Digital student agency: Approaching agency in digital contexts from a critical perspective

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Developing student agency is a critical aspect of higher education and, in particular, digital education. In this sense, the capacity to understand what constitutes agency in digital contexts of education and evaluate students’ digital agency is now crucial. In contrast to traditional approaches to student agency in digital contexts that subsume technologies to educational intentions, media research has illustrated a more complex interplay between humans and technology. Drawing on this insight, the paper argues for a more critical disposition to digital student agency, wherein relational, cultural, and technological dynamics are central to agency. Specifically, the article proposes a framework for digital student agency that distinguishes five critical domains to student agency in digital contexts: (1) agentic possibility, (2) digital self-representation, (3) data uses, (4) digital sociality, and (5) digital temporality. The article concludes by outlining the implications of the framework for educational practice and academic research around student agency and student learning. Specifically, adopting the framework implies changes in how we investigate student agency in digital contexts and enables critical investigations of student-centred teaching practices.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontline Learning Research
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)52-68
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction. All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • Digital education, Educational technologies, Learning, Networked publics, Student agency

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