A Culture of Agency: Fostering Engagement, Empowerment, Identity, and Belonging in the Early Years




By Lisa Burman

Give your program that special ‘buzz’ of learning

How do educators create a strong culture of learning for their students? Using her everyday research approach, in the tradition of the pedagogistas of Reggio Emilia, author Lisa Burman observed several exceptional programs and classrooms and identified some common threads: engagement, agency, identity, and belonging, which together combine to create a culture of agency. Her framework for supporting a culture of agency has five pillars:

  1. Relationships
  2. Rituals for belonging and identity
  3. Language of agency
  4. Environment
  5. Learning Contexts

Using this framework will help you bring intentionality as you build your program culture to support children’s agency and learning. The term agency is widely used, but often misunderstood as “giving children choice.” Agency is far more than this, and the most powerful learning happens when personal agency is connected to community agency: we are only as strong as each other. These connections form the heart of a democratic education: one that values the rights of the child and empowers participation, shared power, respect for diversity, and self-efficacy.

Paperback, 160 pages

Lisa Burman has been an educator for thirty-six years, twenty of these spent as an educational consultant. She is currently the Director and Principal Consultant of Lisa Burman Consultants, which is based in Adelaide, South Australia, and works internationally. Prior to returning to Adelaide in 2011, she was based in New York City for ten years, where she wrote first book, Are You Listening? Fostering Conversations that Help Young Children Learn, published by Redleaf Press in 2009.