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Human Agency at Work: Towards a Clarification and Operationalisation of the Concept

Part of the Professional and Practice-based Learning book series (PPBL,volume 20)

Abstract

This chapter proposes a conceptualisation and operationalisation of human agency in work contexts based on a larger literature review. In a first step, two conceptually different perspectives of human agency are discussed: (a) agency as something individuals do and (b) agency as a personal feature of individuals. Both perspectives are then integrated into a larger framework also including situation-specific context factors. In a second step, three distinct components of human agency as a personal feature of individuals are derived and discussed: (a) agency competence (i.e. the capacity to visualise desired future states, to set goals based on these states, to translate these goals into actions, to engage in these actions, and to deal with upcoming problems), (b) agency beliefs (i.e. perceptions of whether one is agentically competent or not), and (c) agency personality (i.e. a stable and comparable situation-unspecific inclination to make choices and to engage in actions based on these choices with the aim to take control over one’s life or environment). In a third step, the results of this theoretical discussion are then used to propose an operational definition of human agency that may be used in a range of empirical studies employing hypothesis-testing methods.

Keywords

  • Human agency
  • Agency competence
  • Agency beliefs
  • Agency personality
  • Definition
  • Conceptualisation
  • Operationalisation
  • Proactivity
  • Workplace learning
  • Professional development

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Fig. 5.1
Fig. 5.2

Notes

  1. 1.

    This definition is largely compatible with the definition proposed by Eteläpelto et al. (2013). However , Eteläpelto et al. (2013) do not conceptualise agency as a tendency and disposition but rather as something individuals’ do. The definition proposed in this chapter therefore shifts the focus more towards human agency as a personal feature by still being grounded within current discourses of the workplace learning literature.

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Goller, M., Harteis, C. (2017). Human Agency at Work: Towards a Clarification and Operationalisation of the Concept. In: Goller, M., Paloniemi, S. (eds) Agency at Work. Professional and Practice-based Learning, vol 20. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-60943-0_5

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