I am currently (2016-2017) working on my dissertation research about learner agency (PDF presentation here):
Students' Perceptions of Their Learner Agency: A Phenomenographic Inquiry toThe Lived LearningExperiences of High School Seniors
This doctoral research project focused on the high school students’ learning experiences with a particular interest in understanding how they describe their learner agency incontemporary K-12 system. The data was collected with individual thematicinterviews and analyzed using the phenomenographic tradition, describingstudents' agency and choices for learning engagement within the structure of formal education.
Distinguishing learning experiencesfrom the experience of being taught is fundamental for understanding learner agency. Students' experiences of effort and authorship for learning, andtheir conceptions about engagement are important for learning to be personally meaningful.
Learning is fundamental, subjectivephenomenon, and an important part of being a human. We couldn't survivewithout the ability to learn and adapt to the environment where we live, workand learn. Human development doesn't end in adolescence, but continuesthroughout our lives. It is important to understand how formal educationshapes students' identities. This information is crucial for educators,who want to provide opportunities for students to engage in deeperlearning.
Furthermore, educational policiesshould aim to increase the meaningfulness of students’ subjective learning experiences in order to grow human and social capital during formal education. Students must be better prepared to thrive in knowledge societies where choicesare more abundant than in past. Simply emphasizing the reproductive purpose offormal education is not enough for preparing students for living in 21stcentury knowledge societies, where independent and life-long learning are the desiredend goals of formal education. This is one of the concerns my teachers have,when they talk about their work.
School learning is a special type of learning, even though we often refer to schooling while talking about learning, and keep on emphasizing teaching over learning. This must change,because students are the ones who need to own their learning, and teachers are there to help students to learn. The goal of formal education system is to help students to obtain information and construct knowledge, but also to become capable for independent judgment. Examples of situations where this judgment is important are reading comprehension, understanding scientific principles and being able to support one's opinion with facts.
Agency in any given social situation refers to the intentionality of one's actions and the opportunities to make choices. Agency includes the aspect of time,as the continued engagement in the process of choosing combines one's actions in the past, present, and future. Our choices today often result from choices we made previously.
In the classroom environment learner agency denotes the quality of students' engagement. Agency is not something students have, it is something students do. Students may choose to engage in their own learning, or just strategically or ritually comply with the tasks and activities presented to them - and the big problem in schooling is this detachment or disengagement that results from students having no ownership over their own learning.
Learner agency requires for students' voice to be heard, so that they have ownership overt heir own learning. The first step is to make sure that students believe that their choices and actions will make a difference in their learning process. By supporting learner agency throughout the formal education it is possible to foster life-long learning, which is crucially important in the rapidly changing world.
Some sources used in the thesis:
Bandura, A. (2006). Toward a psychology of human agency. Perspectives on psychological science, 1(2), 164-180
Biesta, G., & Tedder, M. (2006).How is agency possible? Towards an ecological understanding of agency-as-achievement. University of Exeter School of Education and Lifelong Learning, Working Paper, 5.
Giddens, A. (1984). The construction of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Lodge, C. (2008)Engaging student voice to improve pedagogy and learning: An exploration ofexamples of innovative pedagogical approaches for school improvement, International Journal of Pedagogies andLearning, (4)5, 4-19, doi: 10.5172/ ijpl.4.5.4
Marton, F., & Pong, W. Y. (2005). On the unit of description in phenomenography. Higher education research & development, 24(4), 335-348.
Marton, F., & Säljö, R. (1976). On Qualitative Differences in Learning: I—Outcome and process*. British journal of educational psychology, 46(1), 4-11.
Nevalainen,R., & Kimonen, E. (2013). The Teacher as an Implementer of CurriculumChange. In Transforming Teachers’ Work Globally (pp. 111-147).SensePublishers.
Niemi, R.,Kumpulainen, K., Lipponen, L., & Hilppö, J. (2014). Pupils' perspectives onthe lived pedagogy of the classroom. Education 3(13), 1-17. doi:10.1080/03004279.2013.859716
Priestley, M., Biesta,G., & Robinson, S. (2014). Teacher agency: what is it and why does it matter?.
Säljö, R. (2012). Schoolingand spaces for learning: Cultural dynamics and student sarticipation andagency. In E. Hjörne, G. van derAalsvoort, & G.de Abreu (Eds.). Learning,social interaction and diversity–exploring identities in school practices (pp.9-14). Rotterdam: SensePublishers
Trigwell,K., Prosser, M. & Ginns, P. (2005). Phenomenographic pedagogy and revised Approaches to teaching inventory. Higher Education Research &Development 24(4), 349-360.