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Identity and Agency in Professional Learning

  • Anneli EteläpeltoEmail author
  • Katja Vähäsantanen
  • Päivi Hökkä
  • Susanna Paloniemi
Chapter
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)

Abstract

This chapter elaborates professional learning from two complementary perspectives, namely professional identity and agency. Starting with the conceptualization of identity and agency, the chapter illustrates how professional identity and agency are intertwined with workplace learning at the individual and social levels. In theoretical terms we adhere to a subject-centred socio-cultural approach. This implies that professional learning is seen as a dual process, involving identity negotiation and the development of work practices (including the practice of agency), with both aspects taking place within the socio-cultural and material conditions of the workplace. We see professional identity as constituted by subjects’ conceptions of themselves as professional actors, i.e. as individuals with professional commitments, ideals, interests, beliefs, values, and ethical standards. Agency is needed for the renegotiation of work identities, and for the continuous and innovative development of work practices. We see professional agency as being exercised when professional subjects and/or communities influence, make choices, and take stances on their work and/or their professional identities. The chapter summarizes evidence on the constraints and resources that appear to be most influential for professional identity negotiations and for the practice of professional agency at work, especially in education and health care work. Empirical evidence is presented on aspects operating at the work community, work organization, and individual levels. As a practical conclusion, it is suggested that there is a need for practice-based interventions that will promote professional learning concurrently at the individual and social levels. Such interventions will involve agency-centred couplings between these levels.

Keywords

Professional identity Professional agency Professional learning Promoting professional agency Practice-based multi-level intervention 

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anneli Eteläpelto
    • 1
    Email author
  • Katja Vähäsantanen
    • 1
  • Päivi Hökkä
    • 1
  • Susanna Paloniemi
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

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