Students need the skills of agency and ownership to be prepared for careers.
Most, with some exceptions, need both to be fully prepared for a meaningful, productive, and happy life.
Advocates for academic skills fear that an emphasis on ownership will cause classrooms to lose academic rigor in favor of non-cognitive outcomes.
Advocates for ownership fear that an emphasis on academic achievement will leave students without the creativity, curiosity, or self-direction they need for real workplaces.
As though the two were mutually exclusive.
Consider the diagram below:
Resigners are students who have low academic achievement and little or no ownership of their learning. Whether they are still physically in a classroom or not, they are disengaged and have, in effect, dropped out, finding their conditions intolerable.
Hobbyists are students who have complete ownership of their learning, but apply it to non-academic areas. They have tremendous skill and interest in areas they are passionate about such as coding, on-line gaming, skateboarding, journalism, crafts, fan fiction or other narrow fields that don’t provide broad core academic content. However, through technology and ready access to communities of interest, these passions drive students to develop ownership of their learning, collaboration through networks, reputation management, rigorous argument construction and use of evidence, growth mindset (within this context), persuasive and informative writing skills and more.
Compliers are the “good” students who get good grades and follow the rules. They may be low in engagement and self-direction, but they comply with the expectations placed on them by teachers and parents to excel academically.
Scholars are students who apply the passion and self-direction of the hobbyist to academic learning, developing both content knowledge and career skills.
There are three paths to shifting students from Resigners to Scholars.
- Add rigor to move first to the Complier quadrant, then activate intrinsic motivation to move to the right to the Scholar quadrant.
- Balance increased rigor with activated intrinsic motivation to move diagonally straight to the Scholar quadrant.
- Activate intrinsic motivation to move from the Resigner quadrant to the Hobbyist quadrant, and then add rigor to move to the scholar quadrant.
Although this framing is certainly oversimplified and only provides one slice of a complex issue, it is useful for discussing how to balance the need for cognitive and non-cognitive student outcomes.