08 SES 05 A, Research on Practice in Education for Sustainable Development
Parallel Paper Session
Agency is a concept that has been used for initiating and describing children’s participation and control over their own meaning making. Young children’s active participation and agency in everyday educational practices is highly prioritized and thoroughly discussed on a policy level in the field of Early Childhood Education for Sustainability (ECEfS). Blanchet-Cohen (2009) stresses that there has been almost a paradigm shift in how children are viewed today, and in this new agenda, the notion of agency is of great significance. Davis (2008), Bigger and Webb (2010) emphasize the importance in a pluralistic, uncertain and diverse world to recognize young children as “agents for change”. In science education the research contributions on students/children’s agency mainly framed by cognitive psychology in terms of intentions, or individual aspects such as strategies and self awareness. Framed by a pragmatic perspective, human agency is explored as an open-ended process, always incomplete and constantly negotiated. Within this context agency is understood as something that humans achieve (do) in a situation rather than something that they possess (have). Agency is described not a kind of 'power' but rather an engagement within a particular 'temporal-relational-contexts-for action'. In this study we approach agency in line with a Deweyan perspective (1934/1980; 1938/1996; 1922), as a transactional, open and becoming process which takes place in encounters between the children and the environment. Thusagency is operationalizedaschildren’santicipations towardscommon concerned problems, their course of actions sometimes towards fulfilmentand closure. Inline with this pragmatic perspective wealso argue for the importance to in this way investigate agency as an on-going contingent and situated process.
The theoretical framework in this study is pragmatic and we try to follow Dewey´s (1938/1997) ideas on how peoples experiences are transformed as they encounters the world. Dewey (1934/1980) claims that peoples experiences are continuously interwoven in the process of living, and that we “live in a series of situations” (Dewey 1938/1987 p. 43). He also declares that in every new encounter between people and the world both is to some extent transformed and changed. In this way, all the new situations that involve action and readjustments reconstitute both the people and the world. From this viewpoint agency as it emerges in the process, neither can be viewed as located in the environment or within people (cf. Dewey 1925/ 1958; Dewey 1938/1997). Dewey’s notion of experience is richer and more exhaustive explained if we use his principle of continuity (1938/1997). According to this “ […] something is carried over from the earlier to the later ones.” (p. 44) However, the final question in what way experiences are made continuous can only be answered through looking at their consequences (Wickman 2006). Within this framework we aim to empirically examine how children jointly and gradually constitute agency in formal pre-school settings.
How do the children give anticipation to their activities?
What choices do the children make in their course of action? When and how will the process reach fulfilment?
Blanchet-Cohen, N. 2008. Taking a stance: Child agency across the dimensions of early adolescents´ environmental involvement. Environmental Education Research 4, no. 3: 257-272. Biesta, G., and M. Tedder. 2007. Agency and learning in the lifecourse: Towards an ecological perspective. Studies in the Education of Adults 39, no. 2:132-149. Dahlberg, G., and P. Moss. 2005. Ethics and politics in early childhood education. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Elliot, S., and J. Davis. 2009. Exploring the resistance: An Australian perspective on education for sustainability in early childhood. International Journal of Early Childhood 41, no. 2: 65-77. Davis, J. 2009. Reviling the research ‘hole’ of early childhood education for sustainability: A preliminary survey of the literature. Environmental Education Research 15, no. 2: 227-241. Dewey, J. 1934/1980. Art as experience. New York: Perigee Books Dewey, J. 1938/1997. Experience & Education. New York: Touchstone. Hägglund,S., and I. Pramling Samuelsson 2009. Early childhood and education for sustainable development and citizenship. International Journal of Early Childhood 4, no. 2: 49-63. Læssø, J. 2010. Education for sustainable development, participation and socio-cultural change. Environmental Education Research 16, no.1: 39-57. Lundegård,I., and P-O. Wickman. 2009. Identity Transformation in Education for Sustainable Development: A Question of Location. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research´53, no. 5: 461-479 Moss, P., G. Dahlberg & A. Pence. 2000. Getting beyond the problem with quality. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 8, no 2: 103-115. Wickman, P-O., and L. Östman. 2002. Induction as an empirical problem: how students generalize during practical work. International Journal of Science Education 24, no.5: 465-486. Öhman, J., and L. Östman, 2008. Clarifying the ethical tendency in education for sustainable development practice: a Wittgenstein- inspired approach. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education 13, no.1: p 57-72.
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