The Journey towards Learner Agency.

The word ‘agency’ may not be new but seems to be the headline nowadays especially since the IB communicated about the enhanced PYP in late 2017.  So the question is ” What is agency and why is it so important”?


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Lots IB PYP educators/practitioners are excited and looking forward to the enhanced PYP which will take place this year. I am excited about these changes that would affect the whole school community; the learners and the learning community.

“Agency encourages each of us to consider the choices we make, what action we take and how that will impact students and the wider community to become more internationally minded”- Nicole Bein 

 Who are the Learners?

I am still exploring this term and learning a lot from many IB PYP discussions on social media. At first, I was wondering why ‘agency’ was at the core of the new IB PYP curriculum.  Is agency student-centered or learner-centered?  How is it different?

I remembered a few months ago, there was a post on Twitter asking about the  ‘learner’ and ‘student’.  Lots of responses mentioned that the term learners refers to everyone in the learning community.  This includes teachers, parents, administrators and of course students. And referring to  agency, this means everyone plays important roles to make the agency happens.

In the context of the PYP, the school is considered to be a community of learners.

Source: Making the PYP Happen, 2009, page 5.

What is Agency??

There are three main elements in learner agency; voice – choice – ownership. I used the questions on each element to reflect on practices in my class.  Where am I?  What have I already done?  How have I given opportunities to my students to share their voice?  Have I given them choices in learning (what to learn, how they learn, where and when they learn? How can I reinforce their voice, choice and ownership in my class?


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The more I ask and reflect, the more I realize that there lots of things that I need to  work on. Seeing the big idea of agency makes me excited to make it happen, but at the same time, it is also overwhelming. I have decided to take baby steps and focus on one element at a time.

For some parts  my head say, ‘I already do that,in the classroom”.  But, is it a true agency?  This is the next point that I should answer and I feel that what I have done is not enough to be called a true agency.


Whose voice?

I have decided to start with the voice.  The learner’s voice.  I relate to the definition of the learner and try to focus on the student’s voice.


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Learner’s voice: Who are the learners? – Created using Adobe Spark.

This is how I break down the voice in the school community.  Each group of learners in the school community deserves to share their voices and be given the opportunity to explore different ways and strategies to move forward.  Ideas, suggestions, opportunities to grow and eventually take action.

I started with my students.  The people whom I work closely every day.

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As I saw this visual about students voice,I realize one of things that may hinder students voice is me as a teacher who sometimes feels that they are not ready yet.  It’s a matter of trust.  Yes, I do let the kids share their opinions, ideas, thinking but sometimes I feel like questioning their ideas and eventually I can’t help myself interfere with their original ideas.  The voice may be encouraged in the class but not supported by giving them the choice, giving them the opportunity to actually do it (space and time), make it real, take actions.

I believe that the voice and choice are interconnected.  Now, how can I start?  How can I re-enable the power of voice and choice in my class? Listen, discuss and let the kids take responsibility to make it happen.

I am fortunate to have colleagues who inspire me.  Each class is different and unique.  Yes, we do have some guidelines on how to set our classes but the way each teacher has set their classrooms is different. There is always something for me to learn from them.  There is always something I can do more than I have done.  That’s the mindset I have started to develop. During this past week, I have been telling myself to  step back and listen more to them.  I started by asking them what they would like to change in the class.  They shared the ideas of what they think they would like to have. More games, more beanbags,an art corner, a makers space.As they shared their ideas, I encouraged them to discuss the upside and downsides of their ideas.  I could hear a few kids showed their empathy towards one’s idea or supporting others.  It’s still a tiny baby step which hopefully will lead to the true agency.  It’s still far away but without taking the baby step, it won’t take me anywhere.

I am still learning, unlearning and re-learning how to empower agency, particularly in the classroom. But as they say, “A journey of a thousand miles, starts with a single step….. there are many steps to take”