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Thursday, November 14 • 09:45 - 10:45
Opening Plenary: Learner agency enactment in L2 writing activities

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The concept of human agency has recently generated considerable interest in the field of L2 learning, mirroring the interest evident in other disciplines (see Deters et al., 2014). In the field of L2 learning, agency is generally understood as implying a human’s capacity to make deliberate and conscious choices in pursuit of individual goals (Duff, 2012). However, how agency is defined and investigated depends to a large extent on the researcher’s theoretical perspectives. The theoretical perspectives that have informed most of my research are sociocultural theories. It is these theories, and in particular activity theory, that inform my reflections and exploration of agency in the writing activities that I have investigated over many years: collaborative writing, peer feedback and response to teacher feedback.

In this presentation, drawing on data from studies that I and colleagues have conducted, I show that in these writing and feedback activities, agency is manifested in actions such as the stances or roles learners adopt when working with peers and in how they engage with and respond to feedback provided by a peer or teacher. Agency is also evident in the learners’ reflections when describing their actions in retrospective interview. This data seems to support a sociocultural view of agency, where agency is perceived not only as an individual phenomenon, but also as relational and situated (Lantolf & Pavlenko, 2001). It emerges in human interactions and is influenced by the inherent power structures and norms of behaviour in the context within which an activity takes place. I deploy activity theory as a heuristic to make visible the relationship between these individual and context-related factors and thus the complex and dynamic nature of agency.

Agency is increasingly recognised as a central aspect of language learning. It not only shapes learner (and teacher) behaviour in classroom activities but also the learning opportunities afforded by these activities (e.g., Storch, 2002; Storch & Aldossary, forthcoming). I conclude with suggestions on how we can promote and accommodate learners’ agency in L2 writing and feedback activities as well as the kind of research that can further enhance our understanding of learner agency.

avatar for Neomy Storch

Neomy Storch

Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics and ESL, The University of Melbourne
Neomy Storch is an Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics and ESL at the School of Languages and Linguistics, the University of Melbourne. She teaches a range of ESL and Applied Linguistics subjects and convenes the ESL program. Her research has focused on issues related to second... Read More →

Thursday November 14, 2019 09:45 - 10:45 MST
Arizona (400 pax)