Supporting the Development of Student Identity and Agency

student identity and agency 2Student identity (the sense of who the person is) and agency (the sense of capability to act independently) is continually growing and changing. As classroom teachers, we have the ability to undertake actions that will help positively influence student identity and agency. In their book All Learning Is Social And Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom And Beyond, authors Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Dominique Smith identify six areas related to identity and agency, and they share suggestions for classroom supports for each (pp. 22-37):

  1. Recognize strengths – Have students regularly identify their own strengths. Provide feedback regarding the learning process and about student self-regulation during the task. Give opportunities for practicing a variety of activities and discuss successes with students. Employ “I can” checklists for students to use during and after academic tasks.
  2. Self-confidence – Develop tasks that provide for social interaction. Develop activities that require students to share reasoning and actions. Employ dialogue frequently.
  3. Self-efficacy – Encourage students to believe in themselves and their ability to complete the tasks assigned. Share examples of prior student successes on work. Create picture displays showing students participating in the learning process and completing their work.
  4. Growth mindset – Embrace the power of “yet” and remind students that they are growing. Employ active interventions that involve writing (journaling, story telling) and discussion.
  5. Perseverance and grit – As able, refer to characters (both real and fictional) that demonstrated grit. Identify student interests and leverage those to increase perseverance and grit. Remind students that there are opportunities to help others in need by persevering.
  6. Resiliency – Help students develop relationships with peers and adults in the building. Establish clear routines and order for classrooms. Share stories of those who overcome. Mirror student strengths. Help and serve others.

As you prepare for your classes next week, think of ways that you can further foster the development of student identity and agency. Your students will be glad you did!



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