Ruth Deakin Crick: Measuring Resilient Agency at Georgetown and Beyond
In a seminar hosted by Designing the Future(s) and the Formation by Design team on March 6, I facilitated a group of over twenty-five Georgetown University faculty members in experiencing the self-assessment of their learning power and coaching conversations to deepen their understanding. This is a topic which has been a key focus in my research career for over 15 years. During our discussions, we explored the deep connections between learning power and student formation. Formation is, after all, a learner-centred concept: it is a relational and embodied process through which one engages with knowledge, traditions and values and expresses them through action in the world.
The tool that Georgetown faculty used to assess their own learning power that snowy afternoon is a revised and more robust version of our original work at the University of Bristol: the Crick Learning for Resilient Agency Profile (CLARA). CLARA is a self-administered questionnaire that provides rapid feedback as a visual analytic to help guide a coaching conversation. It measures eight dimensions of learning power, described in greater detail here. Each one incorporates values, dispositions and attitudes and is relatively ‘plastic’ in relation to context. In practice, the dimensions work together, providing the vital link between purpose and identity and knowledge creation and performance.
I see CLARA as a learning analytic that re-defines how to measure the holistic learner qualities necessary for 21st century society; qualities that are increasingly more important but which are hard to evidence. It’s a ‘practical measure’ that my colleagues and I have used to stimulate change in individuals, teams and organisations, through the same rapid feedback mechanisms that form part of the emerging field of ‘improvement science’.
During the development of CLARA, and in the years since, my colleagues and I have continued to refine our conceptualization of learning power. As part of the Learning Emergence Network, I help to co-ordinate an international network of scholars and practitioners dedicated to advancing dialogue and research on this topic. What we have arrived at as a definition in our latest study is Learning Power as:
‘an embodied and relational process through which we regulate the flow of energy and information over time in order to achieve a particular purpose of value.’
The dimensions of learning power reflect the ways in which we develop resilient agency in learning by regulating this flow of energy and information in order to engage with challenge, risk and uncertainty and to adapt and change positively.
Self-awareness, ownership and responsibility in learning are the broader goals of CLARA. Using and improving learning power requires an awareness of self in relation to each dimension, and in different contexts. The rapid analytic feedback forms a framework for coaching conversations that enable reflection, affirmation and challenge. With the insight the visual analytic and the coaching conversation provide, users get to know themselves as learners and are more able to cultivate their authentic selves and to inhabit a sense of personal responsibility for their learning journey over time. For example, for someone with a CLARA profile like the diagram below, the challenge is to develop mindful ways to strengthen his sense of belonging to a community and find relationships to help strengthen his learning capabilities. At Georgetown, the Formation by Design team has identified this tool to measure an integrated set of outcomes which bridge the academic and pastoral, the formal and the informal curriculum.
Ruth Deakin Crick is Professor of Learning Analytics and Educational Leadership at the Connected Intelligence Centre and School of Education in the University of Technology Sydney, as well as a consultant to Designing the Future(s)’ Formation by Design initiative. She is also Reader in Systems Learning and Leadership at the University of Bristol where she works in the Systems Centre in the Faculty of Engineering. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.