Agency in Action at Mahindra International School

In the PYP, the IB introduced an enhanced programme model in 2018. Although many parts of our programme model remained the same, one key word that was added was agency.

As part of MIS’ definition of learning, we know that “students learn better when they have agency in the learning process.” In the PYP: From principles into practice. The IB defines agency as, “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.”

The three key words from this definition that we often focus on are: voice, choice and ownership. In the PYP, we are actively exploring how we enable learner agency through our interactions, language and our learning engagements.

The following are examples of agency in action throughout the PYP to help you better understand examples of how we nurture agency at MIS.

Agency in action: Choice and Trust

  • Choice and trust are important to provide and develop to help learners feel agentic.
  • Many of our learning engagements involve a certain amount of choice. Choice can also involve in where to learn, how to learn and who to learn with.
  • It is also important to have trust with their teacher to have space to make mistakes and try different strategies.
  • In this example, learners could choose any landmark of their choice to inquiry into; however, all learners needed to focus research skills to understand the concept of “facts” and how to cite their work.

P4 Example

Agency in action: Setting up the class

  • Setting up the classroom at the beginning of the year help students to have a voice in decisions about their learning and how the classroom could be set up to support their learning.
  • In this example from 2019-20, P3 assigned their learners the role of “classroom architects” at the start of the year as part of a unit under the theme, How we organize ourselves. They collaboratively decided how to organize the classroom for their learning and reflected on this throughout the year to make chances. They also decided what roles of responsibilities were needed in the class. Some of these included: energy saves, bags in charge and botanists!

P3 Example from 2019-20

Agency in action: Making decisions together

  • Being able to participate in decisions usually made by the teacher helps students feel like they have a voice.
  • In this example, learners in P2 fill out an “exit ticket” to help decide what math concepts to focus on the following week. The Early Years have many examples of this throughout the year as learners help decide content to inquiry into. This year, EY3’s interest in cats been integrated into their learning to help amplify their voice.

P2 Example

Agency in action: Planning their own day

  • Students often identify the opportunity to plan their own day as helping them experience the most agency as learners. This can take many forms.
  • In virtual learning, PYP students are actively planning their own day each and every day! This is a strong example of student agency. At MIS, we have provided a range of tools to help learners develop the self-management skills to do this. This is just one example of a Seesaw template designed for P2 that some of our learners use each day.

P2 Example

Agency in action: Assessment of prior knowledge

  • Students often identify the assessment of prior knowledge at the start of a unit of study as playing a role in helping them to own their learning. It helps them identify what they already know and where they need to go next.
  • In this example, P4 completed a prior knowledge assessment to help learners understand what they know about shapes and identify their next steps.

P4 example

Agency in action: 3-way conferences

  • Students active role in co-constructing their learning goals help support their agency.
  • Being able to reflect as well as share their thoughts and perspectives about their own learning before the meeting helps them take ownership of their goals.
  • In this example, P5 learners track the goals they set during the 3-way conference. As all PYP learners do, they co-constructed their goals with their teachers and parents.

P5 Example

Please do take the time to ask your child about their developing understanding of the key words: agency, voice, choice and ownership.

Carla Swinehart

PYP Coordinator

Works Cited

International Baccalaureate Organization. Digital Toolkit. 2005-2020. 15 February 2020.

—. “International Baccalaureate Organization.” 2020. PYP Resources. PDF. 23 September 2020. <>.

—. “Programme resource center.” December 2018. PYP: From principles into practice. 15 February 2020.

Mahindra International School. “Definition of learning.” Definition of Learning. Pune: Mahindra International School, May 2018. PDF.