JS News, 17 Feb 21

The Mulford Junior School at Radford College

The Mulford Junior School at Radford College


Thurs 18 Feb

Year 6 Excursion to Penguin Bloom

Tues 23 Feb

Year 5 Inc – Starr’s Planetarium

Fri 26 Feb

ELC Beach and Boardies Day

By Nick Martin - Assistant Head of Junior School, PYP

When I speak with parents whose child is beginning their schooling journey, I ask them what their hopes are for their child. Often, parents want their child to be happy, to make friends, to ‘fit in’, and to be confident. Fortunately, these goals are very much shared by the College, as we know that they are important precursors to effective learning. There are many ways that schools and parents can support students in these important goals. I would like to focus on one such strategy: increasing learner agency.

What is learner agency?

Albert Bandura, in his exploration of social cognitive theory, believes that agency “enable[s] people to play a part in their self-development, adaptation, and self-renewal with changing times” (Bandura 2001).

IB Agency graphicThe International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) further suggests that schools which have a focus on agency offer opportunities for students to develop important skills and dispositions, such as critical and creative thinking, perseverance, independence and confidence.  The IBO has captured its understanding of learner agency in the simple graphic shown left.


In a practical sense, students demonstrate agency when they:

  • influence and direct their own learning
  • make choices
  • voice opinions
  • ask questions and express wonderings
  • communicate understandings
  • construct new meanings
  • participate in and contribute to the learning community.

(IBO, 2021) 

Increased agency in classroom design

Building classroom cultureI would like to share an example of how our teachers have increased agency already this year, through the design of our classrooms. You may have noticed when you came in for the parent-teacher conversations at the beginning of the year that our classrooms were quite bare. This may seem a little different from other schools where the classroom walls are often covered with decoration. Sometimes teachers feel as though having the classroom full of decoration creates a sense that they are ready for the school year, organized and thorough. However, the message that this send to our students is that the classroom ‘belongs’ to the teacher. It is already designed. It is already set-up. The teacher has done all of the thinking. The room is complete. Alternatively, in an attempt to increase learner agency, our teachers allowed students to enter into a ‘blank canvas’. The message from teachers in the first few days was, “This is our classroom, this space belongs to us all, I need your thinking, your ideas, your creativity to create a classroom that serves all of our needs. We will continue to adjust, build, change and refine this space as we reflect throughout the year. All voices are valued, we have choice and we all have ownership of this space.”

Using a thinking routine to analyse components of a classroom.

How parents can increase agency at home

The Self-Driven Child

If you would like to read more about ‘agency’ and how you, as a parent, can increase voice, choice and ownership for your child, I can highly recommend The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson. 

A gem from the book: “What do you want to do about this? It’s your call”. Stixrud and Johnson suggest that having a simple question in mind can make enhancing agency a bit easier. When your child presents an issue, challenge or problem, let them know that you won’t solve the problem for them. A question, such as, “What do you want to do about this? It’s your call” provides a subtle but clear message that the child has a voice, has choices, is responsible for their own behaviour, is empowered to think for themselves…they have agency! 

We look forward to a wonderful year of growth, learning, independence, confidence and increased agency for all!  


Bandura, A. 2001. “Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective”. Annual Review of Psychology. Vol 52, number 1. pp. 1–26. 

International Baccalaureate Organisation. (n.d.). Learner Agency. IBO: The Learner. Retrieved February 12, 2021. 

Stixrud, W. & Johnson, N. (2019). The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives (Reprint ed.). Penguin Books.


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