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How Pursuing Learner Agency Empowers Educators & Transforms Teaching

The pursuit of learner agency within classrooms is reshaping the educational landscape, not only enhancing learner learning but also elevating teachers into the best versions of themselves—both personally and professionally.

In this article, we’ll explore how fostering learner agency can significantly impact teachers, illustrating through practical examples how this approach not only benefits learners but also profoundly enriches and satisfies those who teach.

Understanding Learner Agency

We already know that learner agency refers to a learner’s ability to shape their own learning experiences actively. This concept is rooted in the belief that learners, when given the choice and voice to influence their learning paths, become more engaged and motivated (Zimmerman, 2002).

For teachers, implementing learner agency involves transitioning from traditional lecture-based approaches to more learner-centred methods. It's a shift that requires flexibility, creativity, and a deep commitment to learner growth.

Personal Growth through Professional Practice

1. Enhanced Interpersonal Skills

Teaching with an emphasis on learner agency enhances interpersonal skills. Educators become adept at negotiation, active listening, and empathy. For instance, when learners in a high school biology class expressed interest in real-world applications of genetics, the teacher facilitated a project-based learning module where learners could explore genetic engineering, discussing ethical implications and practical applications. This approach required the teacher to listen actively to learner interests and concerns, fostering a richer, more interactive classroom environment.

2. Reflection and Self-Improvement

Engaging in learner-centred teaching encourages self-reflection among educators. Dr. Susan Engel, a leading educational psychologist, notes that teachers working in an agency-rich environment often engage in reflective practice as they adapt their teaching strategies based on learner feedback and outcomes (Engel, 2016). This continuous loop of action, reflection, and adaptation fosters professional growth and self-improvement.

3. Resilience and Adaptability

Fostering learner agency requires teachers to embrace uncertainty and spontaneity within the classroom. This can be challenging but also incredibly rewarding. For example, a middle school teacher allowed learners to choose how they wanted to learn about medieval history. The variety of chosen projects, from building models of castles to writing diaries from a peasant’s perspective, required the teacher to learn alongside the learners and adapt resources and guidance accordingly. Such experiences enhance a teacher’s resilience and adaptability—qualities essential for personal and professional growth.

Professional Advantages of Promoting Learner Agency

1. Leadership Development

Teachers who promote learner agency often naturally step into leadership roles. They become mentors and models for their peers, advocating for effective educational practices that prioritize learner engagement and autonomy. Their classrooms serve as laboratories for innovative pedagogical approaches, inspiring others within their schools or districts to adopt similar strategies.

2. Enhanced Job Satisfaction

Research indicates that job satisfaction among teachers is significantly higher when they feel their teaching is effective and valued (Johnson et al., 2012). By fostering an environment where learners are engaged and enthusiastic, teachers see the fruits of their labour more directly and feel more fulfilled in their roles. A teacher from a progressive school reported greater job satisfaction after shifting to a learner-centred model, noting the joy in seeing learners take ownership of their learning.

3. Professional Recognition and Opportunities

Engaging in innovative teaching practices like promoting learner agency can lead to recognition both within and outside one's school. Teachers may be invited to speak at conferences, contribute to educational publications, or participate in professional networks, further enhancing their careers. For example, a teacher who implemented a digital storytelling project received a statewide teaching award, highlighting the impact of innovative, learner-centred learning environments.

Scenarios of Learner Agency Transforming Teaching

The Flipped Classroom Model

A high school math teacher, Mrs. Thompson, adopted the flipped classroom model, allowing learners to watch lecture videos at home and use class time for hands-on problem-solving with her direct support. This change made her rethink her role—from lecturer to facilitator—enhancing her skills in guiding, mentoring, and supporting rather than just delivering content. Her adaptation not only improved learner performance but also reinvigorated her teaching practice.

Global Collaboration Projects

Mr. Lee, a social studies teacher, facilitated a global collaboration project where his learners worked with peers from another country to explore global issues. This project required Mr. Lee to coordinate with another educator across the globe, use technology for collaboration, and guide learners through complex discussions—tasks that enhanced his professional skills and broadened his perspective on teaching.

Personalized Learning Environments

At an elementary school, Ms. Rodriguez implemented personalized learning stations tailored to the interests and learning speeds of her learners. Managing such a classroom required high organizational skills and a deep understanding of each learner's learning path, significantly enhancing her professional capabilities and satisfaction.

The pursuit of learner agency does more than just improve learner outcomes; it transforms teachers into better, more competent educators who are equipped to meet the challenges


Shifting toward learner agency in classrooms is not only revolutionizing student engagement and autonomy but is also transforming educators, helping them reach new heights in both personal and professional realms.

The pursuit of learner agency enriches the teaching profession by enhancing educators' interpersonal skills, encouraging reflection and self-improvement, and fostering resilience and adaptability. Teachers become leaders in their educational communities, experiencing increased job satisfaction and gaining opportunities for professional growth and recognition. By transforming their teaching approaches to promote learner agency, educators not only improve student outcomes but also elevate their own teaching careers, aligning personal growth with broader educational goals.


Engel, S. (2016). The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood. Harvard University Press.

Johnson, S. M., Kraft, M. A., & Papay, J. P. (2012). How context matters in high-need schools: The effects of teachers’ working conditions on their professional satisfaction and their learners’ achievement. Teachers College Record, 114(10), 1-39.

Zimmerman, B. J. (2002). Becoming a self-regulated learner: An overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(2), 64-70.