Monday, November 19, 2018

Learner Agency in the Enhanced PYP

Learner Agency isn't a new concept in the Primary Years Programme (PYP). Those of us who have been teaching in the PYP for some time might not recognize the word "agency" but the idea of centering learning and teaching around learner voice, choice & ownership is one that we should all be familiar with.
from "Learner Agency" a section from "The Learner" in "PYP: From Principles Into Practice"

Learner agency can be remembered as "voice, choice and ownership" which Bandura says "enable[s] people to play a part in their self-development, adaption, and self-renewal with changing times" (in Learner Agency, IB 2018).

The idea of agency is closely connected to self-efficacy, a belief in one's own ability to succeed. When learners believe in themselves and have a strong sense of identity, they are more likely to exercise agency.

When students are agentive, they:
  • Take initiative, responsibility & ownership
  • Express interest
  • Make choices
  • Are aware of their own learning goals
  • Monitor and adjust their learning
  • Voice opinions
  • Influence and direct their own learning
  • Develop approaches to learning & dispositions
They also work collaboratively with teachers to:
  • Make decisions together
  • Create shared agreements
  • Create shared routines
  • Set up learning spaces
  • Reflect together
It is important to recognize that teachers cannot give learners agency, but rather they can create opportunities in which learners can exercise agency. They can do this by:
  • Working in partnership, building relationship
  • Actively listening
  • Respecting and responding to learner ideas
  • Noticing learners’ capabilities, needs and interests
  • Reflecting on when students need help, intervening & giving feedback
  • Establishing a welcoming culture
  • Modeling desired behavior and language
So what should PYP schools be doing, now that there is an increased emphasis on learner agency in the PYP? If you walked into a PYP that is dedicated and focused on giving students the chance you exercise learner agency, you would see:
  • Students and teachers collaboratively creating learning engagements and assessments.
  • Students setting learning goals and monitoring progress.
  • Students fostering their own belief in themselves and their own ability to succeed.
  • Students being active, engaged participants in thinking and learning.
After reading the Learner Agency section of the IB document "PYP: From Principles Into Practice", I'm inspired to take ACTION!
  • I will ADVOCATE for learner agency in my school by
    • Modeling what learner agency looks like for teachers during PD
    • Celebrating agentive learning when I see it by documenting it through pictures and videos on Twitter
    • Asking reflective questions in situations when learners are not exercising agency
The question is, now that you know more about what learner agency is, how it is connected with self-efficacy and what teachers can do to provide students opportunities to exercise agency, WHAT DO YOU FEEL INSPIRED TO DO?


  1. Knowledge Road has been working with schools around New York City providing qualified teachers who impact the testing standards of the school. Our team has effectively increased exam scores from students in Kindergarten to Twelvth Grade!setss special education

  2. For the first time ever, we will be implementing the Exhibition and we have chosen to do it on the Global Goals. Children will take the lead starting from their interests and will be working to creatively work together to think beyond themseklves to feel empowered to act. Let us see what they will come up with.
    Such an exciting experience!