting students and educators in underrepresented and under resourced communities requires acknowledgement of the barriers to quality education and training. While technology is extremely useful, it can’t be useful to those who can’t access it. When designing curriculum for the future, educators must examine the students who sit in their classroom and focus on how to teach in ways that ensures no child has a learning gap due to insufficient community resources. Differentiation is nothing new, but has renewed importance when we consider equitable outcomes for children.

 

2. Focus communications on honesty and transparency.

Relationships are critical to success in education whether it be between students, students and teachers, parents and teachers, or teachers and administrators. When communicating via email, phone calls or face-to-face, honesty and openness creates a level of trust that leads to action and accountability. Regular communication also helps identify barriers to teaching and learning that should be resolved while increasing comfortability and engagement.

 

3. Incentivize (don’t burden) professional development.

Although most educators want to be their best and continue enhancing their practices to prepare students for success, the growing demands and challenges of remote learning make professional development another item on their growing to-do list that gets pushed further and further to the bottom. Incentives can look different based on budgets and resources, but can be beneficial to educators in their teaching practices, opportunities for collaboration and their morale. As teachers focus on their students, administrators must consider their educators and how to best support and motivate them outside of the classroom. Incentives can be as simple as recognition, opportunities to share with colleagues or even certification for the time spent in professional learning.

 

4. Maximize resources and networks.

Partnerships can make implementing tips 1-3 more achievable and effective. Collaboration is a key component to supporting educator and student success. From free resources to educator workshops and opportunities to reach educators and students around the world through events and communications, partnerships prove that you don’t have to start from scratch or do it alone. There are several resources available to help educators transition into distance learning effectively while keeping their teaching practices student-centered.

 

5. Get started!

Developing agency among students and educators is essential for success in physical and virtual classrooms. It may feel daunting at first, but taking those first steps is the best way to see agency make a positive impact for students, and for education as a whole.  

Remote learning isn’t going away. We must build and maintain agency among educators and students to ensure positive outcomes. Finding the harmony between being an educator and a lifelong learner is a challenge that we face together as we deliver programs and resources that empower students and prepare them for the modern workforce.

 

About the authors

Katherine E. Bihr, Ed.D is Vice President of Programs and Education at TGR Foundation-A Tiger Woods Charity.

Susanne H. Thompson is  Chief Operating Officer for Corporate Partnerships at Discovery Education.

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