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Developing relational agency in a distance learning programme

Developing relational agency in a distance learning programme

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Developing relational agency in a distance learning programme

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  1. Developing relational agency in a distance learning programme Thuridur Johannsdottirtjona@khi.isIceland University of Education Paper presented at NERA (Nordic Educational Research Asociation)Nordic perspectives of Lifelong Learning in the new Europe March 15 – 17, 2007 in Turku Finland Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  2. Context: PhD-study on Distance learning in Teacher Education in Iceland From the perspective of student teachers working as teachers in local schools in the West fjords of Iceland • What possibilities does it bring for the potential development of the local schools where teacher students live and work that teacher students are moving between the university program and the local school? • What possibilities does it bring for the potential development of the distance education programme that student teachers are participating in and moving between the distance programme and the local schools? Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  3. Methods and data • Teacher students visited where they live and work as teachers and interviewed and observed in their home schools • Five on-line courses analysed - students and teachers and peer students’ interactions as well as partial product of students’ learning displayed on the course’s web • Interpretive ethnography where CHAT is used to analyse and interpret a rich data collected over a rather long period (3 years) Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  4. Focus of this paper • How student teachers in a distance education programme for initial teacher education develop relational agency during their participation in the programme • My results indicate • that the form of education under study opens up space for students’ agency to emerge – related to weaker teacher control (agency is typically framed in terms of control) • that distance students are learning to build networks of relations for use as resources during their studies as well as later in their professional life Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  5. What is relational agency? • A capacity to align one’s thought and actions with those of others in order to interpret problems of practice and respond to those interpretations • ... a capacity to work with others to expand the object that one is working on and trying to transform by recognizing and accessing the resources that others bring to bear as they interpret and respond to the object [not simply a matter of collaborative action on object] • ...useful when attempting to understand how people are able to come together [...] to interpret a problem and to respond to it • offers an enhanced version of personal agency and as a capacity it can be learnt • closely connected with the ideas of distributed intelligence • Includes both focus on learning as enhancing individual understanding and focus on learning as systemic change [Vygotsky’s internalisation – externalisation] • Shifts focus from the system to joint action and the impact on those who engage in it between and across systems. In doing so it regains a focus on individual learning. • The focus is what is often fleeting collaborative object-oriented action which may exapand the object, but attention is placed on individual change as a result of joint action rather than transformation of the system. Quotations from Anne Edwards (2005) Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  6. Why is relational agency an important concept in research? • A better understanding of how aligned action is negotiated and sustained can be useful step towards enabling people to learn how to work together and to learn from doing so • Understanding relational agency as a capacity to recognise others as resources, to elicit their interpretations and to negotiate aligned actions allow us to see: • What might be gained individually from attention to collaborative action as a result of what is salient for others • That as a capacity it can be developed Quotations from Anne Edwards (2005) Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  7. Why is relational agency important as a capacity • Call for fluid and responsive professional practice • Ralational agency can enhance professionalism which needs to include • Capacity for interpreting and approaching problems • for contesting interpretations • for reading the environment • for drawing on the resources there • for being a resource for others • for focusing on the core objects of the professions whether it is children’s learning or social inclusion Quotations from Anne Edwards (2005) Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  8. Work with others to expand the object – recognizing and accessing the resources that others bring to bear Helena from the first cohort 1993 –1996 • When we met in Reykjavík we stayed together as a group a lot, met a lot outside school and things like that, eating together in the cantina, collaborating on assignments in the library. Things like inviting the teachers to dinner with us. I am still in connection with many of them. It was often really funny. It was interesting to hear what all the others were doing. • This opened up so many things, opened up so much, you see, because they were all teachers. Because more or less they were teachers in small schools, so you could ask them what they were doing. You could get a lot of information, share a lot. • If you met someone who was doing exactly what you were doing, teaching Icelandic just like you, and then you laid your cards on the table; that’s what I am doing; can you use anything of it? Then you tell me. And then you return home not only with the knowledge from the teacher college, but also what the others were doing, and in that way you were adding to your knowledge all the time. Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  9. Recognize and use the support of othersRespond to the need for support from others Helena: • Look, if you just said; look; it is really working out well with me in mathematics if I teach it this and that way. Then someone would come and say: Oh god, can you [help], I heard you were teaching this class, the 3rd grade. It is really going badly. What is it you are doing? • And then you told them what you were doing, something like that and the relevant person went home strengthened just like…. And then may be you were sending material and all kind of things afterwards. • And everything worked out well [in the schools] and you went back happy [to the community of distance learners] Yes this is fine, this is good. And then we shared, you always shared with the others right away. Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  10. ZDP gerared toward joint action on objects (learning tasks) open to multiple participants Wow. Great ideas, I had not thought of it that way. There you see how important it is to have an opportunity to communicate. Just to see what others are doing is turning on one’s ideas. Good luck, best regards Jenny On-line contribution year 2005 Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  11. WebCT replaces on-campus meetings as a boundary-zone • Student teachers collaborate on assignments and in general collaboration is encouraged • Contribution to online discussion an obligatory part of learning tasks • Students read and respond to each others’ work published online • Students reflect on what they are learning and how they are learning from each other and on the importance of group support. • Students often help when there are technical problems or confusion on organization of the course, e.g. where to put or find content on the course’s web. • On the course’s web students seem to be more actively engaged than the teachers and they take initiative when and if there is a lack of control on behalf of the teacher. Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  12. Cultural historical activity theorythe horizontal dimensions of learning Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  13. Interacting activity systems - importance of shared object • Data from first cohort 1993 and cohort starting 2002 • Student teachers moving between activity systems of the programme and the local schools • The boundary crossing – moving between systems – opened up a possibility for them to become change agents • Some of them were able to initiate development (expansive learning?) in their local schools. • Shared object of local schools and programme in a boundary zone enhance developmental transfer and opens up for expansive learning • Collaboration as a way of acting on the objects of activity in both systems was identified as the boundary object promoting transfer between the local schools and the programme Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  14. What and how? content and methods • Focus on possible shared object in content and methods • Online courses analysed – boundary crossing between teaching in schools and participating online • On-line collaboration on assignments and sharing of their solutions. A culture of open debate and mutualism and students are really supporting each other in many ways • Very different situation with regard to collaboration and professional discussion among the staff in the local schools • Weak framing of control in both systems make possible shared object more likely • The on-line WebCT was identified as the boundary-crossing zone, where student teachers discuss, collaborate and share; act on partially shared objects that could enhance developmental transfer and expansive learning Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  15. New ICT-tools enhancing development of students’ agency • why and how student teachers work out legitimate rules for communication in online courses • when teacher control is weakened it can open up space for students’ agency to emerge and with that the distance students may be developing new kind of skills in their learning practices • expanding their object of activity, building networks of relations for use as resources both during their studies and later in their professional life • developing relational agency as it involves a capacity to offer support and ask for support from others Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  16. What promotes relational agency? • When possible shared object – boundary object – between local school and the programme implies mediation by collaboration • Regulation in the two interacting activity systems that gives space for actors’ agency– agency is typically framed in terms of control Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  17. Responsibility • As student teachers hold roles as students in one activity system and teachers in the other there might be an upheaval in the contradictions between use value and exchange value in their studies • A collective intention to use the learning to make the schools at home better stressing the use value • The exchange value of the learning becoming recessive • Resulting in enhanced social responsibility and empathy in their roles as students as well Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  18. Or simply: collaborate to survive From the first cohort 1993-1996 • Primitive ICT – lack of technological know-how and few and unreliable computers • Lack of contact to the teachers could lead to a tension which made the distance students often feel isolated and frustrated. Elisabet says: • If I had been alone with so little connection to the teachers I would have given in by such a shock. she continues: • You are like an island, but when you enter a group like this, we made strong personal connections and helped each other a lot, met and pulled each other ashore and battled… • The students’ answer to uncertainity was to stick together and collaborate Thuridur Johannsdottir,

  19. Relational agency - references • Edwards, Anne (2005). Relational agency: Learning to be a resourceful practitioner. International Journal of Educational Research, 43, 168-182 • Edwards, Anne and Mackenzie, Lin (2005). Steps towards participation: the social support of learning trajectories. International Journal of Lifelong Education; Vol. 24 Issue 4, 287-302, • Edwards, Anne (2005). Let's get beyond community and practice: the many meanings of learning by participating. Curriculum Journal, Vol. 16 Issue 1, 49-65 • Edwards, Anne and Protheroe, Lynn (2004).Teaching by proxy: understanding how mentors are positioned in partnerships. Oxford Review of Education; Vol. 30 Issue 2, 183-197 • Edwards, Anne and D'Arcy (2004). Relational agency and disposition in sociocultural accounts of learning to teach. Carmen Educational Review, Vol. 56 Issue 2, 147-155 Thuridur Johannsdottir,