Advertisement

Agency and Expertise

  • Paul HagerEmail author
  • David Beckett
Chapter
Part of the Perspectives on Rethinking and Reforming Education book series (PRRE)

Abstract

This chapter sets out and problematises this traditional account of agency (and its limitations for accounts of expertise):
  • The human capacity to act in the world is manifest in what individuals do and aspire to do.

  • To enact our aspirations, we are embodied over time: what individuals do and aspire to do require persistent activity over time, with the present as the main temporal frame of acting.

  • What we each strive for is mainly up to each of us: within the present time, an individual’s agency is apparent in the decision-making that each individual ‘owns’.

We argue instead that a more fruitful conception of agency and expertise is the way socioculturally located relations arise in, or emerge from, common practices over time. So the chapter will often remind the reader of the most common situations in which we find ourselves, as members of groups: teams, families, organisations and various other common relationalities. These commonalities are actually ‘communalities’. From this, we can begin to build on Anne Edwards’ important work (2010) on ‘relational agency’, where she claims: ‘…the resources that others bring to problems can enhance understandings and can enrich responses. However, working in this way makes demands on practitioners. At the very least, it calls for an additional form of expertise … based on confident engagement with the knowledge that underpins one’s practice as a social worker or nurse, as well as the capacity to recognise and respond to what others might offer’ (2010: 13, emphasis added). From this, and drawing on Aristotle’s phronesis (practical judgment), we develop the need for a notion of ‘group agency’.

References

  1. Aristotle. (1941 version). Nicomachean ethics. In R. McKeon (Ed.), The basic works of Aristotle. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  2. Beckett, D. (2009). Holistic competence: Putting judgements first. In K. Illeris (Ed.), International perspectives on competence development: Developing skills and capabilities (pp. 69–82). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Beckett, D. (2012). Of maestros and muscles: Expertise and practices at work. In D. Aspin & J. Chapman (Eds.), Second international handbook of lifelong learning (pp. 113–127). Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beckett, D., & Hager, P. (2002). Life, work and learning: Practice in postmodernity. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Benner, P. (2004). Using the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition to describe and interpret skill acquisition and clinical judgment in nursing practice and education. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 24(3), 188–199.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0270467604265061.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dreyfus, H. L., & Dreyfus, S. E. (1986). Mind over machine: The power of human intuition and expertise in the age of the computer. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  7. Edwards, A. (2010). Being an expert professional practitioner: The relational turn in expertise. Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Emirbayer, M., & Mische, A. (1998). What is agency? The American Journal of Sociology, 103(4), 962–1023.  https://doi.org/10.1086/231294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gallagher, S. (2016). An education in narratives. In D. Simpson & D. Beckett (Eds.), Expertise, pedagogy and practice (pp. 37–46). Abingdon, Oxford: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Hager, P. (2012). Theories of practice and their connections with learning: A continuum of more and less inclusive accounts. In P. Hager, A. Lee, & A. Reich, A. (Eds.), Practice, learning and change: Practice-theory perspectives on professional learning (pp. 17–32). Netherlands: Springer.Google Scholar
  11. Jessica Watson our newest hero, says Rudd (2010, May 15), NewsComAu. Retrieved from http://www.news.com.au.
  12. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved May 22, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life,_Liberty_and_the_pursuit_of_Happiness.
  13. List, C., & Pettit, P. (2011). Group agency: The possibility, design and status of corporate agents. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Luntley, M. (2005). The role of judgement. Philosophical Explorations: An International Journal for the Philosophy of Mind and Action, 8(3), 281–295.  https://doi.org/10.1080/13869790500219620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Pettit, P. (2007). Free persons and free choices. History of Political Thought, 28(4), 709–718.Google Scholar
  16. Rovane, C. (2014). Group agency and individualism. Erkenntnis, 79(S9), 1663–1684.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-014-9634-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ryle, G. (1949). The concept of mind. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  18. Tollefsen, D. P. (2015). Groups as agents. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Social SciencesUniversity of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Melbourne Graduate School of EducationThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations