In this post, lecturer and Co-Director of the Education for Practice Institute at Charles Sturt University, Franziska Trede discusses how Steven Hitlin and Glen Elder Jnr’s paper has Time, Self, and the Curiously Abstract Concept of Agency influenced her critical thinking.
This paper was published in the Sociological Theory journal in 2007 by Hitlin and Elder, two sociologists. They claim that the term ‘agency’ is a slippery term and used differently dependent on goals, motivations and the epistemological paradigm of the user. They explore agency in the context of time and self and propose four heuristics of agency: existential, identity, pragmatic and life course. This paper provides much needed theoretical underpinnings for understanding agency. Agency is the capacity to act and not feel helpless.
I came across this paper in search for agency literature as part of my research project on building capacity to use mobile technology for learning on placement and how mobile technology can enhance student agency. The literature writes about the need for students to be agentic learners especially in clinical education but little is discussed what is meant by agency and how we can understand it. This paper is helpful in understanding that agency depends on time (in the moment or long-term), circumstances (culture, structure, people) and self (efficacy). Agency is not only in contrast to social expectations but can mean to enact existing practices.
Hitlin, S. & Elder Jnr, G. H., 2007, Time, Self, and the Curiously Abstract Concept of Agency* Hitlin, Steven;Elder, Glen H, Jr Sociological Theory; Jun 2007; 25, 2; pg. 170