Students take ownership of learning

By Adriana Harrington, Regina Henry, Rachael Milligan, Nina Morel and Julia Osteen
August 2019
Vol. 40 No. 4
Imagine walking into an 8th-grade science classroom and hearing a discussion among students about a challenging assignment they recently completed. These students have spent the last few days studying how earth’s mineral, fossil fuels, and groundwater resources are distributed across the globe and have written paragraphs on how these resources have influenced population growth in certain areas of the globe. From the beginning of our work with these schools, we knew that building student agency was going to be a focus of the work, as it is a key to the success of competency-based education. Two students are evaluating their work using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (Aungst, 2014), a framework that categorizes tasks by the complexity of thinking required to complete them, and one says

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Adriana Harrington, Regina Henry, Rachael Milligan, Nina Morel, and Julia Osteen

Adriana Harrington ( is director of project management, consolidated planning and monitoring at the Tennessee Department of Education. Regina Henry ( is assistant dean of advising, Lipscomb Online, Lipscomb University. Rachael Milligan ( is managing director, Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation at Lipscomb University. Nina Morel ( is dean of Lipscomb Online, Lipscomb University. Julia Osteen ( is technology integration specialist, Ayers Institute for Teacher


Aungst, G. (2014, September 04). Using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge to increase rigor. Available at

Learning Forward (2011). Standards for Professional Learning. Oxford, OH: Author.

Tennessee Department of Education. (n.d.). Personalized learning [website]. Available at

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