Podcast for Parents: Building Your Learner’s Agency | Steve Barkley

Podcast for Parents: Building Your Learner’s Agency

Building Your Learner’s Agency

Building learner’s agency might be considered empowering learners. While many schools and teachers are focusing on building student agency, there are ways that parents and caregivers can also promote key elements. How do you encourage self-regulation and perseverance? How do you encourage self-evaluation and problem-solving through obstacles? Consider how you promote a future orientation.

Listen to Steve’s Podcasts on optimism: 

Building Optimism
Building Optimism: Consciously Practicing Positiveness

Subscribe to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast on iTunes or visit BarkleyPD.com to find new episodes!


PODCAST TRANSCRIPTSteve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello, and welcome to the parents as learning coaches edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Parents and caregivers play many different roles, at times, even somewhat conflicting roles as they support children’s development. The pandemic has shown a light on the importance of parents supporting learners. In this podcast, I’ll look to share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner that can support your coaching efforts.

Steve: 00:33 Building your learner’s agency. Having agency is the capacity to set up goal reflect and act responsibly to affect a change that’s desired. It’s about acting rather than being acted upon. It’s about shaping rather than being shaped and making responsible decisions and choices rather than accepting those determined by others. Student agency is the ability to manage one’s learning. Why is this important? When students are agents in their own learning, they play an active role in just what and how they will learn.

Steve: 01:25 And they show a greater motivation to learn. These are the students that really learn how to learn, and that’s an important skill that they can and will use throughout their lives. Agency can affect academic achievement as students take an active role in seeking an internalizing new knowledge. You see, students who believe that knowledge can grow over time, perform better than students who believe that intelligence is fixed. Students with the growth mindset are more likely to set academic goals focused on mastering content rather than setting goals that are focused on achieving a particular test score or course grade. Mastery oriented goals cause students to process information in a deeper and more organized fashion than those who set, what’s been called performance goals. Those are the goals tied to test scores or grades. Skills and behaviors connected to student agency are positively related to college and career success because students are able to direct their own learning and transfer knowledge they learned in the classroom to new settings.

Steve: 02:58 Many schools and teachers are focused on increasing student agency. I like to call it empowering learners. In this podcast, I’ll touch on elements for parents consider. Here’s a list of items we’ll look into: self-efficacy, perseverance of interest, perseverance of effort, locus of control, mastery orientation, self-regulating and future orientation. Let’s start with self-efficacy. Mastery experiences develop efficacy. You see, performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. Failing to adequately deal with the task or a challenge can undermine or weaken our self-efficacy. Therefore, it’s important to set realistic short term goals, get feedback as we work on those goals and celebrate our successes. Celebrations around how and what led to the success are key in building self-efficacy.

Steve: 04:34 When we experience a setback, it’s important to learn from it. We might call it talk about failing better. Identify strengths that your child has that they can use to build future success. Model and discuss your own efficacy. How do you deal with obstacles over time? And remember, positive feedback for effort and perseverance, more important than positive feedback for the outcome. Perseverance of interest and perseverance of effort. Perseverance is a key to understanding agency and agency is a key to increasing perseverance. Look to assist your child in identifying interest that they can extend with perseverance and effort. Finding passions is a key. Sticking with something through obstacles is easier if I’m working in an area of my passion. As a parent, your interest in your child’s passions provides encouragement. If something from school sparks an interest or a passion, encourage your child to take it beyond the school requirement. Locus of control. To what extent does your learner believe that they are an influencer in the successful completion of a task? You see, if I think control is external, then I believe that other people or luck is what decides success. If on the other hand, I believe that control is internal, then I believe that my skills and effort, in other words, my ability to learn and improve, that’s what’s the deciding factor.

Steve: 06:49 Your children’s internal locus of control is encouraged by adult attitudes that promote autonomy in making decisions and encouraging students to be proactive. Motivate your learner to take initiative and to try their hand at various experiences. Help them build a realistic picture of themselves. Mastery orientation. Kids who have a high mastery orientation tend to have high intrinsic motivation. Their behaviors are driven by their internal rewards. Now this contrast with extrinsic motivation, where behaviors are driven by external rewards, by the fear of punishment or being rewarded. Students with extrinsic motivation have a mindset that often drives them to performance orientation. In other words, the grade becomes more important than the learning. Students with high mastery orientation want to learn for the sake of learning. They’re not preoccupied with their performance, their grade or adult’s approval. They keep working on tasks even when they get poor feedback.

Steve: 08:29 I’ve got a great personal example of that. As I’ve been sharing, I’m working to learn German on duolingo and I’ll get to a lesson where I make too many stakes in a row and I get this this little sad song played as it tells me I need to go back and start over. And as disappointing as this sound is, what that negative feedback feels like, because I have the desire to achieve the goal, which is working on learning the language, I’m able to welcome the challenge and take on that next learning at experience. As a parent, encourage your learners to focus on mastering a certain skill or lesson, rather than on earning a certain mark or score for performing the task. Praise your learner’s efforts when they Excel at a lesson and offer constructive criticism when their work shows room for improvement. Heap on praise when students complete challenging tasks. Remind your learner that mistakes are part of the learning process. Success is first and foremost about effort.

Steve: 10:07 Self-Regulated learning. One of the keys of self-regulated learning is planning. Self-regulated learners take time to plan. They think about their goals, they consider what’s relevant about the goals, what’s valuable, interesting, and achievable and then once they set a goal, they’re motivated to achieve it. Self-Regulated learners exert effort and they feel confident and they expect to succeed. They are also engaged while learning and they persist. Self-regulated youth view the goal as a target or a destination. They prioritize tasks, deciding where to direct their attention. Consider ways that you can support your learners in building that process of planning, stopping, asking the questions and making a purposeful decision about out what to do. Another component of self-regulated learning is problem solving. Self-regulated learners know that when they become frustrated along the way, they need to look at overcoming the problem rather than procrastinating. Self-regulated learners, running into problems, know to take advantage of help. Turning to a teacher, parent friend, or YouTube, they look together information to approach problem solving.

Steve: 11:58 One last element connected to self-regulation is self-evaluation. Self-regulated learners compare the results of their efforts with their desired intensions. When pleased with the results, these youth experience positive emotions that further enhance their motivation. When they’re not happy with the results, they use the feelings as motivation to improve. And the last element we’ll look at is future orientation. Future orientation are the thoughts, plans, motivations, hopes, and feelings that one has about their future. Even though people orient themselves towards the future throughout their lives, thoughts and plans about the future are significant, especially during adolescence and young adulthood, since this is when choices about education and occupation are formed. While researching this element, I found a a new phrase that I thought was very interesting: “possible selves.” How you think of themselves in the future can guide and determine behavior. Thinking of one’s self in a desirable place in the future is motivating, actually, in two ways.

Steve: 13:34 It motivates one to work towards their desired future by doing things that can help them reach their end goals. It also can motivate one to avoid behaviors that can reduce the chance of reaching their desired self, in effect, compromising their goals. Hope for selves impacts future goals and aspirations. I kinda have my own personal example of during my college days, I earned my tuition every summer working in a cardboard box factory. And I described frequently how it was great motivation for me to focus my energy on being successful in my college work because I had a pretty good picture of where I didn’t want to be in my future. And framed around that, pictures of where I wanted to be, that my that my college degree was going to support me making those pictures happen instead.

Steve: 14:54 One element of having that future orientation is optimism. Optimism has a strong influence on future orientation because optimistic people generally have positive expectations for their futures, and they believe that things will happen in their favor. You might want to check out the earlier podcast that I did for parents on building optimism in kids. I’ll make sure to add that to the lead-in to this podcast. In a book for K12 educators titled, “Rebound,” there’s an entire chapter focus on building student agency, and that book offered these questions that a teacher might use in a one-on-one interview with a student. I believe that you can modify these questions and consider them a sample for questions you might wanna engage your children in from time to time. When do you feel proud of yourself inside or outside of school? Why did you feel that way? What obstacles did you overcome and how did you do it? Is there an obstacle holding you back right now? Could some of the same strengths that you used to overcome that obstacle in the past be used in this new situation? Let’s make a plan to overcome that obstacle. You can feel proud of yourself for tackling this. As you work on building your child’s agency, remember to reinforce your own agency. Thanks for listening.

Steve [Outro]: 16:55 Thanks for listening in folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.

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