Theorizing and Analyzing Agency in Second Language Learning

Earlier this month we published Theorizing and Analyzing Agency in Second Language Learning edited by Ping Deters, Xuesong (Andy) Gao, Elizabeth R. Miller and Gergana Vitanova. In this post, the editors tell us about how the book came together.

Theorizing and Analyzing Agency in Second Language LearningAs co-editors, we were brought together by the passion we shared for the concepts of identity and agency in our individual research and publications. We have all, for example, published monographs on agency in second language acquisition. Although we embrace different theoretical perspectives, we have all come to understand that these constructs are inherently sociocultural and interdisciplinary.

The notion of human agency has generated considerable debate among scholars across disciplines for the past few decades. This scholarly conversation regarding how to understand humans’ capacity to act shows no signs of abating. We see the growing emphasis on learner agency as part of a broader shift in second language research toward exploring learners as complex individuals whose language use, meaning making and actions are mediated by their social and cultural worlds.

Leading scholars in the field have lamented the lingering under-theorization of agency and even the lack of a clear definition. The difficulty of translating theories about agency into practice is especially challenging when it comes to language instruction. We, therefore, recognized the need for a comprehensive collection of chapters dedicated to filling these gaps. This volume provides strong individual chapters, but when read as a whole, it demonstrates that a concept as complex as learner agency can never be fully grasped from a single theoretical perspective or by adopting a single set of analytic or pedagogical practices. The volume brings together innovative and critical research on the elusive concept of agency and shows how theory and empirical findings can be implemented into pedagogical practices that support learner agency or enable learner agency to emerge in various learning contexts.

We are delighted to have Multilingual Matters introduce our new volume, Theorizing and Analyzing Agency in Second Language Learning, which has been not only a labor of love, but also the result of the collaboration between scholars from all over the world.

Our hope is that this first comprehensive edited book on agency in the fields of applied linguistics and second language acquisition will serve as a key reference for language learning and teaching researchers. It could be used as a textbook in graduate courses and will be especially useful in courses examining social factors in language learning. Because it attempts to bridge theory with practical implications for the classroom, we hope that teacher educators and practitioners will find it valuable as well.

For more information about the book please see our website or contact the editors of the volume:
Ping Deters, Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology
Xuesong (Andy) Gao, University of Hong Kong
Elizabeth R. Miller, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Gergana Vitanova, University of Central Florida

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