#DevProf - Teacher agency: the importance of taking action

In the context of teaching staff, agency refers to the ability to act in the school system. Our collaborator, Michelle Deschênes, presents the concept to you and invites you to share the initiatives that you will undertake during the next school year.

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By Michelle Deschênes, professor of educational psychology in vocational education, Université du Québec à Rimouski

Generally speaking, agency is the capacity of individuals to initiate intentional acts, to undertake actions that go beyond accepted habits (Bandura, 2006; Engeström and Sannino, 2013). Agency also refers to the interaction between this capacity and the conditions in which individuals find themselves (Biesta and Tedder, 2007). 

In the specific context of teaching staff, agency therefore refers to the ability to put into action in the school system in which one practices. We can think of teachers who innovate in the use of digital technology or in the evaluation of learning, of those who position themselves as critical cultural mediators, of those who are actively involved in the school team or in the within their community, etc. They have taken the initiative to take actions that go beyond what is expected.

A year under the theme of agency

The 2020-2021 school year allowed us to appreciate manifestations of agency. The teachers had to adapt their practice according to the social and health instructions, according to the classes or the students in confinement. In many settings, teachers have been propelled into situations where they have had to learn to use digital technology to teach and to teach people. Some teachers have known the urgency to adapt, to learn to use digital tools and resources; others took advantage of this situation to innovate, collaborate with colleagues, and mobilize families and communities. 

What should be left of this special year? Despite all the pitfalls and disappointments associated with the pandemic, if we had to remember only one thing, it is probably the agency shown by these teachers. 

Take action to ensure professional development

From a professional development perspective, agency is when a teacher sets a goal and puts in place what is needed to achieve it. He identifies and uses the resources likely to allow him to improve himself. He enters into communication with people who can help him progress (to learn two) or who share a similar goal (to learn with them). He chooses and implements the appropriate strategies and he evaluates the consequences. He compares the situation in which he finds himself with that in which he wishes to be, he examines and adjusts his approach. In doing so, he becomes the main actor in his professional development. 

And you, what will you do this year to become the main player in your professional development? 

Do not hesitate to share your objective with your colleagues, educational advisers, your administration, the teachers you meet on social networks, etc.

By cultivating these connections, you will be able to access the human and material resources allowing you to ensure your own professional development and who knows, you may even inspire some of your colleagues!


To go further with the École branchée ...

  • Discover the CréaCamp Découverte, the continuing education formula that is spread over the whole year and allows you to discover different ways of putting digital skills into practice in the service of student success - directly or on demand. 
  • Subscribe to the École branchée magazine. The theme of fall 2021 issue is precisely professional development.



Bandura, A. (2006). Toward a psychology of human agency. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1(2), 164–180 

Biesta, G. and Tedder, M. (2007). Agency and learning in the lifecourse: Towards an ecological perspective. Studies in the Education of Adults, 39(2), 132-149. 

Engeström, Y. and Sannino, A. (2013). Volition and transformative agency: theoretical perspective of activity. International Review of CRIRES: innovating in the tradition of Vygotsky, 1(1), p. 4-19. 

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