Personal Agency Discourses


Supports and strategies for involving individual learners in defining their educational experiences

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … sum of established interpretations and actions
  • Knowing is … competence
  • Learner is … a mindful agent
  • Learning is … developing competence
  • Teaching is … facilitating; supporting




Personal Agency Discourses address matters related to involving individuals in decisions that define their educational experience. These discourses tend to be grounded in the assumption that the individual learner can and should be trusted to participate in selecting topics, competency levels, learning environments, pacing, and other elements.


While anchored to the important realization that learning is enhanced when individuals experience agency, Personal Agency Discourses are often more oriented by ideology than demonstrated insights into learning. Indeed, some are articulated in direct response to the controlling, agency-denying structures of traditional and standardized educational sensibilities. Indeed, some Personal Agency Discourses are accused of undervaluing the role of structure and advice as they argue against rigid and alienating aspects of some models of schooling.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2019). “Personal Agency Discourses” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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