Student Agency: A Creatively-Focused Digital Critical Pedagogy

Student Agency: A Creatively-Focused Digital Critical Pedagogy

Shawn Robertson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1461-0.ch009
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This chapter explores the theoretical ideas educators should explore and understand in relationship to developing student agency as a pedagogy. It also examines how using it can potentially inspire digital critical pedagogy. The process by which certified teachers engaged in to become more aware of their own critical pedagogy and skill to implement student agency is discussed throughout the chapter. Their perceptions of what student agency is and should be is explored alongside ideas for instituting creative digital pedagogy and student agency in a practical fashion in a focal point of the chapter.
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Teachers have not been prepared adequately to integrating technology in their teaching some of this is caused by the philosophy of education imparted to them by teacher education programs. Many teacher education programs employ strategies that are geared towards the learner of yesterday not the learner of tomorrow. Public and private P-12 schools also structure their learning environments based on “old school” methods of teaching and learning. For the betterment of society and the full engagement of students, teachers need the training and resources to fully implement instructional practices that will support thinking that promotes 21st Century skills and leads our students into the future. One aspect of 21st Century skills is the concept of self-directed learning that is inclusive of self-efficacy or agency. This notion of agency is one that has been largely neglected by instructional structures at all levels of education, but none so prevalent as in our P-12 schools. In fact, in recent years a standards-focused assessment craze has hijacked sound instructional practices in favor of instructional practices that test specific ways of thinking, but creativity has been left out of this new focus. Technology Thought Leader Will Richardson (2019) clarifies this point further by stating:

That creative freedom, or “agency,” is a key aspect of almost every deep learning experience that we have in life. Our ability to decide on our own terms what, when and how to learn leads to learning that “sticks” far more than when we are given little or no choice. (p.14).

In every way we can think of choice matters. Empowering students with that opportunity is the key to unlocking a new future that is yet to be created. Technology has enhanced and accelerated the opportunities for such learning to take place for students. However, without changes in structure and philosophy students are being developed as thinkers who are devoid of the opportunity to think creatively for themselves within the framework of agency.


Teaching And Learning In Creative Fashion

This chapter will explore current learning structures in school systems and present theoretical recommendations for changes in learning practices that will support student agency and promote critical digital independence with and for students. Critical independence related to one’s own creativity is the most powerful tool we can give to students. This notion of critical creative pedagogy has its roots in Project Based Learning (PBL) and other creative products. Author Patti Drapeau author of Sparking Student Creativity (2014) states “Creative thinking lessons build on critical thinking and go beyond simple recall to consider “what if” possibilities and incorporate real-life problem solving; they require students to use both divergent and convergent thinking.(p.2)” In diving in deeper into the topic, Nodoushan and Deeson (2015) explain that there must be deep conceptual understandings of content before true creative thinking can take place. The intricacies that exist in such frameworks are deep and complex. Teachers often shy away from engaging in such instructional strategies because of logistical issues or lack of a perceived linear structure for learning. What educators fail to recognize as a result, is that activities like PBL can lead to what Savin-Baden (2016) refers to as Transdisciplinary Threshold Concepts. Transdisciplinary Threshold Concepts (TTC) are:

...concepts which transcend disciplines and subject boundaries but which are challenging and complex to understand, but once understood, the student experiences a transformed way of understanding, without which the they would struggle to progress through the curriculum (Savin-Baden, 2016).

Providing students with opportunities for TTC is one of the benefits of creative critical pedagogy. Such a pedagogy recognizes the intersectionality of learning within varied contexts, content areas and peoples. Creatively engaging in such instructional deconstruction of teaching and learning is at the core of this chapter’s purpose. This chapter also seeks to provide practical and thoughtful instructional goals for teachers to consider while building unique learning structures for their students. Finally, it will also share teacher perspectives on the nuances of aspects of becoming a more critical teacher in relation to instructional risk, pedagogy and student agency.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Instruction: The utilization of technology in any learning experience.

Student-centered Learning: Learning experiences that place the student at the core of the experience.

Critical Pedagogy: The philosophical theory and practice of deconstructing teaching and learning through understanding self and society.

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