Sociocultural Theory and the Teaching of Second Languages - James P. Lantolf

Sociocultural Theory and the Teaching of Second Languages - James P. Lantolf

6 Agency in the Classroom

Sociocultural Theory and the Teaching of Second Languages - James P. Lantolf

Leo van Lier [+-]
Leo van Lier was born in The Netherlands and received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Lancaster University in the UK. He has worked and taught in several countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia, as well as in New Zealand and the USA. His most recent book is The Ecology and Semiotics of Language Learning (Springer, 2004). He is Professor in the Graduate School of Translation, Interpretation, and Language Education at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. He is also the Editor of The Modern Language Journal.


In the final chapter of this section, ‘Agency in the Classroom’ van Lier argues that appropriately interpreting and mediating learners as they exercise agency in various ways is in fact more important for their development than the content matter and teaching materials. Just as Poehner’s chapter introduces the notion of reciprocity to draw attention to learners’ active negotiation of mediation during DA, van Lier similarly points out that Vygotskian theory compels us to understand agency not as a quality of an individual but as a contextually situated way of relating to the world that is shaped by our developmental history as well as our potential future. Agency, then, emerges as individuals, groups and communities interact with various affordances while engaging in goal-directed activity. The challenge for pedagogy is to design learning environments and activities in which students are optimally agentive in taking responsibility for their own – and indeed their classmates’ – development. Van Lier illustrates some of the forms learner agency may take in the L2 classroom and suggests curricular approaches,such as project-based learning, that may be especially well suited to mediating agency.

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Lier, Leo van. 6 Agency in the Classroom. Sociocultural Theory and the Teaching of Second Languages. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 163-186 Jul 2008. ISBN 9781845532505. Date accessed: 21 Feb 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.29307. Jul 2008

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