Students in freshman composition classes often assume that the goal of college writing is to sound like someone else, so they struggle to frame their own questions in response to the world around them. This article analyzes the potential for student-driven learning to redress this problem. It focuses on a team-taught freshman composition course that asked students to collaborate in designing a section of their curriculum. The article argues that control over the curriculum inspired many students to push themselves intellectually and adopt the roles of teachers. On the other hand, increased autonomy sometimes disempowered students who had not yet acquired skills to assess their own strengths and weaknesses and who thus reverted to oversimplified ideas or avoided actively taking on responsibilities. If agency constitutes the power to carry out effective action, this course illustrated the capacity of autonomy both to foster and to subvert student agency.

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