Learner agency in language planning
A tripartite perspective
The role of language teacher agency in language policy and planning (LPP) enactment and implementation at the micro-level has received increasing treatment in the literature. Under-addressed in this context, however, is the role of the learner and the extent to which learner activity can be agentive. Seeking to redress this situation, this paper focusses on learner agency in LPP. After establishing a general ecology of language context, issues related to the problematic concept of ‘agency’ are addressed. This discussion draws upon poststructuralist critiques as well as the insights of sociocultural theory. A poststructuralist perspective provides a broad philosophical base for problematizing learner agency and supplies a critique of the limited structuralist approach characteristic of traditional LPP. A sociocultural lens supplies a more concrete conceptualization of how agentive learner activity operates interactively with teacher agency. The final section of the paper focusses on ethnography as a research methodology; ethnographic research yields qualitative data on learner agency that can be drawn upon in micro planning and policy-making. A relevant case study employing ethnographic methodology is discussed. The conclusion is that learner agency should be given more prominence in LPP research and literature.
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