Authentic Learning and Student Agency

<font="14">As we conclude an amazing semester, I have been reflecting on the numerous ways we are transforming the student experience through authentic learning and student agency. Both elements are hardly innovative in terms of originality. As a matter of fact, I often challenge others to think about a transformative learning experience they have had that doesn’t include both. However, the use of authentic learning and student agency is innovative and unique in a world that has sought to simulate and streamline most every process.

All Saints students are engaged in real-world learning that has tangible outcomes and community impact. From first-graders nurturing and nourishing chickens on the Learning Farm for their egg business to upper school students running their own entrepreneur E-Café, All Saints students are engaged with deep dives in learning. As in real life - these initiatives take an enormous amount of time, dedication, collaboration, adaptability, research and communication. With authentic learning the emphasis is on the quality of the process and innovation. The key is fostering student agency by allowing students to pursue individual learning opportunities that are unique to their interests through the real life processes. The emphasis isn't about rehearsing and repeating content for a quiz, it's about developing a set of skills sets, working with timelines, tapping into self-motivation, and developing inquiry approaches that result in a final creation that has a positive community impact. You can recognize student agency occurring when students are setting their own goals and time table for the work they have to accomplish. It is a regular occurrence for our E-Café students to show up an hour and a half early to open the café. Not for bonus points or extra credit, rather because they know it is impactful for their business and will make a difference in what they want to achieve. What we see is a learning journey that is life changing as students are connected to the multi-sensory processes rather than the short term memory skills of a rote memory curriculum. The content is important but when using an authentic learning approach content is recognized as a tool to do something - a portfolio of records, research, plans, lists, notes, reading, contacts, drafts and support information to curate the authentic journey.

Lastly, in true authentic learning experiences students design an outcome designed to have a positive impact within the community. Our mission at All Saints is “Igniting Passions to Impact Our World.” This statement supports the goal of authentic learning and student agency at the core. Our students are having a major impact on our community and the world. Our students are contributing to important community efforts through partnerships with non-profits and businesses across East Texas. Last year one partnership went from creating a media campaign to two of our students be asked to serve on the Board of Directors of the Christian Women’s Job Corps of Tyler. Examples like this highlight the depth of emotional, academic and personal development that is preparing our students to be leaders today.

Here are a few pictures that exemplify authentic learning and student agency lived out across campus with the Learning Farm, Pillars of Hope project, the Outdoor Learning Center, E-Café, Cook-munity class, and Shark Tank Investor Pitch Days.