Slow Down

Three school site primary teacher teams have been spending the past two months digging into agency and personalization. What is it? Why is it important? And what do I need to do to provide it for students?

Each group was tasked with presenting an overview of what they had learned, using the Zoom Panel guidelines from Making Learning Visible as a template. The basic elements of the presentation included:

  • Overarching question
  • Context to set the stage
  • Zoom In – artifacts that document the learning journey
  • Zoom Out – findings and implications for further discovery

Each group approached the concepts of agency and personalization differently, and yet, their overall learnings all centered on a theme.

Slow down.

No matter what the learning target was, each team shared a need to slow down and make sure that students understand the WHY behind the activities. The WHY being the learning target behind the activity.

Cult of Speed

Carl Honoré says that society is caught up in the “Cult of Speed” and this can certainly be seen in education. High stakes accountability has resulted in a sort of checking off of standards as the new finish line. We talk career and college readiness, but do we mean it?

When accountability becomes the focus, the WHY gets lost in the shuffle. Seth Godin, in his blog post “Accountability vs Responsibility,” sums it up perfectly.

Accountability is done to you. It’s done by the industrial system, by those that want to create blame.
Responsibility is done by you. It’s voluntary. You can take as much of it as you want.

Seth Godin, “Accountability vs Responsibility”

Accountability to Responsibility

When we switch from accountability to responsibility, students are able to exhibit agency. They learn the WHY, and this then provides the foundation for the WHAT and the HOW.

  • Why is it important that I learn this skill/content?
  • Why is this activity important to my learning journey?
  • Why is my choice in flexible seating important to the task I am working on at this moment?

Each of these questions is important. And each requires a deliberate slowing down of the content madness so that students are able to understand, connect, and take responsibility for their own unique learning experience.

“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds” 

― Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed


When the WHY is owned by both the student and the teacher, then the WHAT and the HOW have INTENTION. When the WHAT and the HOW have intention, great learning happens.

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