Agency: What is it?

Do you know what Agency means? What is it to be “agentic” or an Agent of Agency? Agency is simply the power to take individual and meaningful action towards achieving a goal set by you. It acknowledges the responsibility of the individuals in promoting voice, choice, and ownership within the classroom.

In the Primary Years Programme (PYP), one way of achieving ‘student agency’ is by allowing students to choose how they want to learn through a structured unit of inquiry. Others could include students voicing their passions and frustrations in a co-constructed UOI or by encouraging students to take ownership of their learning after a UOI ends. Agency requires teachers to develop independence within their students to help facilitate discussion and learning goals for individual students. It encourages teachers and students to try new things without the fear of failing, promoting failure (not as an end-all of learning), but a step towards continual learning.  

Agency within the Enhanced PYP

A commitment to developing agency and establishing a culture of learning where students assess and construct their learning experiences within structures and guidelines provided by the teacher is not easy. However, the result is in an enhanced sense of ownership of learning while increasing student engagement. The ability for students to steer their learning journey positively contributes to their emotional, social, and cognitive growth as they continue their journey as partners with their teacher.

The new enhancements of PYP include a special focus on three words within Agency:

  • Voice
  • Choice
  • Ownership
Student Agency Infographic by Rob Kelly 
For more amazing educational infographic please check out, Learning with Digital Technology

Since it is to promote deeper student learning, the enhanced PYP will:

· Promote the development of knowledge, skills, conceptual understandings, and learner profile
· Provide a more contextually and accurate implementation of the program
· Offer flexibility for students, learning community, and teaching and learning.
· Encourage the culture of continuous improvement, excellence, and innovation through a growth mindset of learning where there learning doesn’t end at the end of the UOI.

Impact of Agency in Enhanced PYP

By focusing on ‘student agency’, the way teachers look at the framework has changed. The original Learning and Teaching method of written, taught, the assessed structure is expanded by adding student voice. The learner (and the learning community as a whole) shows that everyone is connected and has a key role to play in promoting learning through a means that makes sense to them.

... the greatest effects on student learning occur when teachers become LEARNERS of their own teaching and when students become their OWN teachers.
John Hattie 
Visible Learning (2009, pg. 22)

Through the enhanced PYP, our planning has much more flexible for each school’s context. Giving schools their own agency assists to develop UOI’s, planners and documentation that best serves the school and its students. With the implementation of agency, relationships between students and teachers improve as the teachers and students will be able to customize student’s learning experience to now include passions and interests. Both working together to create units, experiences, and assessments together to help nurture a student’s passion.

All of this works to maintain the goal of the PYP – which is to help students become caring and thoughtful global citizens with the skills needed for the 21st century.

By listening to student’s needs and wants and incorporating them into a unit of inquiry, the possibilities are endless. So, how are you looking to incorporating voice, choice, and ownership in your classroom? How have you incorporated it, and what have you seen as a result?

Leave your comments below, and as always, continue your learning through sharing with others. 

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