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TEACHER AGENCY

Priestly, M., Biesta, G., & Robinson, S. (2015)

Relevant Excerpts

"Assumptions about the role of teachers as agents of change have been shown to be
problematic, particularly because policy has tended to focus on raising individual capacity while
not addressing the structural and cultural issues that might constrain or enable teacher agency"
(p. 11)

"An alternative conceptualization of agency is to see it as an emergent phenomenon – as


something that is achieved by individuals, through the interplay of personal capacities and the
resources, affordances and constraints of the environment by means of which individuals act."
(p. 19).

“The distinction between agency as a variable, agency as capacity, and agency as phenomenon.”
(p. 20).

"Agency, in other words, is not something that people can have or possess; it is rather to be
understood as something that people do or achieve (Biesta and Tedder, 2006). It denotates a
‘quality’ of the engagement of actors with temporal-relational contexts-for-action, not a quality
of the actors themselves. Viewing agency in such terms thus helps to understand not only how
humans are able to be reflexive and creative, acting counter to societal constraints, but also how
individuals are enabled and constrained by their social and material environments." (p. 23).

A framework for understanding teacher agency


“The diagram below represents the key dimensions of the teacher agency model, illustrating the
ways in which we analitically separate out key elements of each dimension. With regard to the
iterational dimension, we distinguish between the influence of the more general life histories
of teachers and their more specific professional histories (which include both their own education
as a teacher and the accumulated experience of being a teacher). With regard to the projective
dimension, we distinguish between short-term and long(er)-term orientations of action. And
with regard to the practical-evaluative dimension, we make a distinction between cultural,
material and structural aspects.” (p. 30)

“The model thus highlights that the achievement of agency is always informed by past
experience – an in the particular case of teacher agency, this concerns both professional and
personal experience. The model also highlights that the achievement of agency is always oriented
towards the future in some combination of short(er)-term and long(er)-term objectives, values
and aspirations. And it emphasazises that agency is always enacted in a concrete situation; it is
both constrained and supported by discursive, material and relational resources available to
actors.” (p. 30).