Essential skills to enable voice, agency and leadership in students

The push for student agency has been steadily growing over the past decade. The recent publication of ‘Amplify’ by the Victorian Department of Education and Training is another example of a growing push to ensure that students around Australia have agency in their learning.

The Amplify Framework

The Amplify framework is designed around three components:

Student voice

Student voice is not simply about giving students the opportunity to communicate ideas and opinions; it is about students having the power to influence change. Authentic student voice provides opportunities for students to collaborate and make decisions with adults around what and how they learn and how their learning is assessed. This is known to lead to improved educational outcomes.

Student agency

Student agency refers to the level of autonomy and power that a student experiences in the learning environment. Student voice and agency are intrinsically linked. Agency gives students the power to direct and take responsibility for their learning, creating independent and self-regulating learners.Student leadership is not confined to a small group of individuals, as leadership potential is inherent within all learners.

Student leadership

Student leadership includes listening to and being able to clarify the issues of the students they represent and advocating on their behalf. Student leaders have an increased sense of responsibility to help others and to model leadership principles and values. Trust, autonomy and relationships are enhanced through the development of leadership qualities.

The MAPPEN approach

Our approach focuses on each student’s knowledge and understanding of the skills essential for them to participate in a discussion in what and how they learn. These skills are scaffolded carefully throughout each learning sequence, providing students with a range of engaging and varying ways to learn and practise skills that are essential for voice, agency and leadership. This article outlines our approach to supporting student voice, student agency, and student leadership through:

As MAPPEN students acquire these skills, they are provided with opportunities to practise these skills in meaningful real-world situations.


Sharing and listening

Throughout MAPPEN students are prompted to participate in discussions. They learn active listening skills and are guided by cooperative strategies to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.

Links with Amplify:

  • Student voice - Share their ideas and opinions.
  • Student leadership - Generate meaningful discussions on behalf of those students whose voices are less likely to be heard, who are disengaged, or who lack the skills and confidence to express views and opinions.

Foundation / Early Stage 1

During ‘Fairness And Friendship’, students consider how to use appropriate language when dealing with conflict. They learn about ‘I’ messages and practice using them as they participate in a sock puppet role-play.

Years 1 & 2 / Stage 1

During ‘Tip Toe Through Our World’, students consider what is right and what is wrong for the environment. The student who is holding the talking stick is prompted to share their ideas, while the rest of the class listens without interrupting.

Years 3 & 4 / Stage 2

During ‘Celebrating Differences’, students work towards sharing their culture with other students in the class. Students are prompted to learn about the cultures of other students in the class and write or draw something that they are curious to learn more about.

Years 5 & 6 / Stage 3

During ‘Making Democracy’, students consider two sides of an issue as they learn about the process of making decisions in a democracy. Students are prompted to position themselves in the classroom according to their opinion and are then encouraged to explain and justify their opinion to other students in the class.


Using rubrics and teacher conferences

Through the use of student-friendly rubrics and conferencing opportunities, students learn the skills of seeking and listening to feedback from their teacher and peers. This feedback is then considered and implemented.

Links with Amplify:

  • Student voice - Listen to and learn from peers and adults.
  • Student voice - Give feedback to peers and teachers.

Foundation/Kindergarten

During ‘The Bridge And Beyond’, each student uses an understanding of materials to build a bridge that can carry a play dough goat. Before they begin construction, students participate in a conference with their teacher; discussing their design and which materials they are going to use.

Years 1 & 2 / Stage 1

During ‘Look At What We Have Got’, students design a model of an imaginary animal using features of existing animals. At the culmination of the unit, students use a rubric to provide feedback about models that other students have constructed.

Years 3 & 4 / Stage 2

During ‘Behind The Scenes’, students are guided to receive feedback from their ‘creativity buddy’ about how they might improve their creative story. Students are prompted to complete a template that provides feedback about; spelling, grammar, punctuation, consistency, plot.

Years 5 & 6 / Stage 3

During ‘Care For The Kids’, students develop a spoken word poem encouraging people to support an aid agency. As part of the writing process, students are prompted to perform their poem for a partner and to seek feedback about how they might improve their poem.


Developing meaningful questions

Throughout MAPPEN, students learn the importance of developing different kinds of questions. They learn about the difference between ‘easy thinking’ questions and ‘interesting thinking’ questions, and they regularly practise the skills of developing different types of questions for different purposes. Students in a MAPPEN school, have an opportunity to seek answers to their questions, either through an independent inquiry, a discussion with peers or their teacher, or through several visits from adult members of the local community.

Links with Amplify:

  • Student voice - Learning from adults and asking questions to strengthen their understanding.

Foundation / Early Stage 1

During ‘Fairness And Friendship’, students learn how school has changed over time as an adult explains what school was like when they were younger.

In preparation for this visit, students are prompted to develop questions for their visitor.

After the guest has shared their experiences of school and school rules, students are prompted to pose their questions.

Years 1 & 2 / Stage 1

During ‘Places And Spaces’, students learn about their community as they are visited by someone who manages a local business.

In preparation for this visit, students are prompted to develop questions for their visitor.

After the guest speaker has explained their role in a local business, students are prompted to pose their questions.

Years 3 & 4 / Stage 2

During ‘Someone Else’s Shoes’, students learn about people who support those with a disability.

They develop questions for a guest speaker who will explain how they support people with a disability. After the guest has explained their job, students are prompted to pose their questions.

At the end of the task, students complete a reflection by recording three things that they remember from listening to the guest speaker, two things that they had not thought about before listening to the guest speaker and one question that they have as a result of listening to the guest speaker.

Years 5 & 6 / Stage 3

During ‘Museums In Motion’, students research a pioneer of early Australia and perform as the pioneer at the Opening Night of the Museum In Motion.

In preparation for their performance, students use Bloom’s Taxonomy to develop low and high order questions for visitors to ask them about their pioneer.


Providing and seeking feedback

There are many occasions within MAPPEN, where students are working independently on a task, either individually or in small groups. During these occasions, the teacher is prompted to arrange a conference with their students. In some cases, students are encouraged to book a time with their teacher and to develop questions that they have in preparation for the conference.

Links with Amplify:

  • Student voice - Actively seek feedback from teachers.
  • Student agency - Take responsibility for their learning and are, on the whole, independent and self-regulating learners.

Foundation / Early Stage 1

During ‘Our Sustainable World’, students are prompted to draw a picture of what they like to do in their favourite place.

After they receive feedback from their teacher, they are prompted to explain why their place is important and how they can help to care for it.

Years 1 & 2 / Stage 1

During ‘Light And Sound’, students are prompted to select a picture storybook that they will develop into a shadow puppet play.

As they plan to perform their shadow puppet play, they are guided to seek feedback about their progress. Teachers and students are supported in this process by a rubric.

Years 3 & 4 / Stage 2

During ‘Our Island Home’, students are prompted to design and construct their own island nation.

Throughout this carefully scaffolded learning experience, students are prompted to seek feedback about their ideas and their progress. Students and teachers are guided by a rubric.

Years 5 & 6 / Stage 3

uring ‘Making Democracy’, students work together to raise awareness of an issue in their community.

At the culmination of the unit, each student is prompted to seek feedback about their participation in the class project, reflecting on how well they practised personal and social skills. Students and teachers are guided by a rubric.


Planning and conducting an inquiry

Embedded into MAPPEN are opportunities for students to develop an independent inquiry. Within each unit, students are prompted to develop questions that have arisen as a result of what they have learnt during the unit.

Links with Amplify:

  • Student voice - Negotiating learning goals and assessment.
  • Student agency - Work with teachers in making decisions about teaching and learning.
  • Student agency - Take responsibility for their learning and are, on the whole, independent and self-regulating learners.
  • Student agency - Negotiate and design learning that stretches their thinking.
  • Student agency - Display the capabilities, confidence and willingness to contribute ideas and make decisions about what and how they learn.

Foundation / Early Stage 1 to Years 1 & 2 / Stage 1

During each unit, the teacher is prompted to facilitate inquiry play activities based on their students’ questions. Teachers are provided with some inquiry play ideas to support the development of these tasks.

Years 3 & 4 / Stage 2 to Years 5 & 6 / Stage 3

During each unit, students are provided with a template to support the development of an independent inquiry. As they plan their inquiry, students are prompted to select a performance of understanding from the following list:

  • Speech - Prepare and deliver a speech to the rest of the class.
  • Technological - Use a computer to create a digital presentation such as a slideshow, a website or a computer program.
  • Report - Write a formal report outlining each of the questions that you had and the answers that you researched.
  • Article - Write an article for a classroom newspaper about your research.
  • Narrative - Write a story about a character that you learnt about.
  • Multimedia - Create an audio recording or short film explaining your research.
  • Model - Use materials to create a three-dimensional model to show what you have learnt.
  • Poster - Create an informative poster to display what you have learnt.

Collaborating and working with others

MAPPEN provides explicit teaching opportunities to introduce social skills in the classroom. Teachers are provided with age-appropriate resources to engage students with these social skills. The knowledge and understanding of these skills provide a foundation for teachers to facilitate meaningful discussions around how to be respectful when challenging the views of others.

MAPPEN students have multiple opportunities to contribute to their classroom, their school and their community. Throughout the suite of units, students are immersed in real-work problem solving and are engaged in learning about and interacting with their community. They develop team building skills with an ability to collaborate, negotiate and contribute to shared tasks.

Links with Amplify:

  • Student voice - Respectfully challenge others’ views around learning and teaching.
  • Student voice - Feel confident to contribute in meaningful ways for a shared sense of ownership.
  • Student agency - Display the capabilities, confidence and willingness to contribute ideas and make decisions about what and how they learn.

Foundation / Early Stage 1

During ‘Fairness And Friendship’, students consider what it means to be a good team member. Students work in groups of three to rank social skills from most important to least important when working in a team.

Years 1 & 2 / Stage 1

During ‘Robot Buddies’, students work in groups to design an object and analyse the materials needed to build it. As they work in small groups, students are prompted to focus on the social skills of sharing ideas, and listening without interrupting.

At the end of the task, students complete the following guided reflection, ‘When I share my own thoughts, I feel... When I listen without interrupting, I notice...’

 Years 3 & 4 / Stage 2

During ‘Developing Our Learning Culture – Years 3 & 4’, students work in small groups to complete a Y-Chart about one of eighteen social skills.During ‘First Contact’, students learn about the Indigenous experiences of first contact with European settlers.

Years 5 & 6 / Stage 3

As they work in small groups to prepare a role-play, students are prompted to consider which of the social skills they are going to focus on.

At the end of the task, students complete the following guided reflection, ‘The social skill I most need to work on is...’

At the end of the task, students complete the following guided reflection, ‘The social skill I most need to work on is…’


Reflecting and setting goals

At the end of each MAPPEN task, students are prompted to complete a guided reflection. As they progress through each learning experience, students reflect on what they have learnt and how they have learnt it and on skills that they practised and skills that they need to work on. These reflections often relate to students’ lives and how they can apply what they have learnt to their life beyond the classroom.

Links with Amplify:

  • Student agency - Can track and measure their own learning growth.
  • Student agency - Reflect, take action and accept the responsibility that comes with being part of the problem-solving.
  • Student leadership - Set high expectations for themselves and feel motivated and empowered to exercise agency.
  • Student leadership - Have a growth mindset and believe they can learn, and build their knowledge and skills, through effort.
  • Student leadership - Want to learn about themselves and contribute to the community and the world around them.

Foundation/Kindergarten

During ‘Shaping Identity’, students learn about goal setting. Each student works with their teacher to set an 'organisational goal' and an 'adventurous goal'.

At the culmination of the unit, each student shares their goals with an adult visitor, participating in a discussion about how they might achieve these goals in the future.

Years 1 & 2 / Stage 1

During ‘Robot Buddies’, students learn about procedural writing. Each student writes step-by-step instructions for how to make a simple bookmark.

At the culmination of this task, each student records goal for improving their writing.

Years 3 & 4 / Stage 2

During each MAPPEN unit, students are immersed into two of the sixteen Habits of Mind.

During ‘First Contact’, students learn about the habit of ‘Persisting’.

At the end of the task, students complete the following guided reflection; ‘Something that I need to persist at is… because…’

Years 5 & 6 / Stage 3

Throughout ‘Ethics And Emotions’, students complete an emotional barometer, allowing them to track and measure their emotions. They are provided with multiple opportunities to reflect on what they have learnt and what they still need to improve.


Considering meaningful real-world situations

MAPPEN is a rich hands-on curriculum, engaging students in real-world problem solving and opportunities to engage with communities to which they belong. Students consider how they can apply what they have learnt during each learning sequence into the future. They take responsibility for their actions, making explicit connections between what they have learnt and why they have learnt it.

Links with Amplify:

  • Student agency - Are involved in designing and implementing school policy and programs, and actively contribute ideas about student-led learning.
  • Student agency - Reflect, take action and accept the responsibility that comes with being part of the problem-solving.
  • Student leadership - Want to learn about themselves and contribute to the community and the world around them.

Foundation/Kindergarten

During ‘Fairness And Friendship’, students consider the importance of fairness and friendship in their classroom.

As they walk around their school, students are prompted to think of new rules to make their school fairer and friendlier.

When they return from their walk, students use a ranking ladder to rank their new rules. Students are prompted to work as a class to present the highest ranked new rule to the school principal.

Years 1 & 2 / Stage 1

During ‘Celebrating Differences’, students learn how they are different to and the same as people from different cultures.

At the culmination of the unit, students take responsibility of their actions by considering how they should act when they meet someone from a different culture.

Years 3 & 4 / Stage 2

During ‘Someone Else’s Shoes’, students learn about the importance of accessibility. Acting as ‘Fairness Inspectors’, students conduct a survey with the goal of improving accessibility for people who have a disability.

During ‘Care For The Kids’, students learn about the biggest problems facing children around the world as they develop a slideshow and spoken word poem to encourage people to support a cause.

 

Years 5 & 6 / Stage 3

During ‘Forces And Functions’, students learn about coding, engineering and conducting experiments. At the culmination of the unit, students are prompted to plan a school club practising one of the skills that they have learnt during the unit.

During ‘Data And Decisions’, students develop a business plan that they present to younger students in their school. At the culmination of the unit, students are prompted to consider how they can turn their business plan into a real business.