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Steps towards participation: the social support of learning trajectories

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In this paper we argue that interventions aimed at preventing social exclusion need to be informed by detailed analysis of the formation, disruption, reformation and support of trajectories of participation in the opportunities for action provided. We draw on evidence we gathered on the lives of two women who used an inner city drop‐in centre to discuss how resilience and trajectories of inclusion are built slowly over time in relationship with others. Using concepts derived from sociocultural psychology and activity theory, we interrogate the evidence to first ask whether there is a pattern of changes in participation over time and to then explore how the identity shifts these changes represent are supported. The analysis reveals that there is a pattern, but it is a pattern of using and giving support which suggests that such trajectories are likely to be recursive. This using and giving of support we term relational agency and argue that a capacity for relational agency, as both the supported and the supporter, is a crucial factor in the development of purposive identities and the building of resilience. We also suggest that it is likely to be encouraged in settings which can foster trust and reciprocity as flexible and open learning zones.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02601370500169178

Affiliations: Centre for Sociocultural and Activity Theory Research, School of Education, University of Birmingham

Publication date: July 1, 2005

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