22 SES 09 D, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
Parallel Paper Session
Theoretically agency is understood as a multi-dimensional concept offering rich interpretational frames for interrelationships between individuals and their social environment. Agency can be described as a capacity to initiate purposeful action through the active engagement with aspects of contexts-for-action. As such, agency results from the interplay of individual effort, available resources and contextual and structural factors in unique situations (Biesta & Tedder, 2007) as well as being interactional, dynamic, experimental and interpretative in nature (Jyrkämä, 2008). According to research literature, eight dimensions of agency can be constructed: 1) target-orientation and motivation, 2) autonomy and possibilities to influence, 3) initiative in social situations, 4) power relationship, 5) self-efficacy and well-being, 6) dialogue in interaction, 7) position in the group member, and 8) mastery of knowledge and skills. (Bandura, 2002; Ci, 2011; Jyrkämä, 2008.)
The need exists to study student agency within the higher education context as suggested by research findings on expertise in working life (Littleton & Miell 2004; Collin et al., 2008). These findings emphasize the important role of active agency in creative, collaborative and dynamic work. In addition, future work has been described to require continuous learning, new professional roles, participation in various groups and networks, and working in unstable conditions (Tynjälä et al., 2006). From these perspectives, active agency as part of expertise can be seen as a capacity which should be strengthened in higher education (European Ministers of Higher education, 2009).
As a part of a university-level project “Interactive teaching and learning” at the University of Jyväskylä, a Mechanics course (5 ECTS) for first year students in physics was developed during the academic year 2011–2012 with the aim of increasing social interaction between students and their teachers. Student-centred and activating pedagogy (Knight, 2004) was greatly used with low thresholds for participation in lectures. Group work was continuously employed method throughout the course. The underlying idea was that students’ learning and competences are promoted by holistically developing the interactional culture of the whole course.
The aims of the study were to examine:
1) how students' agency is manifested in different situations during the course
2) what kinds of experiences the students, who were observed to have weak agency, had of their own agency in the course.
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