Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to take a student-centred perspective to understanding the range of ways that students respond to receiving information about their learning behaviours presented on a dashboard. It identifies four principles to inform the design of dashboards which support learner agency and empowerment, features which Prinsloo and Slade (2016) suggest are central to ethical adoption of learning analytics. Design/methodology/approach: The study involved semi-structured interviews with 24 final-year undergraduates to explore the students’ response to receiving dashboards that showed the students’ achievement and other learning behaviours. Findings: The paper identifies four principles that should be used when designing and adopting learner dashboards to support student agency and empowerment. Research limitations/implications: The study was based on a small sample of undergraduate students from the final year from one academic school. The data are based on students’ self-reporting. Practical implications: The paper suggests that these four principles are guiding tenets for the design and implementation of learner dashboards in higher education. The four principles are: designs that are customisable by students; foregrounds students sense making; enables students to identify actionable insights; and dashboards are embedded into educational processes. Originality/value: The paper’s originality is that it illuminates student-centred principles of learner dashboard design and adoption.