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By Janet Moeller

Head of Junior Years

As we continue our journey from a PYP candidate school to a fully authorised PYP school, we want to communicate the vision.

One of the big pieces of the vision is honouring the home languages of our families. A second important piece is what educators call “student agency”.

Student agency is…?

“Student agency” is about giving students voice, choice and ownership. It is an acknowledgement that all students (including our youngest ones!) make important contributions to the classroom and the larger world. Students are not “our future”. They are our present.

Student agency is not…

In traditional, compliance-and-coercion-based education, teachers see themselves as the “sage on the stage”. Teachers know the information and pour it into students’ brains much like water is poured into a tea kettle. Students listen, then do a task (often worksheets or textbook assignments) to demonstrate that they can copy the teachers’ example. Students had voice only when the teachers asked them to raise their hands. Each student did exactly the same thing as every other student, and the teacher made every decision about the classroom and the instruction.

Didn’t the traditional way work just fine?

It worked just fine in a society where students graduated and went into the traditional job market - places where promotions were based on the time and effort you gave to a company rather than the introduction of innovative processes. It worked in an era when people would retire in the same field (and likely the same company) that they did when they started their career.

The traditional industrial model didn’t work for many people – Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Erin Brockovich, Elon Musk, Sean Combs, Lauren Hill, Michael Dell, Whoopi Goldberg, Larry Page, and Sergei Brin to name a few.

An important documentary that illustrates the need for educational changes in the way we “do school” is Most Likely to Succeed. At the time of writing, I did not find it on Netflix, but did find it on Apple iTunes for rent at $6.99. A special Parent Night College screening of the movie will be on Thursday, 9 May at 7 pm in the Middle Years Auditorium.

Will there be chaos in the classroom if students are doing different things? Will they still learn at high levels?

PYP Schools and other innovative schools who have thoughtfully implemented student agency have highly complex, structured classrooms of students who both learn and LOVE learning. Students:

a) learn about themselves as learners and

b) have choice and ownership of their classroom

This post may have raised additional questions for you as a parent. Have you noticed some of these changes in your child’s classroom?

To find out more and talk to parents in other PYP schools, you may want to join a PYP Parent online group.

Parent Twitter Community: #PYPparents
IB Community Blog: Stories for PYP Parents


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