A visual narrative inquiry into children’s sense of agency in preschool and first grade

Heidi Sairanen, Kristiina Kumpulainen


This socioculturally framed case study focuses on children’s sense of agency in educational settings. The study has two objectives: (a) to portray the modalities of children’s sense of agency in preschool and first grade settings, and (b) to identify the sociocultural resources that mediate children’s sense of agency in these two activity contexts. We seek to achieve these objectives through a visual narrative inquiry that entails the children’s (N:5) photo-narration of their sense of agency in preschool and primary school settings. In addition, the children were observed during their photo-documentation, and they were later interviewed about their photos. The results indicate the sociocultural embeddedness of the children’s sense of agency. They also show continuities and discontinuities in the children’s sense of agency across the preschool and first grade settings. The children’s sense of agency was mediated by people and material artefacts, as well as by the rules, objectives, time-structures, and social interactions of the activity contexts. These findings are pivotal in understanding how to support the educational engagement of children and their positive transition to school. The study also shows how visual narrative inquiry offers a potential methodology for listening to children, especially in terms of their sense of agency.


children’s sense of agency, modalities of agency, sociocultural perspective, educational settings, engagement, visual narrative inquiry

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4471/ijep.2014.09

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