Learning (2)

Building Agency Through Learning in Schools

Dr Phil Cummins explores how schools can build agency through learning that promotes growth through clarity.


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A good school understands that the way to reach high standards in learning is by sharing the vision for them, preparing the community to make them authentic expressions of the experience of belonging to a high functioning community of inquiry and practice, and evaluating how successfully these continue to be implemented along the way in the fundamentals of the school’s operations.

It needs to be both aspirational and grounded about the pursuit of excellence in achieving these standards. What needs to be emphasised is that the expectation of predictability in the delivery of the brand promise is key to the ability of the school to say that it has and is honouring its commitments to its stakeholder. Much of this depends on the school’s capacity to learn about itself.

The way a school learns about itself needs to connect first with both the process and the specific outcomes of building agency in learning; both of these need to be directly related to understanding the evolving value of the learning for the students themselves:

There is this forever journey around actually what learning really does matter for our young people and for their future, and how we equip them to know what to do when they don't know what to do.

Sarah Martin | Game Changers insight*

Locating Agency In Learning 


Agency is a direct consequence of the learning capacity of a school that is orientated towards helping students to grow and transform as continuous learners and unlearners – this relies on the employability skill of learning and technology, which is critical to future-readiness, especially through how you engage in your own learning, develop new capabilities, support of others to learn, and the building of your digital fluency, digital citizenship and management of data. How does learning for agency operate within a school’s community of inquiry and practice that aspires towards the graduate outcome of continuous learners and unlearners?

Agency & Learning

Creating Excellence in Agency Within School Learning

If this is what learning for agency looks like in a good school, then how might such a school use the four sources of agency in a school community (students, systems, culture and adults) to stretch itself towards excellence in growing the whole person**?

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Adriano and I describe the challenge of cultivating agency in today’s learning for tomorrow’s world as follows in our recent book***:

As our world is transforming around us, we need to be open to undergoing a parallel and continuing process of transformation of ourselves, our students and our schools.
Ref: Game Changers: Leading Today's Learning for Tomorrow's World (Hawker Brownlow Education 2022) p.85

A checklist for this work might look like the following:

  • Do we understand where we have areas of success in achieving our ethos, mission and graduate outcomes and how these might be cultivated for further growth?
  • Do we recognize where there are areas that require further attention and the strategies required to attain improved outcomes in these areas?
  • Are there processes in place to assist with rigorous and routine monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of our standards and disposition towards change and growth?
  • Are we doing enough to ensure that it continues to learn more and more about our capacity to be truly future-fit?
  • Do we know if we are doing a good job?

Let’s go!


* You can listen to Sarah Martin’s Game Changers Episode here: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/series-9-episode-6-every-single-child-sarah-martin/id1503430745?i=1000554802611

** You can learn more about the agency of a growth-minded community of inquiry and practice here: https://www.aschoolfortomorrow.com/game-changers/live/going-the-way-towards-growth-minded-change-culture

*** You can purchase your copy of Game Changers: Leading Today’s Learning For Tomorrow’s World  here: https://www.hbe.com.au/hb1338.html


Dr Phil Cummins FRSA FACEL FIML is the Managing Partner of a School for tomorrow, Managing Director at CIRCLE – The Centre for Innovation, Research, Creativity & Leadership in Education, Associate Professor of Education & Enterprise at Alphacrucis University College, and co-host of the Game Changers podcast series.

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