Fostering agency as a core component of professionalism is seen as an important task and challenge of higher education. Studies on work-related learning (e.g. Littleton, Taylor & Eteläpelto, 2012; Paloniemi & Collin, 2012; Tynjälä, 2010) emphasise the meaning of agency in expert work with increasing call for creativity, collaboration and dynamism. Agency has a key role in lifelong learning and in coping with uncertainty and changes in working life (Su, 2011). Existing literature (Barnett, 2009; Trede, Macklin & Bridges, 2012), however, claims that universities typically focus on content-based knowledge construction of individual learners and do not prepare students for engaging purposively with the complex world and dealing with pressures of power relations and external influences. Rather than a stable state, agency is conceived as dynamic and contextual in nature (cf., Emirbayer & Mische, 1998), and it has been suggested that agency could be supported by reciprocal and dialogic relations between the teacher and students (Greeno, 2006; Lipponen & Kumpulainen, 2011), learners’ mutual power relations (Eteläpelto et al., 2005), their capacity to work together (Edwards, 2005), and opportunities to make choices, to influence and to participate (Eteläpelto et al., 2005; Lipponen & Kumpulainen, 2011). There is a need for research on students’ experiences of agency in order to develop pedagogy and guidance practices that support students’ agency construction. In addition, deeper understanding is needed of university courses as learning environments (e.g. in terms of pedagogy and tools for learning). Recent theoretical approaches on learning emphasise meaningful learning environments in which students can get engaged in solving authentic, ill-structured and complex problems fostering deep, inquiry-based learning (Bransford et al., 2006). The prerequisites for deep learning include individual learning skills (Zimmerman & Schunk, 2011) and collaborative knowledge construction (Roschelle, 2013).
Recently the authors (Jääskelä, Poikkeus, Vasalampi, Valleala & Rasku-Puttonen, 2016) developed a model and a quantitative assessment instrument focusing on university students’ agency. In the model agency in higher education is defined “in terms of access to (and use of) resources for purposeful action in study contexts, i.e. personal, relational (i.e., interactional), and context-specific resources to engage in intentional and meaningful action and learning, as experienced or interpreted by students. The instrument conceptualise agency as students’ perceptions of personal, relational and participatory resources and opportunities for practicing agency in the courses. Personal resources capture aspects of efficacy and competence beliefs. Relational factors comprise, in particular, power relations between the teacher and students, and experiences of trust and support in the learning situations. Participatory resources refer to factors such as teacher’s pedagogical choices, student interest, and available peer resources facilitating reciprocity and dialogue, and equal opportunities for participation, and making choices and influencing.
The present study investigates university students’ experiences of agency in a set of higher education courses and seeks to identify agency profiles among students. We are also interested in how the pedagogical quality of the courses, as perceived by students, contributes to students’ agency experiences. Thus, the following research questions were set:
1. What kinds of agency profiles emerge among students?
2. To what extent are students’ agency experiences associated with student-perceived pedagogical quality of the courses?
Barnett, R. 2009. Knowing and becoming in the higher education curriculum. Studies in Higher Education 34 (4), 429–440. Bransford, J. D., Vye, N. J., Stevens, R., Kuhl, P., Schwartz, D., Bell, P., Meltzoff, A., Barron, B., Pea, R., Reeves, B., Roschelle, J., and Sabelli, N. 2006. Learning theories and education: Toward a decade of synergy. In P. Alexander and P. Winne (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (Volume 2). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 209–244. Edwards, A. 2005. Relational Agency: Learning To Be a Resourceful Practitioner. International Journal of Educational Research 43 (3), 168–182. Emirbayer, M., and Mische, A. 1998. What Is Agency? American Journal of Sociology 103 (4), 962–1023. Eteläpelto, A., Littleton, K., Lahti, J., and Wirtanen, S. 2005. Students’ Accounts of their Participation in an Intensive Long-Term Learning Community. International Journal of Educational Research 43 (3), 183–207. Greeno, J.G. 2006. Authoritative, Accountable Positioning and Connected, General Knowing: Progressive Themes in Understanding Transfer. The Journal of the Learning Sciences 15, 537–547. Jääskelä, P., Poikkeus, A-M., Vasalampi, K., Valleala, U-M., and Rasku-Puttonen, H. (2016, in press). Assessing agency of university students: Validation of the Agency of University Students Scale. Studies in Higher Education. Lipponen, L., and Kumpulainen, K. 2011. Acting as Accountable Authors: Creating Interactional Spaces for Agency Work in Teacher Education. Teaching and Teacher Education 27 (5), 812–819. Littleton, K., Taylor, S. and Eteläpelto, A. 2012. Special issue introduction: Creativity and creative work in contemporary working contexts. Vocations and Learning 5 (1), 1–4. Paloniemi, S., and Collin, K. 2012. Discursive power and creativity in inter-professional work. Vocations and Learning 5 (1), 23–40. Roschelle, J. 2013. Special Issue on CSCL: Discussion. Educational Psychologist, 48 (1), 67–70. Su, Y-H. 2011. “The Constitution of Agency in Developing Lifelong Learning Ability: The ‘Being’ mode.” Higher Education 62, 399–412. Trede, F., Macklin, R., and Bridges, D. 2012. Professional identity development: a review of the higher education literature. Studies in Higher Education 37 (3), 365–384. Tynjälä, P. 2010. Towards a 3-P model of workplace learning: a literature review. Vocation and Learning 6, 11–36. Zimmerman, B. J., and Schunk, D. H. 2011. Self-regulated Learning and Performance: An Introduction and an Overview. In B. J. Zimmerman and D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Handbook of Self-Regulation of Learning and Performance. New York: Routledge, 1–12.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
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