Learner agency has become one of the most topical concepts in Internal Baccalaureate (IB) world schools and among contemporary school educators. As a school, we are exploring ways and means to understand and develop student agency at the Primary Years Programme level. We observed the deep connection between student agency and teacher agency that co-exists with each other in the classroom. For the past four years, our ongoing research focus has been on optimizing student agency in learning and providing democracy in assessments. To achieve it, students are involved in open ended discussions with teachers and opportunities are created for them to choose what, when and how they want to be assessed.
The Covid pandemic led to sudden school closures and pushed the world to virtual classrooms. The migration to remote online learning revealed the true potential of agency and inquiry in students as well as teachers in our school far more than ever before.
To accommodate the changes in the learning environment and process, we also pondered on bringing a change to year-end assessments. The objective was to have an effective engagement that helps students purposefully revisit concepts to reinforce learning and collate personally significant lessons that they have learnt and enjoyed throughout the year.
Project Graduation – Agency in assessment
Homeroom teachers from grade three upwards informed learners through a newsletter about Project Graduation and asked them to present their learning with just one prompt:
Present what you know
For the presentation, they could either develop an individual website to present their unit of inquiry (UOI) or they could opt for the usual format of a question paper-based assessment.
To our surprise nearly all the students opted and accepted the new challenge and decided to create a website to present their understanding of any three of their favourite UOI themes. The ICT team got into action to orient teachers and students in a series of discussions and impart necessary skills to create websites.
Teachers decided to learn and create a model website first to share with their students. During the first week everyone was brimming with lots of anticipation. Ideas, suggestions, mind maps and a lot of technical inquiries started coming in as work began. With guidance and support from teachers and parents, students had revisited their lessons, mapped the inquiries, researched on how to create a website, and uploaded the key learnings on their individual website. The link was shared with the Home Room Teacher and mentor teachers for timely feedback and suggestions.
They also created grading rubrics using Google forms to receive feedback about their website’s content, creativity, and organization.
Students and teachers co-created a 6-week timeline to monitor their weekly progress.
Since the assessment presentations were online, we could invite a wide audience including parents, peers, teachers, friends and even grandparents. Each of these could play a role in giving feedback to the presenters. The additional benefit was that parents could better understand their child’s interests and progress in learning and play a role in supporting them.
Prior to personal presentations week, the Home Room Teacher had shared the website with a group of evaluators consisting of three parents, one mentor teacher and two peers for a review. The journey of the Project Graduation concluded with a website presentation by every student on a live Google Meet to the invited audience. After listening and watching, the audience evaluated the student and gave feedback on the presentation through Google forms.
The presentation and feedback removed the need for a formal report card as the student received feedback from multiple sources. In other words, providing the students with more authentic chances to use their voice, make choices for themselves, both collectively and as individuals, and to encourage ownership for their own learning.
Upon reflection, Project Graduation was quite successful as students took up the challenge very positively and demonstrated traits like risk taking ability (by trying something totally new), curiosity (to learn new skills and ask questions), resilience (to not give up and complete the project) and growth mindset (to move out of comfort zone to growth zone). They also got the opportunity to reflect on the three most essential questions that drove the entire Project Graduation.
- Why – Clarity on the Purpose (why I am doing it, what needs to be done?)
- How – Process (how I want to be assessed, inquire, and learn to apply, upskill my learning to create website and feedback rubrics)
- What – Product (agency in assessment-revisit the learning and present what you know)
My Project Graduation went really well with our event going well and in a mannered way. I got motivated by all my teachers to explore new things as part of my UOI. At first I felt that making websites was really hard and I didn’t feel that I could finish it. But slowly as I got to know more about making websites, I succeeded! The skills I have developed are Inquirer, Thinker, Communicator, Caring, and Open-Minded.
It gave learners an opportunity for displaying voice, choice and ownership of their own learning and making it sustainable. The Project Graduation enhanced their technical skills, creativity and research skills. This is a great way to test their approaches to learning.
I enjoyed the process of creating the website with my acorns and learned a lot collectively.
Sangeeta Pratti is PYP Head in Silver Oaks International Schools, India. Sangeeta has taught in India and the Middle East and has an experience of 20 years as an educator. She is passionate about researching and experimenting the nuances of the IB PYP. She is also a Workshop Leader and Site Visitor for the IB.
Shobna Dhamija is Head of School with SilverOaks International Schools, Bangalore India. Shobna has taught in various schools and colleges in India and the USA for over 20 years. A part of the IB PYP core team at Silver Oaks, she believes the role of a teacher is to facilitate students in self-discovery. Shobna is passionate about empowering learners to think, develop and sustain lifelong learning.