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The importance of reflection in learner agency

In the past few PYP workshops I’ve led, both face to face and online, I’ve been asked about why reflection has been removed as one of the key concepts.  The reason I’ve given is that reflection is fully integrated within the learning process, and interwoven with other aspects of the programme such as the learner profile and approaches to learning.  With the PYP Enhancements emphasising agency, it’s been interesting to consider the role reflection plays in learner agency.  With this in mind I’d like to share a quote from Lori Phillips, the Director of Teaching and Learning at Knowledgeworks:

We know learner agency is important for our students to develop: to learn to advocate for themselves, to make choices, to practice self-awareness and an understanding of themselves as learners. But even though we want our students to take ownership and be agents of their own learning, many of our traditional teaching structures prevent this from happening. It isn’t just about offering students choices, but being intentional about those choices, trusting our students to make the right choice – and being prepared to reflect and learn with them when they don’t. 

Lori outlines how, if the choices students make don’t work out as anticipated, reflection helps them consider how to make better choices next time.  She also writes about developing structures with students to enable them to make good choices and most importantly of all, how when offering students choices teachers should consider the needs of the students as having a higher priority than the needs of the task.

I took a look into PYP: From principles into practice today to pull together the understandings about importance of reflection and learner agency. Students with a strong sense of self-efficacy also have a strong sense of agency. To foster self efficacy, teachers can:

  • build in time for reflection to enhance students’ awareness about the success of their efforts and ways to improve in the future 
  • provide time for reflection at all stages of learning—before, during and after inquiries. 
  • promote a range of tools for reflection and ensure that reflection activities are responsive and varied 
  • provide the structure and language for reflection 
  • co-construct success criteria and provide reflection opportunities that include students’ self-assessment of their learning 
  • provide effective feedback that offers opportunities for reflection and action 

What do you do to promote student reflection? How does this lead to greater student agency?

Photo Credit: jjjj56cp Flickr via Compfight cc
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