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  • Michael

Agency in the IB PYP

November 2018

In response to the rapidly changing and complex interconnected world we live in, the International Baccalaureate (IB) have realigned the Primary Years Programme (PYP). These exciting upgrades to the IB PYP will not take place until 2020 and there are a few things we should begin to know about. A living IB school has a culture, community and life of teaching and learning that has the learner at heart. The heart of that learner is the Learner Profile as we already know. However, their augmentation of the written, taught and assessed curriculum with human elements underlines the power of voice, choice and ownership that impacts learning and teaching. This enhancement is what the IB define as agency.

This idea of agency is no new concept. There once was this man called Burrhus Frederic Skinner in the 1940s in psychology first began inquiring into behaviourism and the ideas of a social learning theory. This was followed on by a psychologist and professor named Albert Bandura who went into this idea further about self-efficacy and human agency. The IB has taken his idea of agency and enhanced the life of the PYP, conceptualising it to ‘enable[s] people to play a part in their self-development, adaptation, and self-renewal with changing times’ (The Learner, 2018). What does all this mean for the PYP?

The role of the teacher and student changes; the relationship between a teacher and student is viewed as a partnership. Students demonstrate agency when they: voice opinions, make choices, ask questions and express wonderings, influence and direct their own learning, communicate understandings, construct new meanings, and participate in and contribute to the learning community (IBO, 2018a). The learning community offers and supports the development of skills towards critical and creative thinking, perseverance, independence and confidence. Any school must be conscious of agency and consider 'its perceptions of how children learn, children’s capabilities and overall value of childhood’ (IBO, 2018a, pp 3).


International Baccalaureate Organisation (2018a) ‘The Learner’, Geneva, C.H.

International Baccalaureate Organisation (2018b) ‘The Learning Community’, Geneva, C.H.

International Baccalaureate Organisation (2018c) ‘The PYP Curriculum Framework’ Available at:

Wikipedia (2018) ‘Albert Bandura’ Accessed at:

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