#40 – Tapping Into Creativity and Choice: Student Agency for Powerful Learning

Unpacking Education May 19, 2021 27 min

Learning should be fun, inspiring, and motivating. As we each know from experience, it is so much easier to learn when you are having fun doing it, when you are creating an authentic product, or when addressing a real-world issue that has a larger impact beyond yourself. When we are invested in the experience, we care more about how it is perceived, rather than how it will be graded. This is the space where our students excel and find their strengths.

When our students graduate from high school, we want them to be ready for college, careers, and life. It is a monumental job to prepare them both academically and personally for their futures, and it takes our K–12 school communities 13 years to get them there. If we create learning experiences where students are empowered to make choices and create, they will have multiple, authentic opportunities to develop these skills.

When students create alongside their peers, they engage in rich learning experiences that require them to make choices, communicate, collaborate, and solve problems. In this week’s podcast episode, our Digital Learning Specialists explore the power of creativity and choice in the classroom to empower students to take ownership of their learning—student agency. Among the topics we explore are the three key components needed to support students’ future success: academic knowledge, transferable skills, and social and emotional skills.

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
Digital Learning Coach
Pamela Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist

Creativity is intelligence having fun.

 Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist


The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:

Three Supports in Empowering Students to Own Their Learning Process

The components described in this list support and empower student success like the three legs of a stool. Without all three legs, the stool will not stand, but with a strong foundation in each of these three areas, our students will have a stable base that can support and empower them throughout their college, careers, and personal lives.

  • Academic Knowledge: Academic achievement is important, and it is a central mission of K–12 schools. Curriculum maps determine the courses that we teach, and academic outcomes shape the lessons that we create. Standardized tests often measure progress toward graduation as well as whether or not our students are accepted to the college of their choice. Despite the importance of academic learning, most teachers will tell you that academics alone is not enough. While academic knowledge can provide a strong foundation, it is not the entire house.
  • Transferable Skills: If you ask employers what skills and attributes they are looking for in their employees, they will consistently mention things like the ability to communicate, collaborate, create, and think critically. This core skill set is commonly referred to as the 4 Cs and was first made popular by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21). In addition to the 4 Cs, most employers also include a growth mindset and a desire to learn in their list of essential skills. Employers are acutely aware that the specific ins and outs of any job will continue to change over time, so they look to hire people with a strong foundation of transferable skills that will allow them to thrive regardless of how their specific job evolves. Because of their importance to future success, these core transferable skills should be woven into lessons in every subject area.
  • Social and Emotional Skills: Often described as “intangibles,” social and emotional skills—like grit, self-regulation, empathy, citizenship, and self-motivation—are essential to student success because they empower students to work through their struggles, manage their emotions, stick to a task, and understand how their behavior impacts others. Without these social and emotional skills, students may never get to the point where they can successfully apply their academic and transferable skills. It is critical that we embed social and emotional skill building into all learning.