Development of agency in early childhood during COVID-19

Monika Silva, PUC-SP, Brazil (

Background: This research aims to investigate the curricular organisation and the ways of teaching young children in a bilingual context that contributed to the advancement of the students’ learning process, the development of agency and the continuity of the process of appropriation of the additional language throughout the teaching during the global coronavirus pandemic. All children are born endowed with agency, they are able to act in the world as social actors and producers of culture, which allows them to use their own repertoire and knowledge and thus engage in real situations of their own life. The study is based on the Theory of Socio-Historical-Cultural Activity which considers the importance of the social context where development occurs as well as the dialectical interaction between peers, in Vygotsky’s interactions and playing, which has an important role in the constitution of children’s thought that creates for children in their “zone of proximal development”. This research is linked to the researcher’s professional performance as a teacher in the context of practical action with a group of 3- and 4-year-old children enrolled in the bilingual segment of early childhood education. The selected corpus consists of the official curriculum of the observed school, the transcription of the remote classes and the field diary.

Aim: To analyse how the organisation of the curriculum, using multiple languages ​​and multimodal resources, can promote opportunities for the development and expansion of agency of children in a complex and constantly changing world, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Method: Data was gained from a group of 3- to 4-year-old students in a bilingual English immersion preschool. Part of the data refers to remote classes transcriptions, and the other part involves notes from the logbook during the period of social isolation and closure of schools during the pandemic of COVID-19.

Results: The experiences that most favour the development of the agency of these students as well as the integral, critical and transformative development were the proposals that support the fundamental frames of childhood education and refer to the scope of daily situations, as pretend play, nature observation and social interactions, even remotely. We verified that during the period from March until the present moment the children were able to articulate their ideas, thoughts and suggestions during the virtual meetings, showing themselves more confident to act in the collective, participating in the decisions taken in the group, and standing in front of the new challenges and new theories.

Conclusions: The research is still in progress. As far as we can observe, the children are developing and gaining power, discovering their voices and participating a lot during virtual classes throughout daily situations, pretend play, nature observation and social interactions.

Implications for children: Teachers work hard to offer the best way for you to learn and be able to grow up. We want you to be aware of your own learning to transform the world through your play and interactions. Just use your voice as often as you can, and you will be respected and valued for that.

Implications for families: Educators love their work and are very committed to children having great experiences. Your support is very important to help them to develop in this remote learning time.

Implications for practitioners: Let’s learn to listen to children and provide them with rich experiences that will lead them to broaden their agency, expressing their ideas in different ways and build knowledge and culture in the world-as-it-is-being-made. 

Key words: Children’s voices, professionals’ voices, early literacy, education, COVID-19

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: