Learner Agency
Product Showcase: 3 Components of Informed Learner Agency
Jim Liu
The Altitude Learning platform nurtures informed learner agency throughout the learning cycle.
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Product Showcase: 3 Components of Informed Learner Agency
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At Altitude Learning, our product development team isn’t just informed by learners and educators, but stitches their needs deep within the fabric of our platform. Development practices are derived from education and engineering models, with team members undergoing rigorous pedagogical training. Product design is guided by a relentless focus on our educator and learner needs across current and future partner communities, and at the same time incorporates 21st century workplace practices. This interdisciplinary and collaborative approach is evident throughout the Altitude Learning platform and especially in how we enable informed learner agency throughout the learning cycle. 

What Is Informed Learner Agency?

Learner agency is at the heart of our learner-centered model. Admittedly, my early understanding of learner agency conjured images of a chaotic classroom with children shirking responsibility, unsure of what to do next. In the absence of intentional systems and conditions in place, I may not have been too far off. However, dozens of school visits and hundreds of hours collaborating with educators and learners later, it’s clear agency done right is critical for engaging, meaningful, and lasting learning. Agency at its best endows learners with ownership of their learning through careful context that informs how they drive their own learning. Education Reimagined defines learner agency, a key learner-centered pillar:

Nurturing Agency Throughout the Learning Cycle

The Altitude Learning platform nurtures informed learner agency throughout the learning cycle. Transferring agency to learners isn’t a switch that gets turned on and off. Informed agency requires context, specifically, an input (data and results to inform next steps), and a goal (which provides direction). Here’s what it looks like in the Altitude Learning platform:

Availability of meaningful choice

Learners of all ages can have a tremendous influence on their community and the world. To honor that potential within all learners, the Altitude Learning platform gives them authentic choices in a way that builds their ability to wield their influence effectively. 

Learn 5 key trends that promote learner agency

For example, learners manage their own work and schedule within the Altitude Learning platform. Looking beyond prevalent, top-down calendars that are solely controlled by the educator, we drew inspiration from 21st century workplace task management tools. With Playlist Kanban View, learners exercise ownership of their learning sequence and schedule, scaffolded by an intuitive visual interface. 

Playlist Kanban View, inspired by workplace task management tools, offers students an intuitive visual structure for managing and scheduling their work.

Learners create columns that represent a period of time, then drag activities into them. Cards within columns disappear as they are completed. Learners may determine if a column represents a to-do list during a school week, a specific activity block during the school day, and anything in between. Their choices create meaningful reflection opportunities and conversations. Educators scaffold this process with due dates on select activities and pre-made templates. 

Wherewithal for exercising choice

Learning science describes the capacity to exercise choice effectively as a muscle that builds over time. The fuel that drives this growth is context. The Altitude Learning platform aims to help learners answer key questions toward making effective decisions, including: 

  • What’s the destination?: “What is the larger competency behind this activity I’m working on?”
  • How do I get there?: “Which competencies should I focus on next?”
  • Where am I now?: “Based on my current progress, what are my challenges? Where am I excelling?” 

In answering these questions, our Learner Progress View presents a mirror of learners’ progress back to them with deep context. This tool helps put the “informed” in “informed learner agency. 

Learner Progress View displays data for a standard, competency, or habit across time and displays evidence for each data point through goals and cards aligned to the standard.

Competency-based scores from educators are contextualized by a visual portfolio of related student work. Learners can navigate easily between their progress across domains of learning (e.g. ELA, Habits), within a learning objective (e.g. RL.7.1, Grit), and evidence of that learning (e.g. a recent group project). Learners can also take a next step in their learning by creating a Goal, right from this tool. Rather than emphasizing the quantity of data, insights from our partners and research have led us to focus on contextualized evidence that enables a learner to take an informed next action. 

Responsible learners of their own learning: 

Across our partners, we see that as learners take control of their own learning, educators are cultivating learners’ responsibility for their choices in parallel. The Altitude Learning platform supports educator efforts to foster a growth mindset in learners to proactively act on challenges by framing constructive feedback as an integral part of the learning journey

After learners submit an activity, and educators give assessment feedback, the learning journey is only beginning. Responsibility means that learners act on that feedback and incorporate it into their future drafts and revisions. The platform’s “Redo” flow is the glue that holds this process together. By marking an activity as redo in addition to providing feedback, educators are holding learners accountable for taking the next step from that feedback. Learners can resubmit the assignment after revisions, reinforcing their notion of a formative feedback cycle that is non-punitive. Rather than ending the conversation with a final score, the Altitude Learning platform helps foster a process-oriented culture of continuous feedback. 

Feedback takes on many forms within the Altitude Platform so learners can work through concepts toward mastery. Educators can provide feedback to a specific piece of work, to a specific competency, or offer global feedback on an entire card or project. 

Building a Culture of Learning

Deeply embedded in the learner-centered practices at the root of our work is a culture of learning. Our product designers and engineers model their work after the progressive learning communities that we serve. This means we offer each other frequent and intentional feedback, engage in ongoing professional development, and strive for the continuous improvement we see in our partner communities. 

Our partner schools and districts are building and scaling a classroom culture of informed learner agency, where learners make meaningful informed choices, and hold the responsibility for learning next steps. As learners take control and become more independent, educators can scale their impact and learning for all. 

Get in touch to learn more about how our customized solutions can accelerate your shift to informed learner agency, competency-based assessment, and more.