Student agency is about creating an environment where students are encouraged to take control of their own learning. A big part of this is the ability of students to self-manage. Last week my school moved into a new MLE, and my two colleagues and I really wanted to push the idea of student agency in what was going to be a vastly different learning environment to what we had been in previously. One of our ideas that we are trying out is a responsibility board.
The Responsibility Board
We liked the idea of creating a board of varying responsibilities, with privileges to match each of the responsibility levels. We created a board with three levels based on a similar model to driver licenses; learners, restricted and full.
The image above shows our board, with a blank space under each of the levels where the students names would go. Our first activity on day one was for each of the students to stick their own name under the level of responsibility that they thought they could operate at. We stressed the idea of this being a clean slate, but if they chose to be at the ‘full license’ level, they have to display the responsibilities that were expected at that level. Once there name was on the board, we (the teachers) were then allowed to move the names around if the students were not displaying to correct responsibilities. We told the students that if they were moved down a level, they would have to display the desired behaviour for a week before they could be moved up again.
So what happened during week 1?
As expected, most of the students chose to be in the ‘full license’ group. Subsequently, most of the students also consistently displayed the level of responsibility needed to stay within this group. We only had to move a few students down after some minor issues (such as being off task on the Chromebooks), and these students worked hard for the rest of the week so that they could return to the ‘full license’ group.
I really noticed a positive change in the behaviour of many of the students that, if I was to originally choose the groups myself based on previous experience, I would not have put in the ‘full license’ category.
Although it is still early days, out responsibility board seems to have already worked wonders with our students. Within our space, we are trying to manage 70 year 10 students, and the responsibility board has already contributed to an environment where they are able to self-manage. It has become a great tool to reward positive behaviour and discourage negative behaviour.