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Headshot Young Girl

Hyeajin Kwon


South Korea

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My challenge is to foster student agency in the classroom, empowering them to amplify their voices and pursue their passions, crucial for preparing them to thrive in future societies. In South Korea, exam-oriented education prevails, with teachers focused on delivering content for good grades, pushing students into cram schools despite acknowledging the limitations of rote learning. J, a typical Korean high schooler, does not feel that the education system provides her with practical knowledge relevant to her life, turning to platforms like YouTube and social media for learning, embodying the digital native generation. She mentioned feeling frequently stuck when initiating learning without the directions of a teacher even though she desires autonomy in learning, and solving real-life problems independently, only to feel trapped in a system that prioritizes memorization over meaningful learning experiences. While I was working at an IB school, I asked student K why he was learning English and what he wanted to learn from English class and his responses were surprising. He said that he had never been asked these questions before, so he had never really thought about them. Furthermore, he felt respected and empowered by these questions, realizing that he could have agency in the classroom. In an ever-evolving society inundated with knowledge, I believe students should lead their learning, exploring, and investigating rather than just memorizing information. However, in Korean middle schools, students have very few opportunities to experience making choices and taking control of their learning. While I aspire to instill a love for learning and foster student agency, figuring out how to empower students to take control of their learning remains challenging. Even as a teacher, I realize that without such teaching and learning opportunities, neither teachers nor students know well how to foster student agency.

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