We hear the term ‘student agency’ a lot. But what does it mean, and particularly for our students at Caulfield Grammar School? Matt Corbett, Deputy Principal and Head of Wheelers Hill Campus, shares his thoughts. 

“Student agency ensures students are empowered to take responsibility for their learning, something so important to us at Caulfield Grammar. Learners aren’t just offering their voice but are also making decisions as to what and how they are creating, who they are collaborating with, as well as how they will communicate their learning in meaningful ways. 

There are so many benefits to student agency. It ensures tasks and content are meaningful and relevant to students as individuals. This ignites passion and personal interests, and enhances curiosity and fun, which is what learning is all about.  

Supporting students to enquire and make connections can also foster a learning culture of not only making mistakes but expecting them, and it helps them feel motivated by problems that will inevitably need to be solved.”    

Matt believes that student agency is not just relevant to students in their senior years, but that it is something that all students can benefit from.  

“Student agency encourages curiosity, purpose, meaning, and resilience – so it’s simply essential for all age groups. It’s our job to ensure a base level of knowledge is in place before we might consider enquiry and student agency taking place, but it is through students making informed decisions and taking ownership over their learning that true understanding will develop. Young children need to have voice and choice as early as possible to build confidence over time.”     

There is an abundance of opportunities for our students to have agency during their school journey, and Matt shares a couple of these at Wheelers Hill Campus. 

“Our Year 9 students spend two weeks in our Café Business Program, where they apply for roles, create a culinary theme and menu for the week, run the business and serve our community.  

Our Year 9s also take ownership over their own Community Project for the year, engaging in a practical exploration through a cycle of enquiry in an area of interest with the aim of serving a community.    

In other areas of the School, our student leaders plan and deliver their weekly assemblies, our Entrepreneur course at Wheelers Hill requires students to create a business plan and pitch it to a panel of industry professionals, and students in their Language and Literature class decide how they will convey their learning at the end of a project.”     

Matt is keen to point out that it’s important to recognise that student voice and agency are intrinsically linked and support each other.  

“We can’t assume that giving students the chance for feedback constitutes actual agency – the voice aspect is only part of the process.”