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Building Student Agency

“Agency may be one of the most important factors in human happiness and well-being. We all like to feel that we are in charge of our own destiny.” ~Strixrud and Johnson, The Self-Driven Child

Agency is the ability to choose and act independently. Think about a time your own agency was taken away by a person or by circumstances. What happened? How did it feel? How did it affect your behavior?

Then, think about a time you claimed your agency. What happened? How did it feel? How did it affect your behavior?

Finally, consider children. How much agency do they have? In their education? In their lives? In their world?

Losing our agency – for adults and children – makes us feel frustrated, helpless, depressed, and angry. Claiming agency leads to fulfilled lives. If we expect our children to be successful and powerful as adults, we need to teach them how to claim their agency, so they can learn and practice now.

Agency is not something we can simply “do.” It requires specific, and challenging, skills to employ:


o What do I want?

o Am I effective in making those desires happen?


o Can I effectively state what I want?

o Can I use my speaking and listening skills to work with a group or mentor?


o Can I make my learning happen?

We all have our strengths and challenges in these areas. I may be great at working, speaking, and listening in a group but have no self-awareness or voice to know what I want, much less voice it to another person. Or, I may know exactly what I want but not have the ability to make it happen.

Giving students agency, helping them practice their strengths and providing tools to build up challenging skills is a vital piece of educational success. It will encourage them to powerfully guide their own learning journeys and successful navigate their adult lives.

Check out various Building Agency Resources here.

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