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The Power of Student Agency

Looking Beyond Grit to Close the Opportunity Gap

Anindya Kundu Pedro A. Noguera

192 pages
Teachers College Press

How can we promote the learning and well-being of all students, especially those who come from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds? Anindya Kundu argues that we can fight against deeply rooted inequalities in the American educational system by harnessing student agency—each person’s unique capacity for positive change. To make his case, Kundu draws powerful narratives from a population of individuals who beat the odds to become academically and professionally successful. These strivers have overcome challenges such as broken families, homelessness, unexpected pregnancies, forms of abuse, incarceration, and more, to make it in the world. But it wasn’t simply individualism, tenacity, resilience, or grit that helped them. Rather, as Kundu illustrates, it was a combination of social and cultural supports that paved the path towards their dreams, harnessing the inherent power of their agency.

Book Features:

  • A counter-narrative to the popular misconception that all students need is “grit.”
  • A strengths-based approach to education that is sensitive to students’ communities and cultures.
  • Rich, first-person quotes from individuals who have overcome immense odds.
  • Useful diagrams for educational stakeholders on the relationship between grit and agency.
  • Descriptions of dense sociological concepts presented in plain terms.
  • Inclusion of fundamental and new waves in psychology.
Author Bio

Anindya Kundu is currently a senior fellow at the City University of New York Graduate Center. His work has appeared in NPR Education, MSNBC, the Huffington Post, and he has given two TED Talks with millions of views.