Educational Research & Innovation
Research student agency

Research student agency

The development of student agency in education is an important, yet underdeveloped aim in the curriculum. Agency is the will and capability to transform one’s life and develops in interaction with others. It is not a purely individual capacity, for an agent thrives in a form of collective agency, which is based on the human need for relatedness.

Student agency is defined as the ability to increasingly take control of the learning process. It is associated with better grades, well-being and contribution to the learning environment. Our Education for Agency network studies student agency and teacher agency in secondary and higher education. Our research aims on developing instruments to study agency and focuses on the development of agency in(ter)action.

Agency can be experienced on different levels of consciousness and behavior, depending on the context and the state of reflexivity of the agent. Every person has, to some extend, the ability and will to transform (oneself, others, or the situation one is in). Differences in levels can be a result of many things, such as a lack of confidence, constraints in the environment, moral, and so forth. So, when researching agency, we will have to look at the individual features of the agent, but also at the environment, which are intertwined and mutually influencing each other.

Therefore we look at agency at different levels, the micro level of personal experience, the meso level of agents’ development over time and in a group and the macro level which is concerned with bigger patterns between different contexts. That requires a multi-method approach to research, drawing inferences between the micro, meso and macro levels to come to a deeper understanding.

Agency can be operationalized in different ways, depending on the perspective one takes, for example in the form of resistance or contribution to the status quo. Looking at the underlying patterns helps us understand how agency emerges, what role education can play in a healthy and prosperous development and how teachers and educational leaders can transform education in an agency-friendly way.

Please let me know if you want to be informed about our research.

https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/research/research-projects/iclon/schoots-student-agency-in-secondary-school