We track anonymous visitor behavior on our website to ensure you have a great experience. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

Problems of Practice

Student Ownership: How do I support students in building agency and owning their data?

Key Takeaways

In order to foster student ownership of data, educators should:

  • Co-create student goals, utilizing data to identify both academic and personal goals.
  • Co-design learner profiles to centralize holistic data, track progress, and celebrate student success.
  • Constantly review data and goals through 1:1 conferences, partnering with students to continually reflect and strive for ongoing growth
Two students sit side-by-side on beanbag chairs, looking down at laptops

What is the problem?

While data use in schools can be powerful for informing and improving instruction, it is even more impactful when students are invested in the data as well. Just as building any skill takes intentionality and time, developing student data literacy requires deliberate structures and practices to support students to understand and use data to set goals, monitor progress, and take greater ownership of their learning. This work can also make using data more effective and manageable for educators when learners take on some of the tasks of collection, analysis, and action-planning.

Why is it important?

Learners develop intrinsic motivation when they are given agency and ownership over their performance. Rather than passively participating, students who understand their data are able to actively engage in their own learning, partnering with educators to set goals, monitor progress, reflect on learning, and celebrate successes. When given the right structures and supports to build data literacy, students develop the right habits and skills to take control of their learning in school – and beyond.

The research says...

  • The practice of goal-setting is believed to increase students’ self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation to further their learning. Multiple studies show that the practice is associated with positive academic benefits for students across a wide range of academic subject areas.
  • Motivation, self-efficacy, and self-regulated learning have all been linked to academic achievement.
  • Creating schoolwide practices that foster a culture of student ownership and responsibility for learning has been linked to improvement in grades and course failure rates.

How: Solution

There are several means for supporting students in building agency and owning their data. However, educators must consider how to gradually release ownership to students, thinking about each learner’s readiness to navigate their learning more independently. As students develop the data literacy needed to process and understand their ongoing performance, they will deepen their investment in and ownership over their goals and learning.

When exploring the steps below to build student agency and ownership of data, think about:

  • Student autonomy – How can I set up structures to gradually build student autonomy, allowing for appropriate ownership and choice?
  • Guidelines, protocols, and tools – How can I use protocols to guide students in analyzing and using their data? What (technological) tools can I use to track data and goals?
  • Instructional actions and individualized pathways – How will both students and educators use data and goals to inform learning and individualized pathways?


Co-create goals with students

Goal-setting with data lies at the heart of learner agency; students who set goals based on data have the ability to reflect on their performance and make informed decisions on how to navigate their learning. Educators should first start by setting goals with students at the whole-group level (e.g., class learning goals, daily/weekly attendance goals), modeling the practice and building the muscle of creating and reflecting on goals. While academic goals should take priority, goals can also be based on behavioral or personal aspirations. As students build the cyclical habits of setting goals, determining actions, reflecting on progress, and revisiting goals, teachers can build goal-setting structures at the small-group and individual levels, gradually helping students develop the skills they need to take more ownership of their goal-setting. Eventually, students should be able to co-create various types of goals from data with the guidance of their teachers.

When exploring these strategies, think about these questions:

  • How can I support students in setting SMART goals?
  • What systems and routines will allow us to reflect on progress and set new goals?
  • How can I model practices so students can build autonomy around setting and reflecting on goals?
  • In which areas and domains should students set individualized goals?

Co-design learner profiles with holistic data

Learner profiles can support student agency and data ownership, providing students with a place to house their goals, reflect on their progress, and identify strengths, challenges, and even personal interests. While this tool can be useful to both educators and students, learners should be responsible for keeping their learner profiles updated, a process that can help them develop a sense of ownership and pride in their ongoing progress. When embedded as a bedrock of ongoing learning (informing learning plans, enabling progress tracking, and facilitating the celebration of learning), learner profiles can be a powerful way to harness data, support student-driven learning, and build agency.

Learner profiles can be customized to each school or classroom’s needs but typically include the following types of learner data:

  • Interests – Educators can use interest surveys to embed information about student interests into learner profiles and to better understand and connect with each student.
  • Preferences – Students can share their social and academic preferences, building their sense of self-awareness and allowing teachers to optimize instruction.
  • Academic performance – Students should constantly update and track their academic data, using their learner profiles to reflect on performance and set goals.
  • Goals – By housing goals in one place, learners and educators can easily access and reference goals.
  • Student support team – Learner profiles should include input from and be shared with all key stakeholders (especially family members), building shared ownership of student success.

When exploring these strategies, think about the following questions:

  • What practice(s) can I start tomorrow? How can I build out learner profiles over time?
  • What do I want to know about my learners that I don't know already?
  • What systems and routines can allow students to co-design and co-own learner profiles?
  • Which format would be conducive and simple to use in my classroom? How can I leverage technological tools?

Review data through 1:1 conferences

While educators should strive for students to take on more ownership and agency in their learning, students need ongoing guidance to ensure their continued success. Through 1:1 conferences, educators can review and analyze data with students, building each student’s capacity to understand and use data on their own. Teachers should design schedules and routines to ensure they can meet with every student regularly (weekly, if possible), whether individually or in a small group. Conferences are also prime opportunities for using data to monitor progress toward goals. Through dialogue and targeted probing, teachers can build each learner’s abilities to reflect on their data, identify areas of growth, create plans of action, and celebrate successes, supporting the ultimate goal of developing student ownership.

When exploring these strategies, consider these questions:

  • What systems and routines should be in place to ensure regular 1:1 conferences? How often (and for how long) do I want to meet with each student?
  • Which data should I focus on in each conference? How might the focus shift over time?
  • How can I build student data literacy in these conferences? How might students analyze their own data?
  • Who else should I invite to conferences, and at which points in the year?

Take it further

Once you have a grasp on supporting students in building agency and owning their data, you can take personalization with data to the next level by:

Additional Resources and Content: