A Framework for Developing Agency

Last week a group of colleagues and I were asked to write our definition of transformational coaching. Some words and phrases that came up include: genius, joy, impact, empower, authenticity and relevance, learners feeling seen and heard, reflection, belief that students can be successful, and ways of being. Later in the week, when a Leadership Team at my school further explored the Agency Framework discussed in Street Data, I was primed to see the tool in a new way.

“If we believe that every student is… a complex, layered human with endless potential, brilliance, and access to community cultural wealth-we can choose a pedagogy of voice that transforms everything from our classrooms to our adult cultures to our policies.” – Safir and Dugan in Street Data


In this post I want to summarize what Safir and Dugan say about the Agency Framework and share some ways in which it can be enacted in an elementary school.

The book Street Data helps shift the ways in which we look at, and measure student success, by using data that is immediate and useful to students and teachers. Examples of Street Data include student work, focal student studies, empathy interviews, participation trackers, nonverbal observation observations, and video performances. Street data requires us to listen or observe closely, and helps understand student, teacher, and/or family experiences. This data influences our next moves as educators and helps monitor the impact of instruction.

In addition to changing how we measure success, we need to reflect on what success looks like and means. The Agency Framework helps “redefine success as the cultivation of student agency.” Agency is a driver of deep equity efforts. Providing and developing Agency means achievers (students) have the capacity to make informed action. Power is shared within the classroom, a variety of perspectives are heard and valued, and both emotional and intellectual growth are supported.

The Framework has four domains:




Source: @ShaneSafir Tweet


  • Identity. Identity can be strengthened when a person feels included, safe, nurtured, and accepted for who they are, how they learn, and their ways of knowing the world. When Identity is valued one can reach their potential. Educators can provide a foundation for Identity awareness by developing partnerships with achievers, by having high expectations for rigorous learning, and by being a Warm Demander. Warm Demanders tell achievers, “I believe in you and your success and because of that I will do whatever it takes to help you in the ways you need support.” Educators nurture student Identity through exploration of learner Identities and the intersections of Identity markers.
  • Mastery. There are many ways to show knowledge and understanding, including discussion, art, video, projects, and performances. By offering choice, we honor language, interests, and strengths. Achievers have agency when they have options for how to show what they have learned, to an authentic audience. Achievers are provided with opportunities to reflect on the processes of learning. Educators give actionable feedback and develop routines for students to give feedback to themselves and others. All people in a classroom are seen as genius, with areas of strength and expertise, and goals/areas to work on.
  • Belonging. A person feels belonging when they feel seen, heard, cared for, loved. This happens when they are in relationship and trust others in the community. Belonging is necessary for learning. I have written about this in previous posts, as Belonging is essential and is one of my Core Values. Belonging can be strengthened when educators reflect systemic racism, micro-aggressions, and beliefs. Street data such as data on a focal student can be a powerful tool in examining the experiences in a student’s day. Belonging is strengthened when teachers think careful about who defines success and what mastery looks like, and offer ways for all students to be successful learners in the community. How a teacher shows up to the classroom each day determines the climate and culture of a classroom. When teachers show up with strong beliefs that all students can be successful and have an intention on building healthy culture, a sense of student Belonging can be strengthened.
  • Efficacy. Efficacy is when a person feels they can make a difference, that they can set a goal and meet the goal. When achievers have efficacy, they are empowered for their own learning and feel they have power in the classroom community and beyond. Efficacy is one of the most important results of designing spaces where the voices of formerly marginalized groups can be centered, and their strengths and intellect can shine. Teachers build efficacy by co-designing experiences with achievers and their families, asking for student feedback on what will work best (see Feedback from Students: Cogenerative Dialogues and For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too), performing inquiry around focal students, providing opportunities to grow collaboration skills, and by offering choices in instruction.

The Agency Framework is a tool that has many uses. In the months ahead, we are going to look at our Theory of Action through using the tool, to see connections and where each of the domains shows up. The Framework can be used for teacher teams planning and teacher reflection. It can be tied into equity professional learning at schools, where teachers examine themselves as educators and their pedagogical practices.

When we use the Agency Framework, we say to our achievers:

“I see you. I believe in you. You are safe to grow and thrive here. I want to hear your voice.” – Street Data


Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation, Safir and Dugan
@ShaneSafir Tweet