At the core of the PYP logo, the foundation for the entire IB program is the word “Agency”. It represents the central idea that students learn when they get the opportunity to take ownership of the learning process. Although teachers are still facilitators, coaches, and mentors, the agency is a shift away from more traditional practices and places a greater emphasis on self-direction. In addition to developing their knowledge and skills inherent to the curriculum, the goal is to develop leadership qualities by providing them with opportunities to be involved in decision-making and collaborative group dynamics.
Developing agency requires a learner-centered classroom where student participation is the expectation and reflection is part of the process. In addition to students working with the teacher to set their own goals and help to choose activities, they are required to reflect on the entire process. Not only, “what did you learn?”, but “how did you learn?” and “did you meet your goals?”. Although students still participate in effective traditional learning activities and have to submit assessments about the content and concepts inherent to the identified learning goals, they are also required to become part of a whole learning community where every student makes contributions.
Next week our third-grade class will be testing rockets. They have chosen two different models for trials so they can analyze the results of each to decide which one is better. Rather than just having the teacher prescribe the experiment, the students were involved and wanted to practice the design process they have been using all year. Another example in secondary school might be Model United Nations (MUN). Rather than study the interactions of governments or public policy, students collaborate together to address real-world problems and challenges in a mock United Nations meeting.
Students learn more and perform better when education is relevant and meaningful to them and providing agency gives them that opportunity.
Director of Studies