Friday, January 18, 2019

Learner Agency

In January 2018, the elementary teachers in our district's two PYP schools set out to explore the enhanced PYP content that make up the document "PYP: From principles into practice." Many thanks to elementary principal and guest blogger, Mike Fugazzi, for authoring this post on concepts in the PYP.

In an effort to further support PYP schools, the IB released additional resources through the digital, “PYP: From principles into practice”, this past fall. The online resource is designed to help learners (adults and children) foster a deeper understanding of the PYP’s framework and how to implement the program.

The PYP: From principles into practice, organizes the PYP under the concept of Agency, which is directly in support of the self-efficacy of learners. The concept of Agency is not new to the PYP, nor the world of education. It has always existed in the PYP as what we’ve usually referred to as student “voice, choice, and ownership”. Agency and self-efficacy are also at the forefront of Visible Learning research, underpinning Collective Teacher Efficacy and Self-Reported Grades, the top two influences on student learning (Hattie 2017). The strong research backing of the impact of Agency and self-efficacy further reinforces their importance to learning in the PYP.

Agency, as supported by the PYP, “enables people to play a part in their self-development, adaptation, and self-renewal with changing times” (Bandura 2001). Self-efficacy in the PY is described as an individual’s belief in their “capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce give attainments” (Bandura 1997). These two are interconnected, as a strong sense of self-efficacy directly influences the agency an individual will engage in.

Students are able to show agency when they:
  • are aware of their learning goals
  • direct and adjust their individual learning
  • express interest
  • make decisions about their learning
  • are able of voice opinions
  • ask questions
Students who use their own initiative and will, and take responsibility and ownership of their learning are demonstrating agency. The impact of doing as such is a strong sense of identity and self-belief. This can fosters a community and awareness of global citizenship.

Teachers are able to support agency when they:
  • Build relationships
  • Personalize learning based on student interest and need
  • Extend student voice
  • Provide open ended tasks
  • Allow student to be creative and take risks
  • Use assessment data to inform teaching and learning
  • Reflect on student needs and provide feedback and intervention 
  • Help students set high expectations for their learning
  • Help students set and monitor goals for their learning
Recommendations for educators:
  • All members of the school community should be familiar with agency and self-efficacy.
  • Learning leaders should shift to more coaching and less teaching. Teachers can help guide and coach students to take agency over their learning.
  • Educators should look for ways to include student voice and choice in the classroom community. This can, and should be, supported in partnership.
  • Students should understand their current levels and work with teachers to determine goals and next steps to reach them.
Action that I will take:
  • I will help design professional development for staff that promotes adult agency and self-efficacy.
  • I will work with teachers to understand assessment data and how that can be used with students to raise self-efficacy and agency.
  • I will foster a school culture of agency where staff can be risk-takers, just like the students.
  • I will find additional ways to include student voice in decision making for the school.


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