Harvard Educational Review
  1. Summer 2014 Issue »

    Agency and Expanding Capabilities in Early Grade Classrooms

    What It Could Mean for Young Children

    In this essay, Jennifer Keys Adair aims to clarify the concept of agency as a tool for improving the educational experiences of young children in the early grades. She conceptualizes agency in the context of schooling as the ability to influence what and how something is learned in order to expand capabilities, drawing on economic theories of human development, agency, and capability as they might be applied to early learning in schools. An understanding of early childhood education aimed at expanding children’s capabilities stands in contrast to the currently prevalent emphasis on preparing children for the knowledge and skills tested in elementary grades. Through her classroom-based examples of student agency and her call to bring cultural and varied perspectives into the discussion, Adair hopes to encourage dynamic, agentic learning experiences for all children, not just those of privilege.

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    Jennifer Keys Adair is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin, where she studies the role of agency in transforming the learning experiences of young children. Trained as a cultural an-thropologist, she is concerned with racial, cultural, and cross-cultural understandings of early childhood education, particularly the experiences of teachers, parents, and children from immigrant communities. Her work has been published in journals such as Teachers College Record; Race, Ethnicity and Education; Young Children; and Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood. She recently coauthored, with Joseph Tobin and Angela Ar-zubiaga, Children Crossing Borders (Russell Sage, 2013), about the perspectives of immigrant parents and preschool teachers on early childhood education. In 2011 Adair was awarded the Outstanding Article of the Year award from the Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education for her article “Confirming Chanclas: What Early Childhood Teacher Educators Can Learn from Immigrant Preschool Teachers.” Her current research, which looks at culturally relevant types of agency in early childhood classrooms, is supported by the Foundation for Child Development as a Young Scholar Fellow and the Spencer Foundation’s New Civics Initiative.
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    Summer 2014 Issue


    In Here, Out There
    Professional Learning and the Process of School Improvement
    How Students’ Perceptions of the School Climate Influence Their Choice to Upstand, Bystand, or Join Perpetrators of Bullying
    Rewriting the Rules of Engagement
    Elaborating a Model of District-Community Collaboration
    Agency and Expanding Capabilities in Early Grade Classrooms
    What It Could Mean for Young Children
    Revising the Declension Narrative
    Liberal Arts Colleges, Universities, and Honors Programs, 1870s–2010s
    Editor's Review of The Learning Brain
    Memory and Brain Development in Children
    Laura A. Edwards

    Book Notes

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