Essential 2: Design Learning Experiences for Access and Agency
Why is this essential?
No two learners are exactly alike making it difficult to design instruction that meets the needs of all learners. It is our mission as BPS educators to create high quality learning environments that develop students’ agency. Though every brain has the same basic structures, each person’s brain is entirely unique, with neural pathways that have been established through the myriad experiences they have had throughout their lives (Meyer, Rose, and Gordon, 2014). Learning experiences must be designed to engage the brains of the learners present, tap into their existing schema, and offer opportunities for application and processing.
Access is essential to agency. Agency can be defined as a student’s ability and willingness to make choices and take an active role in his or her learning and life. Agency is linked to a student’s sense of identity as a person and a learner. In order for students to develop a sense of agency, they must have access to learning experiences that empower them to make choices, chose pathways and strategies, share ideas, make mistakes, revise their thinking.
2.1 Educators employ appropriate actions and practices to get to know their students as learners and affirm their cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
2.2 Educators gather relevant information about students before and throughout each unit and learning experience, and use that information to plan, ask questions, adjust pacing, and target interventions.
2.3 Educators purposefully select, design, and prepare tasks and learning experiences to ensure that:
- The content is aligned to standards
- The content is represented in ways that access students’ prior knowledge and reflect varying learning styles
- There are multiple means for processing information
- There are multiple means of expressing what is learned
...so that EVERY student can engage in the cognitive demand of the task.
2.4 Educators take action to ensure that students exercise agency over what and how they learn by:
- Using their voices to choose the topics and strategies used in the classroom to develop skills and knowledge.
- Situating their learning in the contexts that matter to them: home, community, future, etc.
What Does it Look Like?
How Can I Learn More?
Want to teach your team about Essential 2?Download a 1 hour overview presentation you can use with your school or community!
Additional Readings and Resources
What guides our work around this Essential?
- Universal Design for Learning website (CAST)
- Universal Design for Learning Guidelines chart (CAST)
- Learner Profiles for Personalization article (Next Generation Learning Centers)
- Why Learner Profiles article (Getting Smart)
- Learner Profiles: Get Up Close and Personal Using the UDL Lens article (Personalize Learning)
What are some instructional resources I can explore?
- Goalbook Strategy Toolkit, a website with UDL-aligned instructional strategies
- Understood.org, a website with instructional strategies to support students with learning and attention needs
- 10 Tips for Creating an Engaging Learning Environment, a PDF by CAST
- Design Thinking for Educators, a toolkit by IDEO