What Does Quality Learning Look Like?

Improving learning outcomes takes more than just quality teaching practice.

Learning is a skilful process requiring both the teacher and the student to behave in particular ways.

How students engage in the learning process is often overlooked, but it’s a critical factor in improving learning outcomes. It’s not enough for students to attend class, and “do their best”. To improve on, and not merely repeat last year’s standards, students must learn how to engage in the learning process in increasingly skilful and effective ways.

This is what Learner Agency is about; learning how to engage in the learning process more skilfully and effectively, so students become capable of achieving more and reaching higher standards. You might be the most skilful teacher in the world, but if your students aren’t skilfully engaging in the learning process, then learning outcomes will suffer.

Improved Learning Outcomes = Quality Teaching x Learner Agency

The Learner Agency Matrix describes what skilful learning looks like. It does for learning, what the Australian Professional Standards for teaching does for teaching. It defines what quality learning looks like in the classroom and plots a path towards increasingly effective learning behaviours.

Looking at the Learning Agency Matrix below, the matrix describes how students become increasingly effective learners by improving the way they respond to five crucial aspects of learning.

  • How they respond to challenges
  • How they engage with and develop their learning behaviours or Habits of Mind
  • How they gather information to improve performance from their own efforts in the form of mistakes
  • How they respond to external sources of information in the form of feedback, and
  • How they spend their time and energy

Consider your own students in relation to the Learner Agency Matrix.

Now ask yourself, two questions:

  1. Based on the matrix, what type of learners do you typically see in your school
  2. How much better would your outcomes be if students increased their learner agency by one or more levels?

Many schools that I work with tell me that they have lots of beginning or performance learners in their classrooms. Students who reduce or limit their challenges and students who don’t make the best use of mistakes and feedback.

Teachers also tell me that if they could improve the way that students engage in the learning process, and increase their Learner Agency, their job would be much easier, more rewarding and that students would achieve more.

In my new book and workshop, The Learning Landscape, students increase their Learner Agency by learning how to more effectively move through the Learning Landscape. These students choose to tackle Learning or “Uphill” Challenges to slowly climb the mountains of expertise. And they fill their backpacks with powerful Habits of Mind to assist them in their climb.

Of course, a critical part of becoming a better learner is to develop a more growth-oriented mindset. The student with a fixed mindset sees boundaries, fences and other limitations that stop them from exploring the entirety of the Learning Landscape.

In the Growth Mindset workshop, I show you how to help students develop a more growth-oriented mindset, by introducing you to the Growth Mindset Style Guide.
You will learn how to create “nudges” so students become un-limited in their learning. The more growth-oriented the student, the quicker they’ll be able to increase their Learner Agency.

If you’d like to know more about Learner Agency, The Learning Landscape or how un-limit your students by helping move them along the Mindset Continuum and develop a more growth-oriented mindset, I invite you to read “The Learning Landscape” or attend one of my workshops this semester.


James Anderson is a speaker, author and educator who is passionate about helping fellow educators develop students as better learners. James’ work combines Growth Mindset with Habits of Mind and Practice to create Learning Agility. He puts the growth back into Growth Mindset. And through creating and describing the Mindset Continuum, he provides the cornerstone for effective Growth Mindset interventions.

James is a Certified Speaking Professional and speaks regularly at conferences around the world. He has published several books including Succeeding with Habits of Mind, The Agile Learner, The Mindset Continuum and The Learning Landscape.

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School-based consultancy

The Mindset Continuum

How to Implement Growth Mindsets and Increase Learner Agency

In The Mindset Continuum, James Anderson gives deep insights into the practical application of Carol S. Dweck’s work. He explains why most current Growth Mindset interventions are failing and provides clear and compelling direction for schools wanting to implement Growth Mindset strategies that work!

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