Department of Education and Lifelong Learning


This research group studies human agency, understood as individuals’ capability to be in charge of their own lives. The ability to manage one’s own life and to affect the direction it takes is not only a human potential, but something that most people are strongly motivated for. Self-efficacy is perhaps the most important cornerstone for human agency. The term does not only refer to the competence that humans are able to develop, but just as much to the contexts that surround people, and how it nurtures mastery experiences.

On the one hand, human agency can be understood as an overarching aspect in people’s lives. For instance, when a child dreams about becoming a fighter pilot, human agency refers to the intentions and the connotations related to this dream, the plans the child has to fulfil the dream, the self-regulation it demands, and the reflections the child has as the process unfolds. 

On the other hand, human agency can be linked to practical and concrete levels of life, e.g. to regulate oneself according to internal or external pressure. For a disabled person, or someone with limited capabilities of some sort, human agency may relate to the possibility to ask for help when it is needed. The alternative is that “the good helper” offers help before it is asked for. This can undermine the sense of agency in a person (“unhelpful help”).

Human agency is a resource that all individuals may develop. However, a sense of belongingness and inclusion in a community are also important premises for such a development. In turn, agency promotes the capacity to care about other people and to take part in social networks.

This research group aims at generating new knowledge on human agency; what is agency as a phenomenon in light of human variation, development, and diversity, and how can society and social contexts, such as schools, facilitate agency?

This research group builds on a wide variety of theoretical backgrounds related to agency, and it will also apply several empirical approaches in its work.