10 SES 11 C, Parallel Paper Session
In Finland, the department of teacher education is year over year one of the most popular places among students applying for university. The PISA-results implicate that Finnish teachers are the best in the world. Our research-based teacher education has been claimed to be one of the main reasons for the high quality of teachers. (Kansanen & al. 2010.) For students, the point of studying in academic teacher education meaning various scientific and practical activities is not always so evident. Anyway, students know they need to pass the studies before being able to work as qualified teachers. This research aims at understanding what kind of agency do the students have or make use of during the first year of their teacher studies. What do they do to pass the courses?
The concept of agency is broadly used in educational teacher research but there is less research on agency of student teachers. Generally, agency is understood as ability of human being to act in a personally meaningful way instead of mechanically reacting on stimuli or repeating routinely internalized schemas of action (Barnes 2001; Loyal & Barnes 2001; Hitlin & Elder 2007). Theoretically, and also empirically, the question of agency is more complicated. First, there is no agreement whether agency is a quality of an individual or his or her acts (Campbell 2009). Second, it is not clear how a researcher is able to make difference between acts that involve, or actors who possess agency and those that do not. (Barnes 2001)
In research on agency of teachers and student teachers, professional agency is defined as capacity to act in accordance with professional knowledge and ethics. Agentic teacher is able to challenge structural constraints as well as rules and norms if they are considered to inhibit or complicate efforts to strive for pedagogically justified goals. Capacity for critical reflection and collaboration, together with active participation and sense of agency are understood as necessary conditions for constructing and developing professional agency during teacher education. (Lipponen & Kumpulainen 2011; Sirna & al. 2010; Turnbull 2005.)
In my research, I am interested in student teachers´ agency as a social phenomenon constructed situationally in specific context. While beginning their studies, students become part of a community of practice or, rather, create their own one (Wenger 1999). In these informal, constantly changing groups, students continually negotiate the criteria of competent action in the context of studies. These criteria sometimes contradict with the institutional and informal demands or expectations met by the students. My goal is to find out how the criteria competent agency is negotiated in different situations, and how this agency is displayed in the everyday life of teacher education. I try to find out what kinds of structural constraints and possibilities are made relevant in the (inter)action of student teachers, and how these frames of action are interpreted and managed in everyday life of first year students. Does this agency work contribute to the construction and development of professional agency?
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