Agency and the PYP

The concept of ‘agency’ is a trending educational term which has been a concept within schools for many years and now is gaining increased mainstream use. To build shared understanding as a UNIS community, in this blog post we will explore:
  • What is agency?
  • Why is it important and relevant?
  • How is agency defined by the PYP?
  • What might agency look like in practice?
The PYP is currently finalizing a review of its programme which recently has been shared with school communities. This has lead to reflection by UNIS teachers as to ways in which we can align our practice with the emerging enhancements. Agency has been included as a central component of the updates as defined by the PYP.

So what is agency?

Agency is fundamental to learning. Agency “enable[s] people to play a part in their self- development, adaptation, and self-renewal with changing times” (Bandura 2001).

What is agency as defined by the PYP?

Agency is the power to take meaningful and intentional action, and acknowledges the rights and responsibilities of the individual, supporting voice, choice and ownership for everyone in the learning community.

Agency is present when students partner with teachers and members of the learning community to take charge of what, where, why, with whom and when they learn. This provides opportunities to demonstrate and reflect on knowledge, approaches to learning and attributes of the learner profile.

Students with agency:

  • have voice, choice and ownership; and a propensity to take action
  • influence and direct learning
  • contribute to and participate in the learning community.

Why is agency important and relevant?

The goal of agency is student action. Action is an essential element of all IB programmes and can take various forms, such as:

  • Social justice
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Participation
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Advocacy

What might this look like in practice?

You may notice or hear at home students have increased choice and voice in parts of their day or organizing their learning. As a school, we are reflecting on ways in which we can promote agency through many aspects of our programme. Some of these may include, but are not limited to:

  • personalising learning
  • creating learning environments to support social, physical and emotional well-being
  • creating a culture of respect
  • collaborating and co-constructing learning and learning goals.

A commitment to agency in the enhanced PYP and at UNIS will create a culture within the learning community where students co-construct and self-adjust their learning experiences, building self-efficacy, a greater sense of learning ownership and contributing to their social, emotional and cognitive growth.

How can I find out more about agency, the IB and PYP?

  • Speak with your child’s classroom teacher
  • Visit your child’s individual blog and class blog
  • Speak with your school’s PYP coordinator,

Visit the IB website at