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Who can? You Can – The Agency Toucan
Who Can? You Can?
Is student agency as simple as saying ‘What can you..” to students
The commitment to ensuring student agency is addressed in IB schools is receiving greater attention in this coming school year. Like all ideas and buzzwords it can appear to be a ‘good’ word and assume all parties have a similar understanding of the complexities carried in this concept.
If we take ‘agency’ to mean the capacity to impact on the shaping and influencing of one’s own life and learning outcomes, according to what one gives importance to, then it starts to unveil that agency is a complex concept.
All human action is impacted on by the social, political and historical context it is held in. Learner agency in a classroom context will be supported and limited by the institutional context of a school and its teachers.
Learner agency, where one is an active participant and not a passive being to be acted on, will take place in this context where students are in a relationship with teachers and teachers are in a relationship with their employing institution and its boards. These are relationships of power, where the ability to negotiate different understandings of agency will be played out.
It is critical that learners have the opportunity to question exactly what personal agency means for them. What are the limits that are not negotiable in a classroom context? How does each teacher understand the use of personal agency in a learning community and how is that made visible to the learners? How does personal agency get lived out in collaborative ways? The how, what, who, where, why and when of student choice and voice in a collaborative classroom context, the performance of personal agency of both teachers and students will need to be well scaffolded and issues of power will have to be made visible and negotiated.