Maximizing Student Agency: Implementation of Student-Centered Learning Approaches

American Institutes for Research (AIR) conducted this study as part of the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative’s initial cycle of research. The team at AIR worked alongside fellow scholars, educators, and policymakers to investigate the impact of specific student-centered practices and then translate their findings for cross-sector audiences.

AIR’s final report, Maximizing Student Agency: Implementation of Student-Centered Learning Approaches, represents their work over the past two years as they designed, tested, and revised teacher practices as part of a networked improvement community and examined how student agency impacted academic outcomes.

Research Questions
  • What practices do teachers employ to provide feedback to students on their performance that assist with the development of student agency?
  • What contextual factors do teachers view as facilitators of or challenges to implementing these practices?
  • How well do student survey questions measure student agency?
  • Were the measurement properties of the agency scales consistent over time and across student subgroups?
  • Are there significant subgroup differences in measures of student agency?
  • How does student agency change during the school year?
  • Do changes in student agency during the school year differ between subgroups of students?
  • How do teachers use data to inform their practices?
Key Findings
  • Teachers participating in a Network Improvement Community reaped concrete and actionable benefits that allowed them to make data-informed changes to their instructional practice — changes that benefited students.
  • Networks work. Systems-leaders and funders who provide educators with opportunities to participate in Network Improvement Communities can be confident that the outcomes will drive innovation.

In collaboration with four New Tech Network (NTN) high schools, AIR conducted a mixed-methods study to identify the instructional practices that may be useful for the development of different aspects of student agency (e.g., self-efficacy, self-regulated learning, and perseverance). This report provides an overview of the study design, study findings aligned to the research questions, information about communication materials, and reflections of the study team on the implications of the findings

Explore the Full Report

AIR created this e-resource to help readers navigate the study through a user-friendly interface. Learn more about the study, how it was conducted, and what the researchers found through the interactive guide below!

Explore the Interactive Guide

In April 2017, approximately 40 teachers from four New Tech Network (NTN) high schools participated in a series of focus groups designed to collect information on the practices they used to build student agency among their students. The data collected from the focus groups were utilized to develop the Menu of Teacher Practices on Student Agency.

The menu includes brief descriptions of 17 teacher practices that fall within each of these three categories, and key elements that teachers identified as being part of each practice.

Explore the Menu of Teacher Practices

Here’s what we know: When students have agency—when they manage and play an active role in their learning—we can see significant effects on academic achievement. What’s not so clear? Which instructional strategies teachers can use to support students in developing that agency. To shed light on this topic, American Institutes for Research (AIR) recently worked with a networked improvement community of teachers from four New Tech Network high schools, studying instructional practices that helped—or hindered—the development of student agency. Watch this webinar from the Research Collaborative and AIR to learn how teachers used improvement science to identify instructional strategies that maximized student agency and to hear about the data-informed decisions they made to improve their practice.

Access the Slides

This video from American Institutes for Research shows what it is like for teachers to go through a continuous improvement cycle in efforts to promote student agency. This video also provides information about how the continuous improvement approach is associated with developing student agency, as well as other student outcomes.

This video series from American Institutes for Research captures what it is like for teachers at Belleville New Tech in Belleville, Michigan to go through a continuous improvement cycle in efforts to promote student agency. The series shows how continuous improvement is associated with developing student agency and other student outcomes. The series also provides information about student agency, workshops, and the Belleville New Tech community.

Watch this video from American Institutes for Research for an in-depth exploration of how Belleville New Tech students and teachers define student agency and what it looks like at Belleville New Tech.

This video series from American Institutes for Research captures what it is like for teachers at Belleville New Tech in Belleville, Michigan to go through a continuous improvement cycle in efforts to promote student agency. The series shows how continuous improvement is associated with developing student agency and other student outcomes. The series also provides information about student agency, workshops, and the Belleville New Tech community.

Watch this video from American Institutes for Research to learn more about workshops and how workshops provide an opportunity for students to develop agency.

This video series from American Institutes for Research captures what it is like for teachers at Belleville New Tech in Belleville, Michigan to go through a continuous improvement cycle in efforts to promote student agency. The series shows how continuous improvement is associated with developing student agency and other student outcomes. The series also provides information about student agency, workshops, and the Belleville New Tech community.

Watch this video from American Institutes for Research to learn more about the Belleville New Tech and how students work with the community.

This video series from American Institutes for Research captures what it is like for teachers at Belleville New Tech in Belleville, Michigan to go through a continuous improvement cycle in efforts to promote student agency. The series shows how continuous improvement is associated with developing student agency and other student outcomes. The series also provides information about student agency, workshops, and the Belleville New Tech community.

New Tech Network (NTN) schools use project-based learning to empower and challenge students to learn and succeed, to collaborate and communicate, and to engage in the world around them. A critical component of their approach is student agency, or students’ capabilities to manage their own learning and be successful in school.

In 2017–18, this research team from AIR worked with four NTN schools in three states to determine which teacher practices help or hinder the development of student agency, whether these practices are effective across educational contexts and with different student subgroups, and whether measures of student agency are related to measures of student learning. Learn more about this networked improvement community, the change ideas they implemented, and NTN’s work as part of the study.

Explore the Infographic

The study, Maximizing Student Agency: Implementing and Measuring Student-Centered Learning Practices, aimed to identify the instructional practices that may be useful for the development of different aspects of student agency (i.e., self-efficacy, self-regulated learning, and persistence) and determine whether these instructional practices are equally helpful for different subgroups of students.

The technical appendix provides additional information about the study, including a description of the study sample, survey administration procedures, survey response rates, statistical analyses used to address research questions, and detailed study findings.

Explore the Technical Appendix

Final Report

In collaboration with four New Tech Network (NTN) high schools, AIR conducted a mixed-methods study to identify the instructional practices that may be useful for the development of different aspects of student agency (e.g., self-efficacy, self-regulated learning, and perseverance). This report provides an overview of the study design, study findings aligned to the research questions, information about communication materials, and reflections of the study team on the implications of the findings

Explore the Full Report

Interactive Guide

AIR created this e-resource to help readers navigate the study through a user-friendly interface. Learn more about the study, how it was conducted, and what the researchers found through the interactive guide below!

Explore the Interactive Guide

Menu of Teacher Practices

In April 2017, approximately 40 teachers from four New Tech Network (NTN) high schools participated in a series of focus groups designed to collect information on the practices they used to build student agency among their students. The data collected from the focus groups were utilized to develop the Menu of Teacher Practices on Student Agency.

The menu includes brief descriptions of 17 teacher practices that fall within each of these three categories, and key elements that teachers identified as being part of each practice.

Explore the Menu of Teacher Practices

Webinar: Diving into the Findings

Here’s what we know: When students have agency—when they manage and play an active role in their learning—we can see significant effects on academic achievement. What’s not so clear? Which instructional strategies teachers can use to support students in developing that agency. To shed light on this topic, American Institutes for Research (AIR) recently worked with a networked improvement community of teachers from four New Tech Network high schools, studying instructional practices that helped—or hindered—the development of student agency. Watch this webinar from the Research Collaborative and AIR to learn how teachers used improvement science to identify instructional strategies that maximized student agency and to hear about the data-informed decisions they made to improve their practice.

Access the Slides

Developing Student Agency at Belleville New Tech

This video from American Institutes for Research shows what it is like for teachers to go through a continuous improvement cycle in efforts to promote student agency. This video also provides information about how the continuous improvement approach is associated with developing student agency, as well as other student outcomes.

This video series from American Institutes for Research captures what it is like for teachers at Belleville New Tech in Belleville, Michigan to go through a continuous improvement cycle in efforts to promote student agency. The series shows how continuous improvement is associated with developing student agency and other student outcomes. The series also provides information about student agency, workshops, and the Belleville New Tech community.

What is Student Agency

Watch this video from American Institutes for Research for an in-depth exploration of how Belleville New Tech students and teachers define student agency and what it looks like at Belleville New Tech.

This video series from American Institutes for Research captures what it is like for teachers at Belleville New Tech in Belleville, Michigan to go through a continuous improvement cycle in efforts to promote student agency. The series shows how continuous improvement is associated with developing student agency and other student outcomes. The series also provides information about student agency, workshops, and the Belleville New Tech community.

Workshops and Agency at Belleville New Tech

Watch this video from American Institutes for Research to learn more about workshops and how workshops provide an opportunity for students to develop agency.

This video series from American Institutes for Research captures what it is like for teachers at Belleville New Tech in Belleville, Michigan to go through a continuous improvement cycle in efforts to promote student agency. The series shows how continuous improvement is associated with developing student agency and other student outcomes. The series also provides information about student agency, workshops, and the Belleville New Tech community.

What is Belleville New Tech

Watch this video from American Institutes for Research to learn more about the Belleville New Tech and how students work with the community.

This video series from American Institutes for Research captures what it is like for teachers at Belleville New Tech in Belleville, Michigan to go through a continuous improvement cycle in efforts to promote student agency. The series shows how continuous improvement is associated with developing student agency and other student outcomes. The series also provides information about student agency, workshops, and the Belleville New Tech community.

Student Agency Networked Improvement Community

New Tech Network (NTN) schools use project-based learning to empower and challenge students to learn and succeed, to collaborate and communicate, and to engage in the world around them. A critical component of their approach is student agency, or students’ capabilities to manage their own learning and be successful in school.

In 2017–18, this research team from AIR worked with four NTN schools in three states to determine which teacher practices help or hinder the development of student agency, whether these practices are effective across educational contexts and with different student subgroups, and whether measures of student agency are related to measures of student learning. Learn more about this networked improvement community, the change ideas they implemented, and NTN’s work as part of the study.

Explore the Infographic

Technical Appendix

The study, Maximizing Student Agency: Implementing and Measuring Student-Centered Learning Practices, aimed to identify the instructional practices that may be useful for the development of different aspects of student agency (i.e., self-efficacy, self-regulated learning, and persistence) and determine whether these instructional practices are equally helpful for different subgroups of students.

The technical appendix provides additional information about the study, including a description of the study sample, survey administration procedures, survey response rates, statistical analyses used to address research questions, and detailed study findings.

Explore the Technical Appendix

Funding for this study provided by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the Overdeck Family Foundation.

Learn more about the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative at sclresearchcollab.org.

Bridging the worlds of research, practice, and policy, JFF’s Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative investigates student-centered approaches to improve outcomes for learners from all backgrounds, particularly those who have been marginalized or underserved by the current system. In our first cycle of funded research, our grantees looked at competency-based education, student agency, personalization, collaboration, and networked improvement communities.

Other Research Collaborative studies in this cycle include:

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