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Learner Agency and the Curriculum: a Critical Realist Perspective

Manyukhina, Y; Wyse, D; (2019) Learner Agency and the Curriculum: a Critical Realist Perspective. The Curriculum Journal , 30 (3) pp. 223-243. 10.1080/09585176.2019.1599973. Green open access

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Abstract

Agency, understood as the capacity to act independently and to make one's own choices, is considered central to children's development. Thus, education, and hence education curricula, have a role in the development of learner agency. While curriculum development is a key focus for educational theory, research, policy, and classroom practice, the potential implications of curriculum content selections for learner agency remain underexplored. Theoretically this paper engages with critical realism, explaining how it can provide theoretical foundation for a more comprehensive view of learner agency and, by implication, more balanced curricula. Empirically, the paper draws on the findings from a content analysis of the national curriculum documents of four countries with relatively high scores in international comparative tables, England, Australia, Hong-Kong, and Canada, to develop a new typology of primary curricula. Based on the extent of emphasis placed on knowledge versus skills, values, and attitudes, three types of curricula were identified: knowledge-based, skills-oriented, and learner-centred. Due to its significant theoretical and practical influence globally, we focus on the knowledge-based model and its likely impact on students' agency. We conclude by highlighting the importance of making learner agency a key orientation of the curriculum and suggesting directions for future research.

Type: Article
Title: Learner Agency and the Curriculum: a Critical Realist Perspective
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/09585176.2019.1599973
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1080/09585176.2019.1599973
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: curriculum, learner agency, knowledge, critical realism
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10071124
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