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Agency and learning in the lifecourse: Towards an ecological perspective

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Abstract:

This paper is a contribution to understanding the relationship between agency and learning in the lifecourse. The contribution is mainly of a theoretical and a conceptual nature in that a particular notion of agency is used that enables agency to be conceived as something that is achieved, rather than possessed, through the active engagement of individuals with aspects of their contexts-for-action. We refer to this as an ecological understanding of agency. On the part of the actor, such engagements are characterised by particular configurations of routine, purpose and judgement. The argument is made that learning about the particular composition of one's agentic orientations and how they play out in one's life can play an important role in the achievement of agency, and that life-narratives, stories about one's life, can be an important vehicle for such learning. We explore the potential of this approach through a discussion of aspects of the learning (auto-)biographies of two participants in the Learning Lives project, a three-year longitudinal study of learning in the lifecourse. The paper concludes with a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the approach and an indication of questions for further research.

Keywords: ADULT LEARNING; AGENCY; BIOGRAPHICAL LEARNING; LIFE HISTORY; NARRATIVES

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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