Let’s begin with some questions – When do you learn the best? What is your favorite learning experience? When were you the most engaged while learning?

Most of us have similar answers. Our favorite learning experience was when we decided what to learn, how to learn and how often. Right? Those experiences were naturally engaging because we had ‘agency’.

Agency in learning is giving the learner autonomy to choose what they learn, how often and with appropriate guidance when needed. 

What are some examples of learner agency? 

  1. Free play – Put a few kids in a common space and observe their creativity.
  2. Video games – Video games teach kids life skills and the capability to make decisions on-the-go with minimal supervision.
  3. Reading – Take a kid to a library and you will find her in some corner with a book of choice and lost in the process. 

Agency in learning for kids and adults is by far the most powerful enabler in engagement. Let’s take a look at some examples of mainstream and alternative schooling systems that live by learner agency:

1. Synthesis: Synthesis is an enrichment program designed to give kids the opportunity to solve complex problems through video games and simulations. The most fascinating factor for me is that Synthesis develops the video games with live feedback from the kids who are playing the video games. Given the focus on video games, kids learn to solve real-life problems with collaboration and are given the ability to fail and learn. This low-stakes failing environment is leading to a strong learning muscle and the ability to experiment and think of problems for first principles.

2. Acton Academy: Acton Academy is a classic example of blended learning. A learner at Acton Academy spends time learning at their own pace, doing projects that teach them life skills and do apprenticeships that helps them understand how businesses function. Teachers are guides in this school. Checkout a 2 minute video of how an Acton Academy class serves its learners. 

3. Sora Schools: A unique, project-based high school that focuses on the learner’s interest. Sora Schools are accredited and assessments are mastery based.

Apart from these three learner centric systems, there are many more that will be shared in the following blogs. 

What can we learn from these alternative education systems? How can we gain agency in our learning experiences? Let’s take a look! 

To increase accountability:

  1. Design a learning chart for accountability at home. Ask a friend, partner or a parent to help with accountability. The chart should be simple and tangible with the following structure: 

— What do you want to learn? 

— What did you learn? 

— What went well? 

— What could have been better? 

To foster creativity:

  1. Design radical learning spaces at home. This space could be any size and should follow certain unsaid rules:

— The learning space is for active learning, reading, creative time and fun. Other activities like eating meals, sleep should have a separate space (ideally).

To build learning muscle:

  1. Design your learning journey with at least two of these: Individual learning, peer learning and facilitator-led learning. 

— If you are attending an online course with recorded videos or one-one classroom, bring on a friend/colleague as a sounding board. Share your progress, problems and learnings as a component of the course. 

— Divide your weekly calendar to allow for individual learning and project collaboration.

If you are looking to make a small shift in your process, think of how the experience would be engaging for the learner in your scenario. Start with empathy and allow yourself to go wild with ideas before agreeing with one. 

Unlearning Thought of the day!

Remember that learning is fun when thought of as an experience, like a rollercoaster ride rather than just a scheduled checklist. Do you agree?