Mindful Agency

... is being aware of my thoughts, feelings and actions as a learner and able to use that awareness to take responsibility, to plan and manage learning processes; the opposite is being 'robotic'...

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This dimension is about taking responsibility for my own learning and for improving it. It’s about how I manage my feelings, my time, my energy, my actions and the things I need to achieve my goals. It’s about knowing what I want to achieve – and why, then knowing how to go about it; stepping out on the path towards my goals. People who have Mindful Agency take time to reflect and think things through; they like to understand the big picture and how each part fits together. They plan ahead and ask questions like, ‘Where am I coming from?’, ‘Where am I now?’, ‘Where am I going?’ and ‘How will this task help me to get there?’ Learners with very little Mindful Agency are quite likely to react hastily or mindlessly to whatever they encounter. They are less self-aware and may confuse self-awareness with self-consciousness

More effective learners know more about their own learning. They are interested in becoming more knowledgeable and more aware of themselves as learners. They like trying out different approaches to learning to see what happens. They are more reflective and better at self-evaluation. They are better at judging how much time and what resources a learning task will require. They are more able to talk about learning and about themselves as learners. They know how to repair their own emotional mood when they get frustrated or disappointed. They like accepting responsibility for planning and organising their own learning.

The contrast pole of this dimension is unaware, passive mindlessness. Less effective learners are often less self-aware, less pro-active and more likely to be surprised by events. They sometimes act robotically or blindly in the moment, appearing to ‘wait until their buttons are pressed’ before knowing what to do.

  • Thoughtful about intentions
  • Makes conscious choices about how to learn
  • Plans and applies effective learning strategies
  • Reflects on personal learning experiences
  • Takes responsibility for own development

  • Remember that assessing and plotting your progress with the eight learning power dimensions is in itself an example of mindful agency. Try to do this at least once a month or quarter, for your learning as a whole across all areas. Keep a ‘learning log’ of key moments and milestones (see also Hope and Optimism)
  • Make planning charts for yourself, in three formats: weekly plans for the time you control; quarterly plans with assignment deadlines and main events; a yearly plan, with holiday dates, project deadlines and key events you are involved in
  • Make practical lists: daily to-do lists; dependencies; questions to ask others; bright ideas that pop into your head at odd times; shopping lists of what you need to buy or ask for. Use post-it stickers that can move between your work area and your diary/planner and be thrown away when all items are crossed off
  • Take a step back to refocus in the middle of a concentrated piece of work, to check whether you are still on track and following the guidance you were given. Ask someone with ‘fresh eyes’ to review what you are doing and renew your perspective
  • When you step back, ask ‘What have I learned?’ (see also Hope and Optimism )
  • When you are starting a major piece of work, create a mind-map to help you see the whole picture and then make a timeline to help you plan a step-by-step approach that will work
  • Use your Mindful Agency to decide when and how much time to give to these ‘stepping back’ and ‘organising’ processes, so that you don’t lose momentum and fail to get the job done
  • Use Mindful Agency to help you decide when and how to use the other learning power dimensions: when to ‘be creative’ and when to ‘follow the rules’; when to question and when to accept; when to seek help and when to manage on your own.