Agency In the Classroom: Choice and Personalization | Jessica Cavallaro | 7 Min Read

January 27, 2022

Every parent knows their child has a unique personality and needs. We know as children develop, their main goal is to have agency in their lives. For example, toddlers will have a meltdown if their milk is served in the wrong color cup. Elementary-aged children expand upon their likes and dislikes, exploring the world through questions and finding ways that they are unique. By middle school, our students are in outright rebellion, desperate for control over their decisions as their brain begins to develop maturity, through trial and error. When students make their way through high school they are taking the baby steps into adulthood, trying to figure out the path they will follow into college and career. 

As children struggle to have more control over their lives, at home, parents scaffold these experiences to develop the skills of self-reliance, responsibility, and organization. These are not skills that can be developed in a vacuum but slowly learned through opportunities to explore the world and develop agency. 

Educators can embrace the human development stages in their students’ lives by giving them the safe space to exercise agency in their learning. By opening up the classroom to choice, educators increase engagement and empower students to own their learning. The curriculum transforms from a list of items that must be done to a series of pathways that explore possibilities and build connections to their own life. 

Introducing choice to the classroom is a small task that results in huge rewards for the teacher and students. Let’s explore some ways to move through content and standards, but allow opportunities for choice and personalization. 

Choice Boards

A new educational buzzword that you have no doubt heard over the past year is Choice Boards, but what does this really mean and how does it lead to better understanding?

A choice board is best used with a teacher knowing what their learning goals and big ideas will be for the lesson. When the end goal is clear, the teacher can structure tasks that will accomplish this goal. Usually, we see this as the assignments and activities in class that all students participate in or work on for a grade. 

Using a choice board, students are given options about how they work. We all know that our students are unique and process information in different ways. The choice board will allow all of our…

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Jessica Cavallaro

Jessica Cavallaro is the co-founder of The Agile Mind, which interweaves Agile frameworks into K-12 education. She is passionate about the benefits of project based learning and creating purposeful education to drive innovation through inquiry. She is an advocate for developing systems that give students agency. Jessica earned her Bachelor’s degree at Pace University and Master’s in Education from Mercy College.